We are Buying a House: Our Homebuying Journey as Immigrants

Seven years after moving to the US from the Philippines, we are finally buying our own home! It’s been quite the journey. Charina and I just rented apartments in the Philippines so this is our first time buying such an expensive building!

There are several challenges though! Interest rates are going up, the housing market is crazy, and we cannot afford homes in the Nashville area! We’re definitely priced out!

But we’re doing it anyway.

I will share with you things we did to prepare for this process.

Beginning the Process

We knew that by being in the US and me having a good job, we can buy our home. We started seriously thinking about it in 2020 when the pandemic hit. Our three young boys are growing. They run around and jump around more; they can get rowdy, and we definitely need more space! Especially when the neighbor starts knocking on the walls because our sons are just a little too noisy and rowdy!

We officially started our homebuying process in the middle of 2021. Charina and I decided that it was time! We found the home we wanted in November, signed the purchase agreement in December; chose our options and upgrades in January 2022, and they started to build the house in March 2022. It’s expected to be finished in September.

Save, save, save!

The very first thing we did is to save money for the downpayment and other costs for buying a home. Thankfully, we have a few friends who have gone through the process. We also learned that there are options where you don’t even need a downpayment to buy a home! In some cases, if you have around $13,000 to $18,000, that should be enough to buy a home.

Learn about the home buying process.

This is the very first home that we are buying. So we didn’t know what the process looked like. I bought a course on Udemy.com entitled How to buy your first house AND save thousands of dollars! It was very helpful and helped me understand the process. It’s still complicated but at least I have a good understanding and I can ask the right questions to our real estate agent.

Decided what we wanted from a home

We wanted to have more space than what we currently have. We listed down some of our non-negotiables. I didn’t mind having a resale home: something that already exists and the previous owners are selling the home. I also didn’t mind buying a new build home. My wife preferred the latter and I thought it was okay, too.

The house we wanted should have at least 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. It should be at least 2,000 square feet (186 sq meters) with a sizeable lot at least 5,000 sq ft (465 sq meters). Our boys need some space to run and play around. It should also be in a neighborhood that is safe and has good schools.

Find another city & a Real Estate Agent

The homes we wanted cost more than $400,000 in the Nashville area. So we decided it was better to look for a home in another city. It should have lower cost of living and NOT TOO COLD! So nothing in New York, or the Midwest!

After doing some research, we decided to move to a suburb of the San Antonio area in Texas! It has good diversity, the city is growing, and it has homes in our price range. There’s a growing Filipino community, and bonus points because there’s Jollibee!

We didn’t really know anybody in the area so we looked for a Facebook group, connected with a real estate agent and started looking for homes!

Applied for Mortgage Pre-approval

I probably went overboard and applied to 5 lending companies! One to three should be good enough! What’s important is I can show the builder that I can get a mortgage loan for up to the maximum amount stated in the pre-approval letter.

Started looking for homes

Though we are in Tennessee, we were able to look at model homes through our real estate agent. She carried us around with her through her smartphone. We were on a video call and she showed us around the homes that we included in our list.
When we finally found a home that met our criteria, we just told her which one it was, we setup another online meeting with the sales consultant of the property, we signed the purchase agreement virtually and paid our earnest money deposit of $500.

Choosing Upgrades and Options

Only basic features were included in the base price of the home we chose. If we wanted a higher ceiling, taller cabinets, granite countertops, fancier faucets and many others, we will just have to pay more! Man, those options aren’t cheap!

We scheduled an online meeting in January 2022 with the Design Studio of the builder to choose upgrades and options. A week later, I went to San Antonio to personally visit the home and finalize upgrades and options. We paid the design studio deposit, signed the upgrades and options contract.

Now, we wait!

Waiting can be tough! It’s not easy to be a home buyer because of the market conditions, higher inflation, low inventory of homes, crazy prices, and so much more! Meanwhile, rent is also increasing! Our current rent just went up by $100!

Hopefully, there are no more delays and our home will be finished by September this year.

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