If you've been through the process, you know there's a learning curve, complete with near misses, drama and mystifying paperwork along the way. If you're starting to think about getting out of that rental and buying your own home, our House Hunters just might have some eye-opening tips for you.
In the last issue of Nest, we introduced you to Sarah and Sam McLellan, two thirtysomethings who'd recently moved to Burlington from Boston. Their house hunt started out in a leisurely manner last fall but kicked into high gear by winter, when the couple learned they were expecting a baby boy.
At the end of January, the couple's offer on an Old North End home — just under the asking price — was accepted, with a caveat. The owners wouldn't close until they found suitable housing, which left Sarah and Sam in the lurch with a baby due in July. Since staying in their rental apartment with a newborn wasn't a viable option, they continued to look at other homes while crossing their fingers that this one would work out in time.
Good news: After being under contract since January, the McLellans finally have a closing date on the original house — June 24. Or, as Sarah put it, "two weeks before the new human comes!"
"Not necessarily being sure that this was going to happen was the hardest part," she reported. "We saw some other houses in the meantime, but it was hard to get behind another house with this one waiting."
Not to mention the fact that more homes came on the market in springtime, and there was much more competition for them — which, Sarah said, meant bidding wars and higher selling prices. "It was April 1, and it was just like, bam! The market is actually in existence," she recalled.
So after "a very long process of just waiting and waiting and waiting, [landing the home] was such a relief," she said. They got the happy news just as Sarah had started devising a backup plan to spend the summer in Boston with their families.
The home, on George Street, has three bedrooms, one bath, a front porch and a small backyard. "The house is so cute and little and perfect in its location," said Sarah, whose main priorities were walkability to downtown and resale value. (She and Sam expect to return to Boston in a few years.) "The fact that the [nearby Burlington Town Center] mall is going to be redone will probably be a good selling point in the future," she noted.
For now, though, they'll be making the place their own. "We're hoping to spruce up the backyard," Sarah explained, "maybe add a couple chickens and some raised beds." They plan to fence in the yard and do an energy audit, replacing all the windows and the front door before winter. And, since the house dates back to the 1860s, they're going to make sure lead paint isn't an issue.
"It's all a little daunting right now," admitted the mom-to-be, so her parents will be coming to help them settle in — "because," she joked, "family is free!"
Best of all, she and Sam will be able to give the new grandparents a place to stay over the summer as they all get to know the newest member of the family. Congrats, McLellans!
Nest's very first House Hunter, James Q. of Burlington, has finally moved — but not to where he'd planned.
The twentysomething health care IT consultant, who spent more than a year searching for a Burlington-area duplex, is leaving the Green Mountain State for greener pastures. In his case, that's central Massachusetts. He's started a new job there, and his girlfriend will be working and attending grad school.
"Our plans to stay in Vermont were thwarted by the low salary/high real estate prices," James wrote in an email. "The value matrix of Burlington is heavily skewed. I saw a home in the South End last year go for $345,000. It was on one-tenth of an acre, had no garage and was on a stone foundation ... I know everybody plays the student loan card, but how are you supposed to save up for 5 percent of $345,000, which equals $17,000 and change, when you need to shell out $400 to $600 in student loan payments a month, per person?
"We really didn't have a choice when we sat down and looked at the numbers," he continued. "Both of us love Vermont, and it was tough to leave so soon, but you kind of need to do what you need to, you know?"
When asked if he felt he was sacrificing Vermont's much-touted high quality of life, James countered: "There's plenty of nice places to live in New England." He's found that he can make more money in Massachusetts while maintaining the same price point and real estate expectations. And in his new city, he reported wryly, "there's bike paths, lakes and even trees!"
If you're a prospective home buyer, let us share your progress, learn from your experience and, ultimately, help you celebrate with a gift to "warm" that new house. All you'll have to do is keep a few notes, check in with us regularly and send photos! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.