Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

The chickens appear to be hatching!

Posted by Lissa on August 6, 2010

I think . . . I think . . . it’s settled.  Barring unforeseen events, we’re packin’ up and moving to Lissaville South.

Otherwise known as Orlando, FL.*

Lucky for us, we’re both fans of Disney World and Florida gives residential discounts.  I expect the rat will shake us down nonetheless.

It’s exciting and it’s scary and we’re happy and we’re nervous.  I’ve regressed to reading my Little House books and A Little Princess to help cope with the stress.  I might hit Lloyd Alexander and Anne of Green Gables next.


DOUBLETROUBLE (while munching a cookie): “Mmmm. Lissa, we’re gonna have to buy you a plane ticket [to get cookies again].”

LISSA: “I think it’s more likely you’ll be the one visiting us at Disney World.”

JAY G: “Lissa, to a gunnie” — gestures around — “this IS Disney World!!!”


So!  Who’s got tips on how to buy a house?  😀

Happy Friday!

*Lissaville South is actually just outside Orlando, but since I’m not in the habit of revealing the actual town of our residency I’m sticking with “Orlando.”


21 Responses to “The chickens appear to be hatching!”

  1. Brad said

    How to buy a house in a few simple steps:
    1) Give the real estate agent all your spare cash
    2) Go to the local bank & get a mortgage
    3) Go into hock up to your eyeballs (see #2)
    4) Give all mortgate funds to real estate agent
    5) Sign more papers in one sitting than you wrote in all your days in grade school, high school, college, and grad school combined. Sign until you wind up with a bad thumb a la Youk.
    6) Spend thousands of $$ you now don’t have at the local Lowes or Home Depot
    7) Go further into hock (see #6)

    Follow these simple steps, and you’ve bought a house.

  2. I’m both sad for me, and happy for you guys! I’ll see if I can point Vector your way for buying homes from a distance as he and the wife moved back to Mass into their home from Virginia/DC. That being said the option the Mrs. and I did was rent and just look at every damn home on the market. That being said with the much newer housing stock down there I suspect the variability that is the New England Housing stock won’t be there.

    IIRC he and the Mrs. flew up here for a couple of weekends and did a tour-de-force of house viewings. Dunno if you have any friends in the Area but we got sent on a few second-look scouting missions just for a second opinions.

    Of course take meticulous notes since the houses will burr with time (I doubt that will be a problem for you) definetly get an agent….maybe hit a few open houses up here on the weekends just to see what you like and don’t like in a house, and get an idea of square footage and how much you can make do with, how much isn’t enough, and how much might be too much.

    I suspect you won’t find many houses with basements so don’t go expecting that.

  3. […] With a heavy heart it appears that good friend Lissa is moving to Florida […]

  4. Bob S. said

    Tip #1 – take a camera with you. Take pictures of the things you liked, things you didn’t like, problems you saw, etc.
    Use a print out from one of the reality sites as the first picture — it shows the address, etc.

    Tip #2 — find an aggressive Realtor. Find one that will bring you listings instead of you having to do all the work.

    Tip #3 – Consider the maximum amount you can afford if things go bad. I know this is automatic for many people, probably you, but it bears repeating, many peole don’t think about how they would make a mortgage payment if one person was out of work.

    Tip #4 — learn to use the reality sites. Man, there are sites like Coldwell Banker that let’s you set multiple parameters — number of bedrooms, living spaces, sq footage.

    Tip #5 – Check out your credit rating and work on correcting problems if any. https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp — free credit reports from the big 3.

    Tip #6 — Get a recommendation on a good home inspector and don’t even consider buying a house without having a thorough inspection.

    Tip #7 — talk to the neighbors of a prospective house. Are they friendly, do they report problems, traffic issues.

    Tip #8 — have the realtor pull Comps — how much comparable houses sold for recently.

    Tip #9 — pull school district and individual school ratings. Even if you don’t have kids, the ratings help maintain property value and desirability.

    Not sure if these are what you are looking for but hope they help

  5. Good luck, Lissa! Since my only foray into home ownership was a nightmare, I’ll leave the tip-giving to the folks who have it together and know what they’re doing. Oh, my only BIG tip: Never trust your mortgage broker.

  6. Hey Lissa,

    Let me be the first to welcome you into the shadow of the big giant mouse. I have been living down here in Orlando (on the east side of town) since 1995. Let me know if there is anything that I can do to help out. I don’t know much about real estate so I can’t help much in that regard though.

    I assume that you have access to my email address since it’s one of the fields I fill out to leave a comment. Feel free to use it.


  7. alan said

    Unless you plan on staying there more than five to ten years, don’t bother.

  8. You know my feelings about Mickey Rat. I have a wonderful shirt that says “Malt Whiskey” in the form of a “Walt Disney” faux-anagram. We’ll still come out and see ya!

  9. Buy less house than you can afford right now. When I moved to Minnesota I had a great job that paid stupid-awesome money. To my broker’s slight disappointment I bought a house that I could afford on HALF my then-current salary.

    Smartest thing I ever did or probably ever will do, because when I got laid off the last thing I had to worry about was my house, and when I did take a job that pays far less than those glory days, I was okay.

    Besides, I can barely keep this place clean – what the heck would I do with more space?

  10. ZerCool said

    Ugh, house-buying! We just closed on our first about thirteen months ago, and it’s been a hell of a ride.

    Start by looking at your budget VERY closely. Decide what monthly payment YOU are comfortable with. There are plenty of calculators out there that can turn that into a rough estimation of a purchase price, or your bank or realtor can help as well. OVER-estimate all your expenses: power bill runs $75-80/mo? Write down $100. Etc.

    Go to the bank(s) and sit down with a loan officer. Do their pre-qualification stuff and be brutally honest when answering their questions. They’ll likely throw you a loan value that will make you laugh. (In our case, we’d been looking at houses in the $120-140k range. The first bank told us we’d pre-qualify for a mortgage up to $260k, and the second $230k.) Make sure you compare closing costs – they should be able to give you a breakdown of what their particular costs are. For us, that amounted to a $4,000 out-of-pocket difference at closing.

    If the bank gives you a bad vibe or the loan officer isn’t interested – shop somewhere else. We worked with four different loan officers at two banks before we were comfortable.

    Same deal for your buyer’s agent. Find one who takes the time to know you and Mike and listens to what you want. Look at the listings they send you (they ARE sending you listings, right?) but do some research on your own. If you get a bad vibe, cut the cord. Our first agent kept trying to pressure me to look at adjustable-rate mortgages after I clearly told her more than once that it wasn’t going to happen. She lost a client over that.

    Save save save. Pay off ALL your debts that you can. Car loans and student loans are OK as long as they’re current. Credit cards should be used regularly and PAID OFF monthly. Simply getting my credit cards paid off boosted my credit score by nearly 60 points.

    Have a large chunk of cash set aside for after closing – roughly as much as you spent to close, at minimum. Closing cost us about $9,000 and we had about as much left in the bank afterwards. It goes FAST. Paint. Carpet. Boxes. Tape. Drapes. Blinds. A new mailbox. It nickels and dimes and adds up REAL fast.

    Get the book “Home Buying for Dummies” – it’s got plenty of good tips. Read the site http://www.thesimpledollar.com – he’s got some good info as well, although it gets repetitive.

    When you do a walk-through, TURN OFF the soft music, blow OUT the stinky candles. Turn on EVERYTHING, run the water, flush the toilet, try the shower, look at the roof, foundation, under the cabinets, etc. You may not know “wrong” exactly, but you’ll know “not right” – and your agent should too.

    Find a home inspector you trust and use him. Get references and sample reports. It’s WELL worth the $300-500 to find things you won’t see during a walk-through. Our first inspector ended up torpedoing the first house we were looking at, which ended up with us in a MUCH larger and MUCH more comfortable house for LESS money. A $400 learning experience, and worth every penny.

    Above all, trust your gut and make sure you and Mike are communicating constantly and honestly. MrsZ didn’t really make her feelings known about the first one we had a deal on (that fell apart) and it would have put our marriage into a tough spot… If she’d just said from the get-go, “I don’t really like it,” we’d never have made an offer. (Admittedly, I didn’t pick up on her hesitation as quick as I might have, either.)

    If there’s anything else I can answer, drop me a note!

  11. Bob S. said

    Oh, one I forgot — take a flashlight with you.

    Look in those dark corners, in the attic, under the cabinets.

  12. ZerCool said

    Oh, the one other thing I forgot: set parameters for what you want, but be willing to change them.

    When MrsZ and started looking, we had the following guidelines:
    – OUTSIDE the city schools
    – 1400+ sq.ft.
    – 5+ acres
    – 3 bedrooms

    The house we made our first offer on (and had under contract, that fell apart) met three of those four requirements. When that fell apart, we re-evaluated, narrowed down to three school districts (by geographical area), and started looking at smaller parcels of land.

    We ended up with our third-choice school district (not a bad one by any means, just not our first choice), 1800sf, 1.1 acres, and 3 bedrooms… for significantly less than we’d had the first place under contract for.

  13. wolfwalker said

    Florida? Ick. Heat, humidity, old people, heat, humidity, tourists, heat, humidity, hurricanes, heat, humidity, and lots of large toothy wild things like ten-foot alligators and fifteen-foot pythons. Oh, and don’t forget the heat and humidity. Not to mention the total lack of mountains and snow.

  14. Jay G. said

    And the fact that it’s a day-and-a-half drive from here… 😦

  15. Linoge said

    So Bob already hit my “bring a flashlight” comment… and when I say “flashlight”, I mean “visible from the moon” – you will be checking out attics, crawlspaces, and Lord alone knows what else with it, and you want it to be able to reach back and show you stuff.

    Also, bring a marble, preferrably a big one, or something equivalent. Floors have a nasty way of getting out of level, and so long as they are not carpeted, the marble will show you how and where. Of course, some unlevel-ness is expected and can be dealt with… some, however, is not.

    Given Florida, you might want to consider a separate inspection, in addition to your home inspection, for termites and mold.

    Find the county’s GIS system – a lot of counties/cities have it online now and searchable/accessible, but sometimes you have to go to city hall. Basically, it is the city’s/couty’s-eye view of the property, terrain, etc., and can tell you things you might not already know. For instance, a new highway was being proposed in my area (it has since been nixed), and we avoided neighborhoods near its projected path (unnecessarily, but those are the games you play).

    School districts change, change a lot, and change on a whim (at least here), so pay attention to where they are now, and where they could be in the future. That is, if that is a concern :).

    Buy the house that feels right to you – we saw countless (and I do mean countless – we shopped for six months before we moved, and another 1.5 years after we arrived) homes that technically met our requirements for a home, but simply did not feel right. Kind of hard to describe, but it falls under the “you will know it when you see it” category. Realtors understand, and you are not inconveniencing them – every house you see gives you more information on what you do and do not want.

    That said, if you can/want to, look past what is in the house now, into what could be there if you wanted to renovate. It is hard to balance “home budget” and “renovation budget”, but the end results can be amazing (speaking of, I need to put up pictures…).

    If you have any other questions, feel free to drop me a note – we just closed on our house less than 6 months ago, and went through a nightmarish renovation to boot, so we can probably ofer insights both ways :).

  16. Tennessee Budd said

    Enjoy, Lissa! My fiance is from Central Florida. I fell in love with the place, & plan to move there when we can afford it (she’s from Lakeland, but my probable job is in Orlando, so I’m thinking maybe Winter Garden–something a bit outside the city.

  17. Brad K. said

    Ask the moving company about cost. Then look at your belongings, and consider donating/giving away/yard saling anything that weighs/costs more than the value to replace it. Especially if you wouldn’t replace it if it was damaged or lost.

    Note – books are more expensive to replace than cover cost – many are out of print. I just paid $18 or so for a paper-back John Hemry “universal law” SF, a retired library copy in fair – but heavily labeled – condition. I would really hate to lose my “Unwillingly to Earth” by Paula Ashwell, though it will never be on anyone’s list of great SF. I have a few older blankets, pictures, and pots and pans that I wouldn’t move again, though. I would have to ponder about the Harry Potter books.

    As for the house – I like a song from a couple years back, about “Love grows in small walls”.

    And do subscribe to the local papers, now. You need a head start on figuring out what issues concern the locals, what areas have which issues, where the teachers and police are on strike, where the taxes are going up, etc. Plus, you get a picture of who the community is, by what comics the paper carries.

    And you might consider moving into a furnished “executive” apartment or house initially, so you can buy a house you want, instead of one that you can get because you need it now.

    Do check with your bank, for an introduction to look at repos and fixer-uppers that aren’t on the traditional realty market. Realtors don’t make a living showing properties in neighborhoods that are rebuilding – where you can get into a place cheap, that needs a lot of fixing. If you are looking to save money, distressed housing can be a money pit, soaking up everything available without increasing value – but, with inspections and some leg work, you might make it work, too.

    Or maybe find someone compatible with too much house, and share.


  18. totwtytr said

    Ask the moving company about cost. Then look at your belongings, and consider donating/giving away/yard saling anything that weighs/costs more than the value to replace it. Especially if you wouldn’t replace it if it was damaged or lost.

    I’ll find a home for your M&P 45! 🙂

    On a serious note, Linoge has some really good advice, as does Brad K. Think about taking an apartment, either for a year, or if you can find one a no lease month to month. Then you can relax and look for houses on your schedule.

    One other thing to do after you find a potential new house is drive around the neighborhood (without the R.E. agent) at various hours and days of the week. Since houses are never shown at night, or rarely, go after dark and see what the neighborhood is like. Go on weekend evenings, too. The character and noise level of some areas changes a lot from what they look like during “normal” hours. We discovered, too late, that one of our neighbor’s kids liked to play basketball during the evening hours. Loudly. It took a lot of back and forth, including getting the town involved, to resolve that one.

    Like everyone else, I’m happy for you and sad for me.

  19. JD said

    OK, Envy sets in. Wish I was going too! Congrats. I love the Orlando area being a big Disney fan myself we get down there alot. Good luck!

  20. Robb Allen said

    Wow, I totally missed this post.

    We’re now neighbors. I’m over in Tampa so when you get here, give me a buzz.

  21. MaddMedic said

    Buy what you want!!
    Repeat that until you do it!!
    Where you want !!
    Repeat that also.

    Do not do what I did and buy in town when we really wanted to live in the country, but my job at that time required 24 hours duty and 24 hours call in which I had to be able to respond within 7 minutes. And with two toddlers that was to much away time.
    So now we are stuck in the People’s Socialist Republic of Nordfelt!!

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