Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Importance of Having Earnest Money

According to the testimonial in the video I saw at my home buyer's seminar, "Buying a house makes you feel good." Yeah, so does a bong hit (so I've heard), and it doesn't cost $150,000.

The seminar program is sponsored by a mortgage insurance company, so there's lots of propagandist testimonials about how awesome it is to own a home. There's also lots of testimonials about how anyone can do it. It takes a lot of work and dedication-- and help from mortgage insurance!-- but even people with bad credit or not much savings can realize this dream.

Much of the vocabulary associated with home buying sounds like stuff you'd read in a Dan Savage sex advice column: flipping, packing, concessions, predatory behavior, balloon payments, closing costs. Some random notes/comments about the class:
  • Buying a house makes you a somebody, not a nobody.
  • Seller concessions are "gimmicky." Don't fall for them.
  • The guy in the video kept mentioning my "counselor" and that I should discuss home buying decisions with them. I took this to mean I have to get a therapist before I buy a house.
  • The entire video only had one line about what to consider when you're house hunting. Something about proximity to churches and schools. Then they went right back to talking about...financing! I didn't learn one new thing I should ask about when I'm looking at a house.
  • The lady narrating the second video was thoroughly disgusted by predatory lenders. To help us feel the danger of predatory lenders, a song very similar to the theme from Jaws played in the background. But different enough that they wouldn't have to pay royalties to Steven Spielberg.
  • They never said how much I could get if I sell my kidney for a down payment. But I was dying to ask.
  • All the people looking for homes in the videos were women or minorities. The only white males in the video were home inspectors or shady lenders.
So I might not have been the target audience for this seminar. Still it got me thinking about the home buying process, and I got a free pen out of it. And I love free pens. I also got a certificate with my name on it, although they spelled my last name wrong. I hope someone doesn't turn down my offer to buy their home because my name is spelled wrong on the certificate I got for attending a home buyer's seminar at the local community college. That would suck.

I'm really happy for the people in the video who realized their dream of owning a home, but I don't know if it's for me. My heart's just not in it right now.

I looked at six open houses one day last month. This past Sunday I looked at another four. I may have the credit and income to buy a house, but I'm not sure I have the dedication and enthusiasm.

People in my family have been pressuring me to buy a home. My oldest brother would give me an hour and a half Powerpoint presentation on it if I let him. The guy's a broken record: Buy a house, buy a house, buy a house. Oh, and get a dog, too.

Hey, I get it. This is the best time in the history of everything to buy a house. I understand the financial advantages of putting money into a house rather than "throwing it away" on rent. And I have every intention of owning a home one day. I don't plan to rent forever. I have to grow up sometime.

But there are other considerations in life besides financial ones. I just got divorced in the past year. My nest egg (for a down payment) has been cut in half. Do I really want to take on all the responsibilities of home ownership by myself? And looking for a house, for me, feels like it should be a social activity. It's something you do as a family, or at least as a couple. You have to have someone to argue with about whether a fireplace is more important than a porch. And my cat just won't get into that argument with me.

I know that single people buy houses all the time, and I don't have a problem with that. I may be one of them soon. But so far, I just haven't found the right house-- one that ignites my passion the way, say, a pizza does. I'll keep looking, though. Because I like feeling good.

1 comment:

ALM said...

We went to that same seminar. At Local Community College annex building place, right? We yuppily dubbed it "how to buy a house for poor people" since it was all about 0 down (this was a few years ago, obviously) and how to save money and budget and not get swindled. Vast majority of information wasn't useful for us at all.

I distinctly remember one of the things the instructor asking us: "What are some means of income other than your salary?" I suggested "investments" but I was incorrect. Appropriate responses included "alimony," "worker's comp," and "social security benefits."