So what made a hard-core renter like me (and a convert like my husband) decide to buy? Financial factors played a role, of course - suddenly seeing listings for houses in our neighborhood for less than $500,000 - and then watching houses sit unsold for months. And then the Bigfoot of California real estate was spotted - signs that actually said, "Price Reduced." Add to that all the press about the housing market reaching bottom, and our tax accountant telling us that now was really the time, and tax incentives to boot!
There was an emotional factor as well. I was tired of the white walls and neutral, serviceable carpet that is the curse of all renters. I wanted colors of our own choosing; deep, bright colors on our walls. The straw that broke the camel's back was our current landlord's decision that the beautiful, two-story maple tree in the back yard was "too tall." (This despite no power lines above, and no branches above the house.) I begged, I pleaded, to no avail. She arrived on a bright Saturday morning this spring with the gardener in tow, and he stood in the tree with a chainsaw, lopping off an entire story off the top of the tree, leaving naked, amputated stubs. I was a powerless witness to a tree's mutilation. Renting sucked.
I called our friend F., who is a realtor in her spare time as a CFO. She is also an uber-athlete who does 68-mile bike rides on the weekends, is unbelievably fashionable and well-accessorized, and beautiful to boot. She would be altogether too intimidating, except that I have seen her in the bottom half of a fluffy chipmunk character costume, shaking it like a Polaroid. The woman does not take herself too seriously.
F. told me that if we were serious, I needed to contact our bank and get pre-approved for a mortgage. With that letter of pre-approval in hand, we'd know our price range, and be able to start making offers on houses. And she told us to get out there and start looking at open houses. If we saw something we liked, she could pull all the information available to realtors (and not to normal joes) on the property, and we could go from there.
Away we go!