Buying Homes: Horror stories and Triumphs


10 Years
Apr 15, 2011
Considering buying a home as this Navy brat has finally found somewhere that curbs my wanderlust. My husband and I would be able to put 20 percent down on low costing homes with 2-6 acres in the area. We don't mind mobile homes ourselves, but the post-1980s mobiles seem to fall apart rapidly and they are hard to finance, so we aren't looking at any mobile homes. I have never found a rental place that has allowed us to pursue chickens/goats/or even a large garden (or heck, we couldn't even hang pictures up in one home), and that has grown wearisome. We'd like about 20 acres one day, but 2-6 will keep us more than happy in our various projects for at least 5 years (which is what I hear is kind of the length of time one should stay in a home before considering selling). It is scary of thinking of our savings instantly going from being available to being tied up in a home though. Just looking for some personal stories from people here who have bought homes, particularly homes that were priced low. Did things go well for you? Did they go terribly? Did you end up with a nice place to live or did you find out your home was meth central? Tips?
I bought my very first home about 3 years ago. Have you looked into FHA loans? They have more restrictions but you can get a much better rate. It really helped me afford something better than I initially thought.

I bought a duplex in a very urban part of LA so the market is a little specific I guess but it was definitely on the cheap end for my area and I struggled at first to find homes that had my requirements and were in my price range. Most that I saw were in really really terrible shape. I don't mind a fixer-uper but wow. Some were scary. My other problem was that because I was looking at inexpensive multi-units I was up against cash buyers. I could not compete. I probably went to look at 30+ houses and put in 10 or 12 offers that were not accepted before I finally found my house. The process was a little under a year.

I was starting to get pretty frustrated and feel like it just wasn't going to happen with my budget. But, don't give up! I actually ended up getting a better house in terms of size and condition than I thought I was going to be able to. I did end up spending my max and I had to compromise on neighborhood but it was worked out really well.

I know how you feel about the HUGE expense. The day that I basically emptied my savings account and had to drive the cashiers check to the escrow office was a rough day. My hands would not stop shaking. But, it is also an investment. Just keep telling yourself that. lol. Thankfully property values in my area have actually come up since I bought which makes me feel better.

I lived in a really horrible, tiny apartment for a long time so moving into my own house that actually had a kitchen big enough for 2 people to stand in and a real yard (even if it is only a tiny LA yard) was so incredibly joyous. My partner and I actually brought sleeping bags and slept in the house the first night because we could not wait. We had a floor picnic and everything. The very first thing I did was get a washing machine and a dog. Life changing!

I hope you are able to find what you want. Let me know how it goes. I dream of selling this place someday and getting 4 acres or so somewhere outside of CA where housing is not so insane.
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Extremely helpful response, thank you! Went to look at what appeared to be a cute 1920s home online, but was definitely one for the 'scary' category in person. Ended up being a boarded up, falling-apart home in an abandoned ghost town. Reminded me of when we were hunting for our first apartment fresh out of college. We ended up finding a charming older place with a responsible landlord for the same price some of the slum lords were charging. But, the first three places we looked at had floors completely rotten out, and one place was missing the front door, had no toilet, and was infested with roaches. XP

I didn't even think about competition with cash buyers. We are definitely in that range. I will have to look into the FHA loans more for sure.

I'm so glad you found a place that worked for you guys! I can't think of a better toast to a new home than a floor picnic, or the loving addition of a dog. :)
First of all, check to make sure the property you are interested in has no covenants or an HOA to contend with. Either one of those was a deal breaker for me when I was looking for property to buy. Also, it pays to ask around. I found the property I have because the waitress in a cafe overheard me talking about property. She said her uncle had a place for sale. I contacted the uncle. His place was not suitable but he gave me the name of a really good real estate agent who did help me find a suitable property and the financing for it.

I did my initial search for property on the internet. Then I traveled to the communities I was interested in. This was invaluable. Some of the areas I thought I would like I didn't, and some areas I didn't think I would like I did.
Check out the FHA loans. I would also get multiple quotes on your loans. I got around 4 or 5 and the numbers were different with each one. Some approved me for more than others and some were easier to deal with. Avoid anything that is flexible rate.

Like Cassie said, I would also look around some on your own. Our realtor found us a lot of places but I also found many online and actually found the one we ended up buying before my realtor did. Also make sure you know what the chicken/livestock rules are where you are looking just to be sure. Some zoning is strange.

Just like with your bad apartment hunting, it takes some patience -- which is really hard when you are ready to buy!
HOAs/covenants are a no go for us too Cassie! Yes, please add yet another level of rules and fees on top of federal/state/county/city ones. X)

Thanks so much for the help you two. Some days I wake up thinking, "yeah, we can do this"...some days not so much.
Don't let the sellers pressure you, is my first suggestion. Even if you loose the home you wanted, it does not mean you will not find another you like just as much. Be willing to look a little out of your price range, and out of your area, sometimes the perks of the place outweighs the cons. If it is slightly out of range in price, try to negotiate it down.

Also, ask around about the agent you are working with, the bank it is financed through, and the people you are buying from. Talk to neighbors, check with local insurance companies for any labeled risks in the area, and talk to the police department. You ill find that you can learn a lot about the hazards of the area and possible cons just by asking around.

Also be willing to put money into hiring an inspector to inspect the home and land you wish to buy. Comeback and visit it during different weather patterns to see if there is trouble with flooding, leaking, hot or cold issues, and pests. Also see what is zoned near you. You might find yourself down the road from a private muddling race track, like I did. The noise can ruin a beautiful day. Most of all, don't rush! This is the biggest purchase of your life. If you feel pressured or rushed, then that is a red flag.

Try checking out credit unions. Their loans and interest rates tend to be really good. They are also more flexible since credit unions are usually smaller than banks, so it is easier to petition the head of the bank for leeway in getting a loan and in negotiating rates. Also remember a home can be built, or updated, but if the land or location is lousy, there is little you can do about it.

A quality used mobile home company may be able to work with you in getting a small mobile home to live in while you save up to build a nice house. Building a home does not have to be expensive if you are willing to go with a simple design, be your own general contractor, and get involved in the building process. There are many alternative homes that are safe, sturdy, beautiful, and cost under 20,000 to build. If you take your time you can spread the building out over a couple of years, limiting the need to finance a large chunk at once.
Oh and look in classifieds, on craigslists, and local papers. Many places are sold by owner, and some owners are willing to work out financing with you. It can save you thousands in fees and closing costs and many of the privately sold properties tend to be cheaper. Make sure to check on the state of the property too. Does it have any claims or liens on it? Any boundary disputes? Do you get water, mineral and timber rights? Was the place once used as a trash dump or anything else like that? anyone have right aways on your property?

We are having that problem here. the place we live in was under dispute about property lines, and ten years later we are being dragged to court (this summer) over this.

The home I grew up in was built on an aging dump/disposal area. We did not know about it until i was about ten and the land started having sinkhole issues. Turns out the previous owners just pushed dirt over all the trash and built on top of it.
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bought my first home FHA, we lookad at about a hundred (honestly 100) homes before we found this one. we have refinanced 2x to the low rate od 3.75 and also dropped our PMI. That was a major drive for us. PMI was over $150 per payment!! i recommend NO HOA!! check the rules with FHA vs VA for the minimum time you must live there before you can sell. Also check the new lay pertainig to PMI (mortgage insurace) i heard a nasty rumor that PMI is now required for the life of the laon. if true, see if you are allowed to refi out of that loan when you get 20% equity. If the law does not let you Refi out of PMI, i highly recommend looking at VA rules or going convetional. otherwise you could spend over $100 per month (or $36,000) over the life of the loan for insurance for your bak, not even benifiting you. Lastly STAY IN YOUR PRICE RANGE, no exceptions
We used a USDA loan, which had lots of benefits, not the least of which was that we didn't have to pay mortgage insurance! Seriously, check it out. It's designed to help out buyers and sellers in rural to semi-rural areas.

We looked at lots of houses, too. The one we got was a short sale. Bank rejected our offer once, but came back to us a couple months later, probably after they realized their price was ridiculous for the local market. We were tempted by some big houses on small lots, but we fell in love with the little house on the big lot. (1300 square foot house on an acre and a half.) Nearly 2 years later we're still in love with the place.

Happy hunting!!

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