So give me all your advice about home-buying and mortgages...

Cuz I think I might be doing just that. After much trauma, angst, and fatigue, it looks like our eviction might turn into our first home purchase.

So, I know you’re dying to give advice, and I’m listening.

Check in to your state’s FHA program. My wife and I recently bought our first house, and Georgia’s FHA program was amazing. Since we are a single income family that doesn’t make a lot of money, we qualified for a ton of FHA assistance. We got an incredibly low mortgage rate, monthly payments that are less then the rent we were paying, and we only had to come up with $1200 out of pocket, which included what we paid for the appraisal and home inspection. By the time closing came around, we only had to bring $770 to close the deal. The other $4000 of closing costs was covered by a state held, nontransferable (it won’t be sold to someone else) mortgage, that has 0% interest. Basically, if and when we sell our house, we have to pay the state back $4000, regardless of whether we sell it tomorrow or in twenty years.

Also, consider looking at FSBO (For Sale By Owner) properties before you go to a realtor. Often times, you can find a really good price on a FSBO, and the owner (who is typically doing FSBO to avoid having to pay a realtor) will be more likely to negotiate with you if there is no realtor involved. If you go this route, of course, be sure you do a lot of research, and do not make any agreements to buy until after you have had the home inspected and have seen an appraisal. This is a CYA type thing…you will be making a huge investment, and you want to know what you’re getting in to before you do it. That said, our house was a FSBO, and since we didn’t have a realtor, the owners negotiated quite a bit with us, and we were able to buy our house at $6000 under the appraisal value, as well as getting a lot of things done to the house before we purchased it (house got painted, septic tanks emptied, electrical sockets rewired, etc.).

There’s a start. I hope this helps, and wish you the best of luck!

Buy this book.

100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask

We found it really helpful.

Don’t spend too much. Given housing prices that may be impossible, but remember you will need to pay your own utilities (if you haven’t already), plus all the upkeep on a house.

Its no fun to buy and house and then be broke all the time.

Get a good inspection. Be realistic in your ability to take on “fixer upper” tasks. Painting isn’t hard - re-roofing may be beyond you (its beyond me). Understand what is cosmetic (ugly carpeting can be fixed - paint even easier) and what isn’t (bad foundation).

Don’t know if you’ve done the “how much house can we afford” calulations. But this site had some basic tools.

Take your time to find exactly what you want.

I’m always ready to jump in and buy the first pretty house we see. “I know it’s a long commute and way too small, but isn’t the kitchen adorable? Let’s make an offer!”

My husband on the other hand is Mr. Picky. He even didn’t want to buy one house because it had a “funny looking bush” in the front yard.

But in retrospect I acknowledge that although looking at 20,000 houses is tedious and tiresome, in the end it’s best to get what you want.

Don’t talk to a realtor about representing you until (1) you have found the house you want to buy or (2) you know exactly which kind of house in exactly which area you want to buy.

If (1) is the case, you simply must have a realtor to do the transaction for you, even if you have a job or some knowledge or experience that makes you think you know something about how things like this work (or should work). The reason I wouldn’t recommend getting one earlier is that it’s so easy to find information about houses by yourself on the Internet (check out, which also links to local sites), and you can make appointments to tour houses just by calling the listing agent.

If (2) is the case, a realtor will be able to know before you that a certain kind of house went on the market. We just contracted for a house that was on the market for 3 days when we viewed it for the first time, and it wasn’t listed on the local Houston site for a couple of days after that. The wolves started circling as soon as it was listed, but we had our bid in before them and worked out a deal with the seller before they could get their stuff together.

Also, try to get a copy of you merged credit report from the first mortgage guy you work with, then send that yourself to other mortgage brokers and see what they can do for you. It’s a lot better than having lots of people pull your credit, and it’s less hassle for you.

Shopping for a mortage is a lot like shopping for a house. Look at lots of them and pick the one that works best for you.