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Cozy house buying resources and some small advice.
|This list of resources is localized to just the USA (and possibly the state of Texas.) I’m not familiar with other countries outside of Burgertopia.|
This is my list of resources that I used for buying a house. I was mostly focused on buying an older home in the country instead of something modern out of personal preference, so this might be reflected here.
First off, I think we’re all familiar with sites like Zillow or Realtor.com. These are alright for finding property, but they never provide enough information.
To figure out who owns the property, you can look this information up on the county appraisal districts web site (the county in which the property is located.) Most appraisal districts provide an online property search that ties into an ArcGIS map service. You can see lot lines, property tax records, deed types and change of deeds, as well as the property owners name and address. There is also often a county appraisal of the properties value including the build year and type of construction.
The below links are PDF’s that you can download which describe property improvement codes. Whenever you look up a property on an appraisal district, you’ll notice that it has these codes in the property description. I'm not sure if these codes are localized. I found quite a few sources, but these two were the best ones that I found in my state.
You can use the county appraisal to get a more realistic idea of the properties value compared to the inflated market values seen on MLS listed real estate.
Of course the seller will over value their house, so this gives you a better idea of what to offer when contacting their Realtor. You should understand though that the seller may be wanting to turn a profit and that they would quite likely be insulted if you offer at the counties appraised value, so there’s some middle ground to aim for. In my opinion, you shouldn’t ever accept the inflated asking price of a house if it’s significantly higher than the counties appraised value, but also keep in mind that the owner could have remodeled the property before the county has appraised it. Always take a look at it in person first!
Something else to note, the county can only appraise what it sees from the outside. They won’t know what’s inside that could be of value. This is in part why many people live like trash in the rural parts; it’s to reduce their property tax which is based on the appraised value.
If you can get the name and address of a property owner, you can then look up the owner to create a profile on them:
- Are they over 60 or younger?
- Does the owner presently live on the property or not?
- Does the owner live out of state?
- Does the owner own any additional land around or nearby the property?
- Is this a recently new owner or the same owner?
- Are the previous owners related?
- Was there a recent change in surname on the deed?
- Does the deed indicate a lien on the property (i.e. vendors lien) or do they own it completely?
You can use all of this information to figure out the situation of the owner to see if they’re out to scalp you or if they’re genuinely trying to sell the place.
This site is dope! You can go over old aerial archives to see what your county use to look like. It usually only goes as far back as the 1950’s, and some places are just blotted out. It’s useful in determining the age of a house and getting an idea of when additions were built or when it was constructed or moved to its present location. You can also use this site to estimate the age of a roof before learning later in the owners disclosure after signing into a purchase contract.
Maybe not all that important, but I think it’s great for historical research if your into that kind of thing.
Opportunity Zones might be worth noting if the property you’re interested in is located in such an area. I recommend reading on these to get an idea of what an OZ zone is.
Opportunity Zones are an economic development tool that allows people to invest in distressed areas in the United States.
Their purpose is to spur economic growth and job creation in low-income communities while providing tax benefits to investors.
Opportunity Zones were created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Public Law No. 115-97). Thousands of low-income communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories are designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones.
Taxpayers can invest in these zones through Qualified Opportunity Funds. - IRS
A link on OZ’s from Forbes: “Opportunity Zones: The Dire Risks For Investors And The Communities”
Another one about a few months later from Forbes: “Opportunity Zones: We’re Doing It Wrong”
And there are some politics behind it too: “Wyden Launches Investigation into Opportunity Zones” -- “Wyden requests information from organizations involved in the Opportunity Zone program, given the continued lack of transparency and reporting requirements for Opportunity Funds.” Source.
I have noticed though in OZ areas, people are suddenly selling their properties. Usually it’s because of some investment company planning to transform the area by bulldozing the neighborhood and replace it with newer housing, highways, solar farms, wind turbines, etc. It’s sad to see historic neighborhoods get wiped away, but sometimes it’s for the best if you’ve seen the conditions some of these rat traps are in.
Honestly, I don’t know what to say about em. It sounds like a tax subsidized gentrification program to me, so take that however you will!
https://loan-calculators.org/payoffIf you choose to buy a house on a loan, then try out this loan payoff calculator to get an idea of just how much you’re going to be spending on it with that interest rate and for how long. This was one of the better online calculators that I found because you can play around with the monthly payments to get an idea of what you can and can’t afford.
If you have a low credit score and you’re below the median income range in the US, which is between $50K to $90K a year, then most housing will be out of your reach. You could look into getting a USDA loan since a conventional loan might not be possible, but the USDA loan program is much more strict on the properties condition and location too. You would also have to fall below an income limit specific to your state in order to apply.
There’s also the FHA loan which is less strict than the USDA loan, but I don’t really know much about it other than Realtors don’t seem to like it very much and you have to pay mortgage insurance premiums on it despite whatever you put down at closing. You also wouldn't be allowed to do many self repairs with either loan unless you have two years building experience experience with the FHA.
One last loan option to consider is the VA loan. Of course you would have to be a veteran to get one, but they're much more nicer than any other loan out there from what I've read. It is possible to buy a house that a veteran is selling along with the VA loan, which could be a good opportunity; it's just not very common.
You should also take note that you’ll very likely won’t be able to buy a fixer upper home on a loan anymore. I tried going this route myself with a 10 year fixed rate conventional loan on a fixer upper house, which I planned to pay off within 3 years. Its appraisal didn’t meet approval, despite me having more than enough cash on hand for self financing repairs. With this in mind, you can better estimate an appropriate cash offer on a house in need of major repair where the owner might mistakenly think their shidbox will pass a lenders appraisal.
My personal recommendation is to just buy what you can with cash and avoid dealing with debt, unless maybe you're old and gonna die soon anyway. I know that it’s a pretty difficult thing for people to do these days, and you won’t get the nicest house out of it unless you’re loaded in cash, or possibly even a house at all. But you need to get for real given your financial situation. While you might see people driving around in their Range Rovers sipping on Boba Tea and living in their $800K McMansion on a 100 acre ranch, you shouldn't forget that those are the lucky few that made it in the debt based lifestyle of serfdom. Most debt serfs don't live like that and you quite likely wouldn't as well.
The only time I believe that a loan could be considered for primary housing is when you’re financially well to do and know that you can pay it off within 5 years tops; it’s a gamble, but the odds should be in your favor. Mortgages can quickly devolve into financial servitude as you will become indentured to your job and the economy, signed off by your fear of loss. Sure, you could always just sell it, but you'll do everything in your power before resorting to that and by that point you will have lost more than just a house.
In this contract signed by your fear are undisclosed terms that you’ll have to accept whether you like it or not:
- Your mobility in both job and housing options becomes restricted.
- You will undergo re-domestication to a prescribed faux culture & job centered lifestyle.
- Marriage is dissuaded in place of casual unproductive promiscuity.
- Egregious restrictions and limitations are applied to the rearing of offspring.
Debt is the surest road to contemporary serfdom. If you can't afford a house and aren't in line to inherit property, then take the nomad pill! Just stay away from a debt based way of living as much as you possibly can, unless you don't aspire to much in life beyond getting high, stuffing your face, watching porn, and playing vidya all day.
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