Confessions of a First-time Home Buyer

by Emily King
My husband Dave and I decided we were ready to buy a house, and just like that, our minds were set. It wasn't so much a long, drawn-out discussion; the choice was a snap judgement made with the finality of a train switching tracks. The facts were simple: our lease on a Tampa apartment was coming to an end, and we wanted to move to St. Petersburg where my husband works. The walls of our apartment seemed to creep inward as our dreams of owning a home grew nearer--what we didn't know was that the process of buying a house is much more complicated than choosing a place and handing over some money and signatures. 
Well we want to move into our new home in a month, maybe two...our lease ends next month, but it shouldn't take us that long to find a house.
My first thought was "our lease ends in like a month, and that is totally enough time for us to pick out a house in St. Petersburg. I can have our apartment packed and ready to move by then, no problem." I realize now that this is one of the more ignorant things I have ever thought in my life--granted, before buying our house, my entire perspective of real estate derived from a combination of my obsessive viewings of HGTV's Property Virgins and my childhood memory of eating fancy wax-coated cheese snacks in the backseat of an agent's SUV while my parents shopped for houses.
After reading a few "how to buy a house" articles on the internet, Dave and I tried to get a mortgage pre-approval. Neither of us had much credit--we simply always lived within our means, paid cash for cars, and didn't have any credit cards; beyond my small amount of student loan debt, we were invisible in the eyes of the credit masters. Our inquiries into obtaining a loan were met with rejection, requests for co-signers, or alarmingly tiny sums of money. It felt so unfair--hadn't we always been responsible? Hadn't we spend less than we made and always paid our bills on time? I felt like we were being punished for not understanding the adult world of Real Estate.
We needed help. Dave and I called Tina, and right away she knew what to do.
We began applying for credit cards, thinking we would just have to keep renting until we built some credit. I was devastated.

We needed help. Dave and I called our real estate agent Tina Herrell, and right away she knew what to do. Tina pointed us to a wonderful lender who could use our years of impeccable bill-paying and rent-paying as proof that we were a safe bet for a mortgage! With lightening speed, Tina's suggested lender was able to give us the pre-approval we so desperately coveted--and with that golden ticket, we were off to find our new home.
Once again thinking we could save Tina some time and just do things ourselves, Dave and I scoured the internet. Now that we knew our price range, we searched popular real estate websites for properties. This turned out to be the most discouraging step in our process--the houses we thought we could afford were far outside our ideal location, needed a lot of work, or were teensy tiny. We should have learned our lesson before and left things up to the professionals! 
We knew our lengthly list was an unrealistic goal on our shoestring budget, but within hours Tina was emailing us incredible properties that met every single item on our list. 
We called Tina again, and we outlined our (pretty large) list of things we wanted--two or three bedrooms, a fenced backyard, bonus room for an art studio, nice outdoor space, updated kitchen, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We knew our lengthly list was an unrealistic goal on our shoestring budget, but within hours Tina was emailing us incredible properties that met every single item on our list. I couldn't wait to get inside these houses and picture myself living within each one.
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Our New Home!
Tina took us to see a few houses, and Dave and I chose a place very quickly. We just knew--when we set foot in the house for the first time, I slipped my shoes off out of habit. Even though the place was empty and slathered in rather unflattering paint, It felt like home. Tina was constantly making sure we were certain and understood how the process would proceed in each step along the way.
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Tina got us to this moment: moving in!
Katrina Herrell

Katrina Herrell

Decades of Local Experience
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