Many people think this is a wonderful time to buy, with interest rates and house prices dropping. And in many ways, it is. But there are also some things one has to be aware of. Like the fact that some people are trying to get out of their homes through a short sale. In a nutshell, that's where they arrange with the mortgage company to take less money than is owed. But mortgage companies aren't just doing that all willy nilly. You can't just ask them because you want out. It has to be a dire financial situation before they'd even look at it. And it will reflect on the credit of the person who did that. The mortgage company also has to give final approval to any offer made on the property. It adds an element to the deal that you wouldn't otherwise have. One that can delay the process anywhere from a short time to a very long time.
Along those same lines, there are many bank-owned properties. Again, banks don't always respond to offers in the same timeframe that a homeowner would. So you might have to wait awhile after making an offer. None of this is to say that you can't buy a bank-owned or short-sale house and get a wonderful deal, but it doesn't always work out the same as a straight "buy it from the homeowner" type of deal.
For us, we would like to spend less than what we pay for rent, if at all possible. You know, the "live beneath your means" mentality instead of right at the very edge of your means? That's the goal, anyway. Living with high rent and almost $400 utility bills is definitely the edge of ones' means. But that also makes it a little tougher to find the size of house we want in the area of town that we want. We're not looking for a huge house, in fact, we'd even be fine in something a little smaller. We could definitely get more house for our money by moving way to the other side of town, but we don't want to live there. For one, if we're further away from the people and activities of our lives, we'll just pay more in gas, so it won't ultimately save us anything.
Interest rates went up a couple of times during the first week we were looking. I also learned that the going mortgage rate and "the interest rate" that they talk about in the news aren't the same thing. It (the mortgage rate) did come back down at the end of last week, though. It all really depends upon where it is when it comes time to make an offer. I'm learning a lot of information during this process already; short sales, bank-owned properties, interest, etc.
Because we weren't planning on buying a house right now - that was a somewhat spontaneous thing, and due to the aforementioned "living at the edge of ones' means," we haven't exactly saved up for a down payment and closing costs. Never fear, our realtor and lender already had this covered. There is a way to include this in the loan (yeah, don't lecture me about how that's not the best idea), BUT it also means that we will need to make a full-price offer, if not one that's higher. And we have to find the right seller.
Now if I were looking at this from my own, limited human perspective, I'd be thinking there wasn't much chance of this coming together. But I can't go there. It's God's deal. He's taking us down this path. I really thought when we began to discuss moving that we'd just rent again. But He has already enabled us to be pre-approved on a mortgage, which in and of itself was a surprise (due to issues that stemmed from the last house). Therefore, I have to trust Him. He knows what He's doing. He knows where we will live. He knows the entire picture.
I write this more as a reminder to myself than anything. When the going gets tough and my faith is faltering, I want to come back and read this. I want to remember that He's in charge. He's bigger than any obstacles I may see. Can I say that we will absolutely, positively buy a house now? Maybe. I don't always know WHY God takes us where He does. But I always know that He is good and faithful. He always has our best in mind. I will trust in Him, regardless of outward circumstances.
"My soul wait silently for God alone,
for my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
and my refuge, is in God."