House shopping
Dec 13, 2006

As promised, the first stage of buying a new home. Obviously, there are three very important things to know when going into the first stage of buying a home: where you want to live, what kind of place you want to live in, and how much you want to spend on it. In Jessi and my case, we wanted to live in Cambridge and within walking distance of the red line so that Jessi could still easily take the T to the office. We also knew that we wanted a condo with at least two bedrooms and at least one bathroom (duh...), but we didn't really know much beyond that. We started our actual shopping online. It didn't take too long to discover that by far the best web site for searching and getting the basics on properties for sale in the Boston area is Hammond's. It has all the listing you'll want to see and, in my opinion, the best interface by far of any of the options. It let us specify exactly what our search criteria were, including neighborhood. It really helped us get a better idea of what was out there and what was in our price range (and we were lucky enough to discover that, in the current market, there were plenty of places that met our criteria and were in our price range). The next step was finding an agent. it's not strictly necessary to have your own agent when buying a home, but it makes the process vastly easier, and the seller pays their fee so why not. Since we didn't really know what we were doing and we wanted to be sure we got someone we could work with we initially talked to a couple different agents. We ended up, as I mentioned before, going with Anne Munson from RE/MAX Destiny in Cambridge, mainly because we just felt like she was a good fit for our personalities. Once we had signed the paperwork with Anne and told her what we were looking for she signed us up with MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and we started getting daily email updates on whatever new properties showed up that met our criteria. She also was able to give us copies of the Rosenoff Report, which is basically a giant printed out spreadsheet with info on all the properties for sale in Cambridge and Somerville. That was more Jessi's domain, so I'll let her write about that if she wants. Anyway, this is the point when it starts actually looking like house shopping. Based on the properties that came to us through MLS we would tell Anne which ones we were interested in and she would arrange for us to go see them. We also went to some open houses. Around this time we also went to get our mortgage pre-approval. Chris Smith, of Capstone Mortgage, was recommended to us by a friend who works in real estate in the area. After telling her our financial situation she was able to pre-approve us for a mortgage that was in exactly the range we were looking for. Again, just to be sure, we also went to someone else to see what they would say. In this case we went to Cambridge Savings Bank. They weren't quite as good. For some reason they said that, unless we got someone to co-sign our mortgage they would only approve us for around $15,000, significantly less even than the down-payment we already had. So we went with Chris. Eventually we found a place we wanted to put an offer in on and went into negotiations. But that will be the next post. In other news, Pigpen is now famous: Cat Art Gallery. Jessi says I'm going to turn into a crazy cat lady...
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