First Time Home Buyers: Adventures in Home Buying

Image by phanlop88

Image by phanlop88

Sometimes the first house you have your heart set on isn’t the one that you’re meant to have. That was the lesson Gloria Herrera and Martin Ibarra learned during their recent home-buying adventure.

After losing bids on several homes, the couple, who share a home with their daughter and Ibarra’s mother, was ready to compromise on their dream house. While they really wanted to stay in Santa Barbara, they also looked at properties in San Ynez and Buellton. Plus, they needed at least three bedrooms and they didn’t want a condominium.

This market is very competitive and difficult, said their Realtor Nicole Dinkelacker, who’s with Remax in Goleta. “It’s a lot more complicated than just finding a property.”

In the case of Herrera and Ibarra, Dinkelacker was ready with the check for a “compromise house,” when she found out that another property they had bid on earlier was available for an additional $5,000.

“Usually $5,000 you’re like oh my God, $5,000,” said Herrera. “At this point, $5,000 was like $5 to me … for a bigger property and an extra room.” Herrera said she thought the fact that she and Ibarra are both native Santa Barbarans (who met at Santa Barbara High School) was what sealed the deal for the home they eventually purchased for $700,000.

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a 900 square foot lot on Noma Street in Carpinteria was a good buy, compared to what was available in Santa Barbara. “We lucked out,” said Herrera, noting that in addition to more square footage, most of the house had new carpet and had been newly painted.

Regarding making home improvements, “It’s not like you have much money left after buying the house. You pay your bills and you pay your mortgage and then … Home Depot,” said Herrera.

“Yeah, we tend to be at Home Depot a lot more, that’s for sure,” laughed Ibarra.

“When we first got the house, it wasn’t as pretty. I put in palm trees and flowers. … I think a year from now it will definitely be a lot more how we envisioned it. …You only have the weekend to really do much.”

Although fixing up the house is an ongoing project, Herrera said she’s ready to relax and enjoy the house for a while. “Even though it’s a very tight budget, … you kind of spend your weekends here at home. Sometimes it’s by choice and other times because you really have no other form of entertainment you can afford. But at least it’s yours and you know that little by little, it will get easier. … We have something that a lot of people have a hard time trying to obtain.”

“I know she had her heart set on the first house … and I know when that didn’t come through she got down. But like I told her, it’s either meant to be or not,” said Ibarra. “(I told her) we’re going to find something down the road that’s going to be much better. And soon we were able to find this.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

First Time Home Buyers: There’s Nothing Like the First Time

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Image by phanlop88

Here on the South Coast — where multiple bidders compete to buy $1 million generic tract houses that “need work” — first time homebuyers are definitely in the minority. But a surprising number of working professionals are getting into the market via some very creative configurations, both in terms of financing and sometimes even living situations.

“It’s a lot more complicated than just finding a property,” said Nicole Dinkelacker, a realtor with RE/MAX’s Goleta office who’s been in the business for 20 years. “Anybody with less than ten percent down, it’s very competitive and difficult.”

Difficult, but not impossible.

“You can get 100 percent financing. You have to have beautiful credit, of course, but it isn’t like you have to come up with a huge amount of money, or at least you should talk to a realtor before you decide that,” said Rebekah Mulder, a realtor with Prudential California Realty in Santa Barbara.

A former teacher and principal at Cold Springs School, who got out of education to become a financial planner and real estate agent, Mulder said she still finds a lot of her job involves educating her clients about the tax advantages of investing in real estate, as well as the many creative ways to make buying a house possible in the Santa Barbara market.

One of the unique financing methods she often teaches first-time buyers about is equity sharing, where a parent, an employer or a third party will invest in buying a house in partnership with the person who will live there.

Recently, Steen Hudson (the Director of the Rescue Mission) and his wife Trina entered into an equity share agreement with his employers, said Mulder. “The mission is realizing money on its investment and if the Hudson’s so choose they can steadily buy the mission out. It’s a great way for employers to help out their employees and make an investment as well.”

“Equity sharing is a great investment. You pair up older people who really don’t want to go out and buy an apartment house or something. Most people are unaware that if you own a residential income property, you can depreciate that property. Even if its actually appreciating, the tax code allows you depreciate it, which then shelters that much of your earned income from any taxes at all,” said Mulder. The IRS allows you to treat one physical property as both a residential property and a residential income property (divided proportionately), she explained.

Rather than asking parents or others to “help” with a down payment, Mulder advises approaching it like a business opportunity and will often make the presentation to parents as a neutral party. “We have (37-page) contracts where you negotiate every horrible thing that could happen.”

“Another thing that piggybacks on that is that buying a property with a rental on it is really good option, especially for someone that’s maybe got high income but maybe no money down, said Sharol Mulder, Rebekah’s daughter and business partner.

“A lot of times if we have people with a lot of money down, it’s a better bottom line if they buy a more expensive property with a rental on it. So let’s say they could go buy a $600,000 condo, they could probably buy a $900,000 house with a rental on it and actually come out paying less per month,” said Sharol, who recently made this type of deal with buyers Dave and Eliza Reed and Kate Russell (Eliza’s sister). “They bought a neat old turn of the century Craftsman plus an additional duplex on West Sola. … They rent out the main house for maximum income.”

In addition to financing options, first-time homebuyers often need to be educated on the basics about realtors. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t know how realtors get paid. We’re seeing people walk into open houses and work with the realtor who’s there without a recommendation. … As a buyer you’re not going to pay the realtor’s commission but you really need a good realtor, so you need a good recommendation. … It’s a great benefit to you as a buyer that the seller is going to pay your realtor’s commission but it doesn’t take away the responsibility that you have to find someone who’s really good to represent you,” said Sharol.

Having professional, experienced representation is even more important with the current climate of multiple offers being made for any given listing. “Houses are going really quickly,” said Gloria Herrera, one of Dinkelacker’s clients who recently purchased a home in Carpinteria after making an offer on another. “The whole thing has really been a learning experience.”

There’s nothing like the first time … starting next week, our South Coast Homes section will feature case studies of local first time buyers. We’ll go inside their homes to see what they were able to buy and how they were able to do it.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

An Interview with Jonathan and Kathy Abad

The third time may be the charm for most people, but Jonathan and Kathy Abad had to go through eight unclosed escrows on different houses in order to finally buy their home in Goleta last year with the help of Coastal Housing Partnership (CHP).

Unlike many first-time homebuyers, the Abads had some real estate experience when they came to CHP for assistance, having purchased, upgraded and sold several mobile homes in the area while building up equity to buy a house of their own.

Since 1987, we would move just about every two years to maximize our profits, explained Kathy, who works for Hispanic Business Inc. Once they felt they had built up enough capital, they looked at homes for about a year and a half before finally purchasing their home.

“We basically wanted the biggest amount of property for our buck,” said Kathy. Plus, as parents of two young children, they wanted at least three bedrooms, plus a den to use as a home office.

“We saved a good 12 grand (working with CHP),” said Jonathan. The Abads worked with realtor Kristiann Wightman, (who owns Presidio Properties, a Homebuyers Assistance Program Participating Organization, which offers buyers back 40% of the broker commission) and though they didn’t get a mortgage loan through CHP, they got a discounted loan from a friend who matched the price of CHP’s discount.

In addition to the cost savings from CHP, the Abads were impressed with the educational services offered.

“If we would have known about them five years earlier, it would have really helped us out to learn faster than we would have on our own,” said Jonathan, who works for the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara. “They are there to really answer your questions and you’re not learning from a specific realtor that has a vested interest …you are getting a lot of point of views from people at these kind of workshops.”

He added, “I wish I knew about this six, seven years ago when we started doing this. It would have saved us so much work.”

Originally published in the Coastal Housing Partnership Newsletter