The Headache of Buying my 1st House

It was Fall 2016, and rumors spread like wild fire, first about the national wage going up, retailers and large companies alike started changing title names, no longer supervisors or managers, you are now a “team lead” so they could reduce your hours, duties and limit benefits.

If you have forgot, in 2016, the overtime rules were changed:

“More than four million working Americans could get a bigger paycheck by the end of the year, thanks to a new overtime rule to be finalized by the US Department of Labor on Wednesday.

Previously, only salaried workers who earned below $23,660 were eligible for overtime pay. As of December 2016, that threshold will double and be set at $47,476 a year.”   (See link for more: CLICK HERE )

To read more of the progress of Minimum wage in 2016 CLICK HERE.

Initially, my organization had required all general managers to live on property at our hotels. Saving money was the only perk, no rent, no utilities, no cable, no internet fee, and you had a landline so cell phone wasn’t necessary if you could do without. Even though we had to make a bank deposit everyday, we would be reimbursed 65 cents per mile driven at the end of each month. Plus being a hotel, most pizza parlors would give us 50% off. So, financially, especially looking at it as a single mother who wanted independence, this was an opportunity I knew I should take advantage of.
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The cons? Definitely a learned experience, no privacy, no days off basically, imagine being on your only day off a week yes believe it or not I was also expected to work 6 days a week, and unlike every other GM, I actually would be there and physically supporting my staff, cleaning rooms. No quiet nights, especially game nights or anytime after 8PM. We even “sound proofed” my son’s room which was located behind the front desk and you could hear everything! It was also right next to the guest laundry room, in which his wall would shake during the spin cycle. The sound proof insulation barely helped though, draining out the sound of slamming car doors and jingling car keys within the echoing stair well in front of my door was impossible. I could go on, about the TV barely having 40 channels and shoddy WiFi but I never had to luxury of just sitting on my ass when I was there. Night time, I changed my name tag to Private Investigator and had one eye constantly through the blinds of my tinted room’s windows. Trust me I could go on for days with more…

Thankfully, my organization did jump the gun and raised our GM’s minimum salaries across the nation to $47,500. Of course, those weird states like Maine, California, etc with specific rules, may have been a little different, but regardless we all got raises. It was definitely more of a benefit for those located farther from the Coastlines, since they received the biggest increases, but still it helped us all. Until we realized, that raise was to compensate our salaries enough so we can live off property. And corporate decided we all would have at most a year to relocate.

Personally, corporate only gave me 5 months (thankfully my boss did end up giving me another month, during my house hunt) to figure out where I was going to go and my raise was barely $800 more a month after taxes, was that really a fair increase? I think no. Imagine living a certain way for almost 2 years, and then being told well now your going to pay for three times as much as you used. But don’t worry, we will give you a 50% raise. WTF? A lot of GM’s left without hesitation. But I didn’t have much of a choice, should I try to restart in NJ, all these options, my mind was on auto-pilot for awhile. Not to mention, the prior year, I just financed my first “new” car because I finally had enough money and there was no indication of our salary changing, ever.

So let’s refresh, October 2016, rumors and boom, corporate announces its support with the Obama Administration and guarantees we shall receive our raises by first week of December. We were upset, but excited to get a raise before Christmas, and after my car recently getting shitted on again (what’s new?) and having to pay $1000 deductible I was hurting financially.

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(LOOK! IM NOT LYING! Effing teenager who could barely see over steering wheel in daddy’s Escalade, almost kills me while I am trying to exit my vehicle and takes my door almost complete off and bent it backwards while speeding into spot next to me!!!!!! And then gets off the hook, b/c police refuse to make police reports in Pittsburgh if there is no fatality or injury, and she lied to insurance company. WHY ME, WHY ALWAYS WHEN MY CAR IS PARKED? ANYWAYS….. LOL…)

If you know me, you know I smoke, a lot, well I greatly reduced any bullshit from my life for those 6 months, I took advantage of cooking at home, stuck to my budget and saved my entire tax return that year. I did whatever I could to make money, even selling old items from the hotel that was to be throw out anyway.

At first, I was set on renting, why? Because I knew my credit was shit, barely a 620 at that point, and from what I always thought I knew, you need 20% down on a house which is $20,000 on a house on the market for $100,000. And being from Jersey, where even, my mother’s little 3 bedroom is worth close to $380k, I could never imagine finding something “decent” that I could afford.

Well let’s just say, living in Pittsburgh, in an apartment, was practically the same as living back in NJ. It was still $1100-1300 to be in a “better” neighborhood. How? So I started doing research on government and housing programs for low-income.

There I was, a 26 year old single mother, on paper, it seemed like I made a decent amount, but once I started budgeting estimate costs of bills, I kept coming up short. I made too much money to qualify for low-income housing which was all I thought I’d be able to afford for around $600-900/month. Per most budget experts, your housing expense should be 25%-30% of what your paycheck is. So If I only saw $1300 every 2 weeks, my budget was ~$650-780/month. FML! This was going to be a bitch.

Days grew into nights, of browsing the net for a solution. The more I viewed houses, the more I wanted a house. After living at an exterior-style hotel for so long, a break from “neighbors”, I felt like it was long overdue.

Be careful what you click or what site you enter your information on, for sure. My cell phone was kept on silent for the next weeks, as just about every single mortgage lender in the tri-state blew up my phone trying to sell me something. I received an email from one loan specialist. It was a personal message from a guy named Steve offering some help and perspective.

Well the holidays came and went, and we never got our money. Someone fucked up. Corporate sent out an apology and reconfirmed raises were going to be effective the first week of January now. Finally, but fucking hell, after taxes and medical expenses, my $1900 was cut and I barely saw $1300 every 2 weeks, bullshit!

With January approaching, I was running out of time, hoping for a solution, I called him the next day. We spoke for 2 hours, and convinced me my best bet was applying through FHA, I’d only need 3.5% down. He ran my credit but told me a few tricks to get it back together. This whole time, I was more worried about paying off certain collections, when in reality, paying down credit card limits first, your score will jump higher and faster. So of course, while working on getting my credit card debt down, I was able to settle with the other collection agencies for all of my teenage fuck ups. Within 30 days, I paid off all my debt and was simply waiting for it all to “fall” off my credit score, as well as, submitted my taxes, so I was just “waiting” for my refund check.

“Do you have a real estate agent yet?” Steve asked me. Shit. I thought, am I really going to do this? I let the computer just hook me up with whoever was local, again I didn’t have time. I was assign a rep from a Re-max group in my area. I was blunt and honest and didn’t hold back anything, I knew want I wanted and I needed to work fast and it was already the first week of March.

The agent was great at first, she was able to set up 10 showings for out first meeting, I picked the best out of what I had seen, even though it was farther from where I wanted to be, I didn’t care, I was willing to settle. Thankfully the nightmare about to unfold was the best case scenario for me, it just took some time to realize.

Basically,  I placed an offer on a house that was put on market by a divorced couple. Of course, I was not disclosed any of these details in the beginning, I later found out. Anyways, the divorcees, also had noted they “wanted” to sell the house by April 17th or they would place the house up for auction. Well we had 3 weeks if not more from the time I remember, and without the best advice obviously, I put the offer in. I was told if all goes well, we could close and get the keys within 4 weeks.

Do you believe that those weeks went by, without any word from the buyers after they accepted the offer. My agent even had me hurry up and pay almost $500 for a house inspection, in addition to having her brokerage hold a $1000 deposit. After I found out the house went to auction and DIDN’T SELL. My agent was able to dig up the owner’s phone number and we called her. She was never even told about to offer by her real estate agent she told us. All we needed was to have the owners sign an extension so the bank would of had an extra week or 2 to finish the closing paperwork, and they could have sold there house to me. Now the bank owns it, whatever their loss, not mine.

At that point, I should have realized my agent probably could have been more educated or just better in general. But again, I didn’t have time, and regardless of her competence, I could tell now, she was “invested”. She wanted that commission for her time. So again, I was re-convinced to keep looking and she set another date to view another 8-9 houses. She called me about my $1000 deposit, and hoping we would find another house that same week, I trusted her to hold it and use it for the next offer.

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Well every night, along with checking her MLS/listing portal, I was on craigslist and zillow and any other online search engine fore other houses available by owner. 2 days before we were scheduled to meet, I text her a link to this craigslist post. A 2-bedroom house, detached garage, creek running horizontally through the backyard, sauna, jacuzzi, balcony off kitchen, hardwood floors, central air, dead end street, you name it…. it had it, and I wanted it- bad!

I told her, if you don’t call, I will. And of course she added it to our list. Even had the nerve to talk shit the day of, right before heading to the destination. She said something to the extend of: “After seeing all these big houses, lets look at the ‘dinky’ one you picked out.” BETCH! I thought, but I knew she was in for a surprise.

Her face said it all when we arrived, “This is really nice, like, really, really nice,” her valley girl accent grew annoying. My eyes widened, there was a chicken coop across the walkover bridge in the back yard. A deck taking up half of the back yard for entertainment, with a fire pit built towards the edge of the deck, by the water.

I was thrilled. But also a little distracted, you see, of course I had my threenager with me, sprinting throughout the house, while the agent tried her best to distract the owners with questions while I could get a grip on my son, and actually take a look at the house.

I remembering walking up to her and just nodding my head. “Lets make an offer.”
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Within minutes, I dropped off my kid to his father, raced to the address she texted me, which was her own house. And I legitimately, smoked a cigarette on her front porch, while she sat on a patio chair on her laptop drafting a Estimated Cost to Buyer Summary. This one, to be exact.(In PDF = EstClosingCosts)

After I signed, we then drove back to the owners to have them and I sign an offer agreement, and badda-bing badda-boom, I had officially restarted the process of closing on a house.

One thing I’ll never forget, a lot of people told me, or I had read online that many people find buying a house to be more stressful than planning a wedding, more stressful than having a baby. LMAO! And I believe it now!

That mortgage company, needed the blood of my first born. I made the mistake of making a few transfers between my checking and savings account that was more than $500, holy shit it was as if I had laundered money from the president somehow. Every penny I needed to pay for that house, had to be able to be tracked back to a paycheck. God forbid, you can’t prove how you have money in the bank, you gotta get someone to write a letter stating it was a gift and get it notarized.

The 4 weeks I had originally been estimated turned into the most painful 10 weeks of my life. If it wasn’t the agent behind on some paper getting signed, the bank or mortgage company had to keep updating the dates or certain things, whatever the case was, I was guaranteed the house, credit approved, money verified, it was really just up to the “underwriters” and the broker to get the closing paperwork done.

As you can imagine, the time ran out, I was to be moved out by the end of may. My boss was helpful enough to give me another 30 days after hearing about the first house I lost but even then I had to get out of the hotel before the end of June. I wasn’t scheduled to close the house yet, but it was guaranteed sometime soon.

My real estate agent without my consent or knowledge, had already spoke to the owners about my predicament. The owner’s had a predicament themselves too. Where this house was, zoning laws allow farm animals (i.e. chickens) but where they were moving, did not. They didn’t have time to figure out what they were going to do, and asked if I would keep them with the house? Of course I’ll take care of them. And they handed the keys over to me the first week of June. They had another house that just finished anyway and was an hour away.
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When the bank pushed the closing date back 1 week first because Appraiser needed to correct an error, then 2nd because my property was flagged to be covered under flood insurance, my real estate agent started getting bitchy, guess she really needed that commission check. She starting unnecessarily calling my mortgage guy to harass him, and find out what he can do to put pressure on the underwriters. She also called the owners and myself, I’m assuming to get a rise out of us, and make us want to jump on someone else to speed up the process. From what I learned, nothing will make this process go faster. Just cooperate and give them what they need. Getting your panties all bunched up for nothing just creates headache and burns bridges.

So after finally getting everything back to the underwriters that they need, and another $1200 spent on getting flood insurance for the year, my Closing date was finally scheduled for June 20th, 2017.

I was ecstatic, for at least 2 days, fucking souped!

Until the fucking BETCH, called me on she crazy shit freaking out. I could barely hear what she was saying at first, but she was obviously trying to blame the mortgage company for her mistake. She didn’t include HER COMMISSION correctly within the agreement. And as she continuously told me, especially when I asked her when I first found the ‘for sale by owner’, if I should just get a lawyer. She quickly defended her position, “That’s why you have me, to protect you.” Uh-huh, bullshit. She then told me she was going to “fudge” something where she basically wrote off my $1000 deposit, stating because I was her “cousin” (which I definitely AM NOT!) that I wouldn’t need any “earnest money check”. So she then pocketed that $1k and continued to bother me for the remaining $2k she thought she was entitled to.

Well, me being a first time home buyer and ignorant of real estate laws. I didn’t know that it was against the law for a real estate agent to demand commission from a buyer and have it part of the mortgage closing costs. Regardless, “miss protector of my best interest” wouldn’t you of thought when we originally sat down on your patio, you would have needed to disclose that in the EstClosingCosts?

You can see it for yourself, the page clearly shows her commission being a part of the $7500 estimate. Thank god I saved this rough ass draft. Do you believe she had the nerve to tell me over the phone, mind you it was also 2 days AFTER I just received a finalized closing cost disclosure report, “Well unless you pay me $3000 within 2 days of closing, you can’t close of the house.”

I never hung up on someone so fast. I called Steve with my shock and thank god for a decent man. He told me she fucked up and she should of known better. He said at this point “in the deal” why was I even talking to her still? In reality, she was there to help find the house, her job was done. He made me double check all of my paperwork, never did I sign shit stating I knew I would pay an extra $3k on top of the estimate $8k needed for the closing costs on the house. Well, I told her she would have to wait.

I got lucky and she was “too busy” to attend my closing, I was able to avoid some serious drama that I bet she would have instigated. But anyways, after signed a million copies and handing over my check, the house was mine.

Even though I had already been living in it for 3 weeks, when I went home, finally, I was able to unpack and truly make it my home.

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(If you wondering what ever happened with her commission, I did end up fighting her in court and winning!!!, Of course I was never able to get the $1000 back that she stole, I’m sure I could go after her again with the obvious evidence, but is it worth my time? hell no. After court was settled, I called Remax Select (or whatever brand of Re-max they are) and someone eventually emailed me stating I never had a deposit on my house, seriously?!?! No one can go back and see where she fudged it or changed it? Wasn’t there an escrow account that originally had my money for the first couple months, wheres the authorization for it to be released and who the fuck cashed that check, cause it wasn’t me?! Can you tell I’m still pissed, it’s principal people! If you are in the Pittsburgh Area, I’d be happy to privately message you the details of whom to stay clear of, real estate wise.)

So within 6 months, from having nothing in my account,
saving whatever I could and 1 year’s tax refund that was less than $3500,
I was able to buy my first home, my sanctuary. 

I hope no matter how crazy or stressful the process may be, owning your house,
is worth it! I highly recommend looking into FHA loan options,
if its your first time buying!

Remember, first time buyers, you don’t want to be “house rich” either. My budget was less than $900 per month, my mortgage now is barely $750 a month(which includes my home insurance and property taxes). I would have never been able to find a rental with so many amenities for this price. Shit, just to find a place that doesn’t have on-street parking only was one of the biggest attractions.

I can’t believe how much more I can say about this, but this experience has affected me so much. I realized how easily people can be mislead by ignorance itself. Always research whatever it is that you plan on being a part of. If I had more time, I am sure I would of been able to make a better investment, but for the time and unfortunate people I had been paired with, I lucked out, for sure.

As you all know, I left my last job in the beginning of April and have been keeping my options and mind open. You may not know, my mom’s mom was in real estate for as long as I could remember, every memory of being with my grandmother when I was little, was a daily stop at her realty office, using being cream puffs in with us. Those were her favorite ;).

Every industry is difficult. But knowing myself, sales-wise, marketing, branding, just communicating; I took most pride in looking out for my staff. I think I am more than prepared and more than capable of being a successful real estate agent. I am determined to learn as much as possible now, to ensure that by the time I even try to sit down with a seller/buyer I will truly know what I am doing and how to truly protect them and their investment.

I begin classes next month and should be set to take my real estate license by the end of this summer. Wish me luck and stay tuned for more.

Hope this inspires you to go out and get that house you deserve!

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