mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I wonder if I'll ever buy a house...

Sometimes, I wonder how anyone buys a house. It seems like everything is so complicated - so many things that you need to get in order. It's especially challenging if, like me, you are trying to take advantage of one of the first-time homebuyer programs that are out there.

It seems kind of silly not to take advantage - they are basically free money. Sure, I'm generally a small government guy, so it may seem kind of odd that I think the state of Maryland should give me help buying a house. But the money is out there, and if I don't take it, someone else will. Plus, I figure that at least part of the reason buying a house is so expensive is due to goverment regulations and policies - the mortgage interest deduction gives people an incentive to buy a house, zoning restrictions mean fewer houses are built, thus driving up prices, and high property taxes make buying and owning a house way more expensive - there are apparently several thousand dollars in transfer taxes required to buy a house in Baltimore County.

So there are two programs I'm planning on using - the first is the CDA program, which gives interest rates that seem to be about 1% less than market rates. If you use the CDA mortgage, you can also take advantage of DSLEP, which gives you $5000 (or occasionally more) towards closing costs. It's a 0% loan, which isn't due for 15 years or until you sell the house or refinance. Figuring the time value of money - how inflation will make $5000 be way less than $5000 in 15 years - it seem slike an obvious good deal.

But to get this stuff, you have to jump through hoops, and it takes time to jump through hoops. First of all, you need to work with one of a handful of companies that participates. I've been working with someone from the Baltimore office of one of the largest mortgage companies in the country, yet the guy I'm talking to doesn't seem real familiar with the CDA/More Home 4Less program - at one point, he told me that you had to buy in specific locations, until I read to him from the website that that only applies if you are not a first-time homebuyer (which I am).

Secondly, you need to go to a buyer's education class. I went to mine yesterday. It was held by a community housing group in one of those 60's-style community centers off of Hartford Road (ironically, it was about 6 blocks from where I lived before I moved to where I live now, and I never knew it was there). Looking at the people in my class, I wasn't exactly enthused about the state of first-time homebuyers. Most of these people weren't too bright - they couldn't understand the simple chart of household income levels for some of the programs, and one person actually asked if it was better to pay off their credit card bill in payments instead of all at once (umm, no, unless you like paying interest).

I thought this was all I would have to do, except to, you know, buy a house. But no. Turns out the one thing that if I want to buy a house in Baltimore County (which I do), I also have to get one-on-one first time homebuyer counseling. And of couse, they are booked for the next month - I go for my session the first week of May.

The CDA and DSLEP programs also require that you go to counseling before you can put a contract on a house. I was planning on starting my house hunt after Easter, but I might as well wait a week or two, until just before my session. It doesn't make much sense for me to look at houses when I can't make an offer because I haven't had my session. So I'm stuck putting this off even longer.

I'm wondering what my session will be like. I have pretty good credit - a good 100 points above the "cutoff" for "very good credit" that they mentioned at the session. I also have enough to actually put down a decent down payment - which I get the impression most of the people who use these programs don't.

You also have to bring a ton of stuff to your session - last 3 tax returns, 3 bank statements, 3 months of pay stubs, credit card statements, credit report, 2 forms of ID, - pretty much everything except pee in a cup. It doesn't make me thrilled that some random non-profit employee is going to be going over all my financials. My credit card statements kind of make me look spendthrift, since I buy a ton of electronics and other stuff - most of which has large rebates on it and goes on eBay and makes me money. So that could be an intersting factor.

The other thing you have to do is fill out a rather silly workbook with stuff like your budget, your income, your assets, and the answers to a bunch of questions that don't seem to mean a whole lot. For example, one of them is "how many times do you use your ATM card? - never, once or twice a week, or 3 or more times a week". So I guess if you take $20 out 3 times a week (assuming a fee-free ATM and no bank fees), you are somehow less financially responsible than if you take $100 one time.

So I guess I'll be waiting a couple more weeks before I start house shopping. My initial plan was to begin looking February 1st and to move in in May. Now I'm looking at starting looking in May (although I should at least have financing lined up then). My mom likes to say that "if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for the next 10 years". Shit, I can't even make plans for 6 months - between my own tendency to procrastinate and the unforseen complexity of buying a house (especially when the government is involved), this is taking way longer than I hoped. Now I'll just be happy if I can be moved in by the end of August.

So the waiting continues....


Post a Comment

<< Home