Tag Archives: land

Good for a laugh in the morning

I bought a brand-new, old-fashioned, man-powered, arm-numbing, sweat-breaking lawn mower today. No fuel, no plug, pure fun. The blades don’t chop down the taller stuff so it’s a good thing that I also bought a trimmer. I mowed until it was dark so I don’t know how bad it looks but I’m sure it’s not good. I knew better than to mow the lawn after dark but I was having too much fun to quit. Every step made me appreciate that square foot of land.

“You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land.” (Who said that?)

I’m sure the exhilaration of lawn mowing will wear off tomorrow morning when I try to finish the job and find my arms too heavy to lift.

Buying my first house

Three weeks ago today, I got another one of those “Stop renting! Buy a house!” brochures in my apartment mailbox. I had already put in my 60-day moveout notice with the apartment complex and I had to be out by the end of the month. Looking for an apartment made my skin crawl. I knew I wanted to stop renting but I had a pile of reasons to put off the purchase of a home.

  • No cash for a down payment
  • Credit score below average
  • No knowledge of the market
  • No idea where to start

That brochure gave me a place to start. It wasn’t a great place (a builder’s website) but it got me interested and it gave me some hope.

What I did next was to start looking for a Realtor. There are way too many real estate agents in the world and I have known way too many flaky ones to expect to find a good agent at random. I looked at the online Realtor directory for Austin and it didn’t set any of them apart. I needed help.

Working on WordPress.com, I had seen a lot of real estate blogs built for SEO purposes, so I never expected a real estate blog to be of any help and I didn’t want to search for “best real estate agent in Austin” on Google.

Instead, I turned to the real estate forums on Craigslist. Somebody had posted a link and disclaimed affiliation. It looked like a WordPress permalink. I clicked. I read. I agreed. I emailed. I had found my best real estate agent in Austin and he was a real estate blogger.

What made my agent stick out from the crowd was not the fact that his blog was powered by WordPress. His articles were a showcase for his attitudes and opinions, his professional strengths, and general intelligence. These are things you can’t learn from a Realtor.com profile page or a recommendation from a third party. They must be demonstrated. It’s not as good as meeting in person, but a blog is better than any other online system for feeling these things out.

I knew I wasn’t buying my dream home. I didn’t even want a house that I wanted. I wanted a house that would pay off. This was to be my first “portfolio” property and the fact that I would occupy the house was incidental. The point was to make a good investment. Thus I wanted an agent who could help me find a good investment and not try to find a home to match my personal tastes. I had had found an team of Realtors who are also investors. They own a handful of rental properties and they have a lot of experience with property management.

So I got a pre-approval letter from a lender and we went out for a few hours over two days and looked at houses. I picked a house on the second day and we started the race to close. I set the target date for the 28th, which was exactly three weeks from the day I got the brochure and two days before I had to vacate my apartment.

The entire process went off without any major hitches. I chose a house listed at about 90% of my pre-approval amount and made an offer. The seller countered and then accepted my second offer. My parents generously kicked in the 3% down payment on my FHA loan. We closed the deal on the 26th, giving me two extra days to move and a whole lot less to worry about this weekend. I called the utilities and except for a day without internet, the transition has gone quite smoothly. The moving company was able to schedule an appointment within two days of my call and they performed brilliantly.

I want to thank everyone who helped make this transaction happen in under three weeks:

Having a blogging Realtor may not be for everyone. It was definitely for me. Just after I wrote this article, I checked Steve’s blog and found a shorter version of my story. I wish him and his wife continued success.