Homeowners’ Story: Mel & Ellen

couple smiling outside of house

couple smiling outside of house

It can be hard to become a homeowner, especially if you’re young or don’t know anybody that has done it. We want to share our past clients Ellen and Mel’s story on buying two homes. If you are thinking about buying a home, stories from real homeowners can be helpful and informative.

Ellen and Mel have been homeowners since 2012. They lived in their first home, a three bedroom, one bathroom 1.5 story home, for eight years. In 2020, they sold that house to buy something bigger; a four bedroom with three bathrooms – it was a big upgrade. Now they are on the search for an investment property too.

Before Buying

When they first started thinking about homeownership in 2012, they knew it was cheaper to buy than rent. They wanted to have a good handle on their finances and understand finance and mortgage terminology before getting too far into the process so they attended home buying seminars. They explain how these seminars were very helpful for them and recommend new potential homeowners to go to them if they can.

After feeling a bit more comfortable with some foundational knowledge, it was time to find an agent. Ellen and Mel asked a commercial real estate friend and a few other friends who had recently bought homes who they recommended. This led them to work with April Johnson at Alvarado Real Estate Group.

From the start, they were thankful to work with April. “April was super helpful and found things first-time homebuyers don’t always look for,” explained Mel. New home buyers don’t always know about foundation cracks, moisture in a home, older home issues, etc. Thankfully, April was able to show them things they wouldn’t know about before they decided to buy.

Buying Processes

As Ellen and Mel compared their two buying processes, it was easy to see a lot had changed in eight years. A major difference was the process of the touring home. Ellen explained that the 2012 process didn’t feel as rushed as it did for their 2020 search. In 2012, they walked through 12 or so homes. The market wasn’t as hot then and decisions did not need to be made in hours. However, in 2020 with Covid-19, they only toured four homes before writing an offer. Virtual tours helped eliminate houses they weren’t interested in without having to schedule a live showing.

During their first process, their budget was lower, there was more negotiating, and they were able to look outside of their price range more because homes weren’t selling for above the asking price. In 2020 with a very hot market, even though their budget was higher, they had to look inside their price range and had to have the pre-approval letter ready in case an offer was to be made on the spot. Homes were flying off the market today in under 24 hours. Buyers had to be prepared to act fast with added more pressure than their first experience.

This led to another major difference in their two searches: the timeline. In 2012, Ellen and Mel spent more time looking since they didn’t know what they wanted and there wasn’t a rush to decide. In 2020, they listed and sold their first house, bought a new home, and moved in, all within four months!

Although the 2020 process went very fast, Ellen and Mel were still able to be picky with what they wanted. They needed a garage and at least 1.5 baths and were not going to budge on either of those. Price, home condition, and location were also important factors when they looked both times.

Mel did explain that you don’t want to be too picky. “If the house has 75% of what you want, take it because it’ll be hard to find a house with everything.” Their new house is on a hill, which Ellen wasn’t a fan of, but there were enough positives with the house that she decided to accept the hill.

When asked if they had a specific memorable experience during their process, Ellen talked about signing the papers to own their first house in 2012. They had just written an offer, and shortly after, Ellen received a call that her grandfather had passed away. She went to the Detroit area and while there, got a counteroffer that she and Mel wanted to accept. The only place in town that had wifi was the public library so that was where she signed the necessary paperwork, virtually! All their family and friends were shocked that they could do that, but now signing papers virtually is the new thing!

Advice for buyers and sellers

Ellen’s major advice to people who are looking to buy for the first time actually came from her mom. “Make sure things that you can’t change are things you can live with.” Walls, appliances, and rooms can be changed, but location, layout, and size can’t.

Ellen and Mel’s advice for sellers is something real estate agents say all the time: how the space looks during showings can largely impact potential buyers. If items can go in storage to make the space look bigger, they recommend doing it. They found this to be an added bonus as it helped that some items were already packed up when they were ready to move.

Ellen and Mel are very happy being homeowners and hope other people will read their story and feel more comfortable making the jump into homeownership.

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