We just became homeowners for the first time in Madison (third-time home buyers since 2008.) And, I have to be honest. This time around, it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make it happen.
Apparently, it's tough to find housing in Madison. The city is known for low crime, low unemployment and higher median salaries, which also has the potential to manifest into a giant dream-killer for house hunters. Since we gave ourselves a quick deadline to buy a house, we were literally in a race against time.
Real estate: America's Best Cities
The student apartment rental season, our giant dogs, and our desired budget made us work extra hard. We almost got away unscathed, but we definitely hit some snags.
Here are 3 things I wish I heard early in the process:
1. Decide if you're a "West Side Story" kind of gal or an "East Side for life" kind of dude. If you're from Madison, then you likely have a strong opinion about this. I personally like both, but for now, we found our home on the East Side... because we're pretty much charming and super hipster! Just kidding. We just really felt like we found a good fit. Our second-favorite house was in Verona (West Side), so we were all over the area.
2. Know that if you own a big breed dog, you're likely banned from all condos. It's not you, it's them. For real. We discovered that we couldn't BUY a condo because NONE would allow a number of medium-to-large breeds. I believe it's related to insurance. That also meant we had to spend tens of thousands more on a house. We also spent two weeks or more looking at condos before we figured this out.
3. Do your homework. Previously, I didn't put much stock into that idea from a buying perspective, but I needed to in Madison. I won't go into details, but we hit some major snags with our first lender. We were lucky to get two referrals from co-workers that led me to a second lender, Jeremy Woods from Millennium Bank. I wouldn't mention him if he hadn't saved us about $5,000 and helped us maintain our dignity and sanity.
Overall, we're really appreciative. We're in our house! Even though we had some challenges, we couldn't be more excited to start our lives in the Upper Midwest.
We are so fortunate to have lived in three wonderful states in as many years. We sold both houses in North Carolina and Missouri in less than 4 days. Peter Sweyer is one of the best realtors we've ever worked with - would highly recommend him in the Wilmington area! (Richard Crabtree is excellent and well-versed in the Rountree neighborhood in Springfield, Mo.)
Lots of great folks out there... this was just our experience. If these tips help you, then great! We love the idea of getting started in Madison. We intend on planting some roots - can't wait for the fun to begin!
If you have any tips, feel free to share them on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.