Coming into this year, I knew I wanted to buy a house. I have a few years on my work contract and (God-willing) have no plans to jet anytime soon... I was tired of paying +$1000/month in rent downtown... and the Austin housing market was only getting more expensive by the day. So I set the goal to buy a home by the end of the year.
Little did I know, it would take less than a week to find my dream home.
Starting the Process
At the start of this year, I had done a little searching in south Austin to look at a few new builds - and drove up north to Cedar Park & Round Rock to check out a few areas up there. I had also gotten a quick tour of Georgetown thanks to the Miller family (coworker). I was quickly getting the impression that given my budget & my desire to have a backyard, I was going to need to get out of the city a little ways.
By the beginning of May, I reached out to a realtor by the name of Nicky whose real estate group came recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Izzy!) We had set-up an introduction call via Zoom (because, ya know, COVID) and we got right to work. I told Nicky that this was my first time buying a home and I had no idea what to expect, what to look for, the lingo, etc. And bless her sweet soul, she laid out everything in the simplest terms to make it easy for me to understand. We went over my 'hard no's' & 'must-haves'... and talked about what areas of town I was willing to move to and those I was not. That first call probably lasted about 45min-1 hour but I already felt productive in making that first step.
She had me create a log-in to their real estate group's housing portal so I could start filtering out what I liked and what I didn't like. The first day of house-hunting was scheduled for that following Friday and Nicky had lined up 3 houses to show me. Two of them were in south Austin (which was where I thought I wanted to be)... and the other was one that was not on my list but Nicky thought I should see anyways.
The first house we looked at was a house off Brodie Lane that I LOVED via the listing. It was an older home, very open floor plan in front, newly remodeled that had a cute white exterior. I thought "this will definitely due for a first home" ... but when Nicky started showing me around, she had mentioned that because of the age of the home, I needed to keep in mind that the roof, A/C, etc. would likely need to be replaced in the next 5-10 years. There was also an odd shower situation that would require a bathroom remodel. So the 'LOVE' factor faded pretty quickly. I was all for the house - but the idea of having to pay +$300K for a house that would need a new roof, A/C & bathroom in the next few years was not exactly giving me the "warm fuzzies" that I was hoping for. And on top of that, Nicky had said that this house was likely going to go into a multiple-offer situation... and being that it was already at the top of my budget, that was a big downer.
The second house was a total dud. As soon as we walked in, Nicky & I both noticed that the floors were all different in every room (carpet in one, tile in another, wood in some & cement in others - it was... interesting). She had also pointed out things that I didn't even know to look for - like the fact that the flooring was warped & cracked and could be a sign of foundation issues, the roof was made with the cheap material and would need replacing soon, the wood siding on the house was molding, etc. It was like she had this inner-radar that pinged when something was off or wrong - but I was so grateful this superhuman was my realtor! It quickly became evident that this was not the house for me. Lord knows I don't have the time, energy (or money) for major demo or remodeling.
The third house was the surprise find - it wasn't on my list but Nicky said that when she came across the listing, she felt it met all my needs and was worth scheduling a showing. So we drove out west - and at the time, I considered it FAR west. (On the way there, I thought 'where the heck is this gal taking me?'!)
It was a new build in a very nice development that was somewhat established - had a model home & an amenity center but still lots of construction going on. We first stopped at the model to meet the sales consultant. He had said this home was nearly finished and would be ready for move-in within the next couple weeks - which lined up perfectly with my apartment lease ending within those next two months. We drove out to the home and, of course, with having seen two much-older homes earlier that day and this one being so new that there weren't even light bulbs in the lighting fixtures, I was quickly mesmerized. It was open, bright and had all the things I was looking for: 3 bedrooms, backyard, attached garage, etc. And because it was new construction, 99% of the house was under warranty for the first year and things like the A/C and roof had 5-10 year warranties. I thought that was incredible considering it would be a nice transition into home-ownership - to still have help when something breaks and the comfort of knowing I won't have to dish out thousands of dollars to pay for it when/if it does.
The only hang up was the distance from the city. It was the only concern I had. From my driveway to my desk in the Weather Center was about 25 miles. I talked with Nicky, Jeff (sales consultant), my parents, coworkers, literally everyone about it (which didn't do much for me since the inputs were 50/50 of "that's totally doable" vs. "no way, that's too far"). Really, 25 miles didn't sound too far... but given that I'd been living 3 miles from the station in my apartment - plus the atrocity that is 'Austin traffic' (pre-COVID) - I was nervous about the distance.
A day or so went by and I kept thinking about that third house. By that Sunday (two days since first seeing the house), Jeff called Nicky & told her that the price of the house was dropping, it was likely going to be sold that day, and if I wanted it, I needed to pretty much sign the contract that afternoon.
I, naturally, went into FULL BLOWN PANIC MODE. I loved the house but was nervous & still had a million questions - was the drive too far? Did I look at enough houses? Was I rushing into something? Is this going to be a missed opportunity? Also - do I have the money to even afford this brand new house?!
I ended up throwing my hair in a bun, sliding on flip flops & immediately getting in the car to drive out and see the house again (still in jammies, hadn't brushed my teeth - it was a sight to see. But like I said - PANICKED.) By the time I got there, there were TWO OTHER FAMILIES in the house looking at it... which made me even more panicked. I was thinking "what if they love it & take it from right underneath me?!"
I called my parents, called my realtor, took about 10 minutes standing in the kitchen looking out at the backyard... and pulled the trigger. THAT DAY. THAT MOMENT. 48 hours from when I first stepped through the front door.
The fact of the matter is, this house was my dream house. It had everything I wanted... and by what I was told from Nicky and Jeff, the community was young and growing - perfect for the life stage I'm in. I ended up signing the contract that day to take the house off the market - quite possibly the scariest thing I've ever done and one of the most expensive things I've ever done. (And circling back to the "long drive" issue, I’ve spent about a month now making that commute and it’s really easy. Like I tell most people, I grew up in LA. I can show you what a real commute looks like & 25 miles ain’t nothin’.)
The next day, we went over all the formalities - closing day, title company, inspections, etc. It was VERY overwhelming - but I thought, the decision is made, and I'm that much closer to being able to wake up and drink my coffee in *my backyard while watching *my grass grow behind *my house. That was, ultimately, the end goal.
And fast forward 2 months, that's exactly what I'm doing now as I write this blog. :) Goal achieved.
SIDE NOTE: I was warned that the Austin market was hot - but I had no idea it was THAT hot. Having to make decisions so fast to avoid being beat out by others. STRESS OVERLOAD. But all I kept thinking was, thank you Lord for Nicky - she was truly a God-sent in this whole process... and not to leave out, she was the one who found the home to begin with! I would recommend her to my family, friends, to anyone & everyone thinking about buying or selling. My honest recommendation. This gal KNOWS. HER. STUFF. I have nothing but good things to say.
Reach out if you're interested: Nicole Marburger - Legacy Real Estate Group