My last post was more than 8 months ago! I want to start updating my blog again, So we'll start with the biggest update I can think of: we bought a house.
A little background:
The city of Boulder is surrounded by a moat of open-space that prevents expansion and keeps property values high. Across the moat are the "L" towns: Lafayette, Louisville, Longmont, and Lyons. Some of these look very much like suburbia, while others are rated as some of the best places to live in the US. The Denver metro-area has long been one of the fastest growing metros in the nation, but pile that on with Google's announcement to expand their Boulder campus 5X and a couple other factors, and we saw housing prices begin to skyrocket around 15%!
A big reason we had waited to buy a house was this NYT Rent vs. Buy calculator which shows that buying isn't always the clear economic winner; however, the combination of wanting more space than our 700 sq-ft apt offered, our rent quickly rising, and wanting to put down some more roots in the Boulder area made us call a realtor.
I've long vowed never to leave the City of Boulder limits... but after being outbid on more than one townhomes that we liked by tens of thousands of dollars we realized we were already out-priced. We either had to reduce our expectations or look across the moat.
On our first day looking outside the city,
We found an amazing house. It was next to a micro-brewery, surrounded by parks, and walking distance from the grocery store, library, rec. center, and some restaurants. It had gone under the market that Thursday morning. Three days later we were under contract. Two weeks later we had closed. What a whirlwind. I really need to give our realtor, Pat Clowes, a huge thank you for being extremely on-top of it during those two weeks to make the sale go through. We wern't the highest bidder on the house, but a number of things Pat led us on, including waving some typical buyer's privileges, a quick closing, attractive financing, and a nice letter to the owners landed us the deal.
A few tips I can give to those that are currently looking
- The letter to the owner was a nice touch. I've heard multiple stories of families getting homes despite not being the highest bidder. Many of them have the "love letter" as a common denominator. Chances are the current owner has fond memories of their home, and knowing it's not going to someone who's going to rent it or scrape it will pay off.
- Get a Realtor who you like, but also one that can play ball. Our realtor, Pat Clowes, described the process as a combination of Chess and Football. I don't think he could have been more right.
- Try to save up to get to that 20% down-payment. More if possible.
- Loans through local lenders, like credit units, can be more attractive and have better rates than loans from the large national branches.
A season later
While we're not veteran homeowners, I will say we've enjoyed the process. We're still learning to identify which plants left by the previous owners are flowers and which are weeds... and loosing the battle at keeping-up with their landscaping. We're not the best painters, but thankfully Courtney's dad has an artistic eye and helped us pick out some great colors.
Decorating a new house that's twice as big as your old apartment is a pricey expense that the Realtor doesn't always warn you about. We've been able to do a great job on the cheap by searching consignment shops, thrift stores, garage sales, hand-me-downs from friends, and the occasional discount online retailer. I'd say despite my being thrifty (i.e., cheap) to a fault, Courtney has done an amazing job of making the place warm, cute, and homey.
I'd say we're really glad the house we bought was freshly re-modeled, although it seems we're always able to come up with things we'd do to the house if we had the time... Although for now we still prefer to spend our weekends cycling, camping, fishing, and hiking.
I guess I'll just end the post by mentioning that our new place does have plenty of room for guests (as my brother, and college roommate can attest to). We'd love to host you if you're ever in the area!
-Mike and Court