1. Make sure you have at least US$20k in the bank or in valued assets at the beginning of the process (cash, stocks, property) AT THE START OF THE PROCESS. You can’t be completely broke even if your employer is paying your closing costs because the underwriter from the lender checks for these assets at the beginning of the approval process.

2. Make sure you have at least US$20k LEFT in the bank after closing because the underwriter checks at the end of closing as well, just to make sure you have some saved aside for ’emergencies’, like paying your instalments and recycling debts (credit cards) or loans for the next three or so months.

3. Make sure you don’t fall for a low mortgage insurance quote in the Good Faith Estimate given, particularly when you don’t have a two-year credit history. Anything less than $200 for a no-money down and no history is not realistic, as we learnt the hard way. Go for a dual mortgage if you have the option (that does not bear too high an interest rate).

4. Make sure you go for the Homebuyer Education Seminars. They are government-sponsored and are good for some information, although you should know real estate agents pay the Washington Homeownership Center (non profit but not a government body) to use these seminars to get leads as well (although they are not allowed to solicit students). We found our agent this way. We figured since he’s making all these claims, he will hold himself to them. He turned out okay.

5. Make sure you engage YOUR OWN HOME INSPECTOR. Costs around $400 for a good one. Don’t use the one your agent recommends. You MUST inform him that you want to use your own inspector.

6. READ ALL THE TERMS OF YOUR RELOCATION BENEFITS pertaining to the use of agents and brokers. There are some explicit limitations, so you can’t just use whomever you like, particularly if you are looking for a 100% loan.

7. Not all houses, especially condos, qualify for specific loans, such as the FHA loan. Our condo wasn’t on the list. That was the first of our lost list of problems. Finally, it boiled down to the choice between looking for another house or going for the low interest (5.875 vs 6.5 of usual loans, 7-8% for dual mortgages). We decided we would stick with the condo and look for a different lender/program. We’re using Fannie Mae now.

8. When someone tells you that you can refinance a house later, understand this means having to cough up closing/legal costs again when the time comes.

9. TRUST NO ONE except perhaps for friends and family with solid experience in homebuying, who have no fiduciary interest in your purchase. Like you guys :) I love y’all. I know it’s hard not to trust your agent but it’s always good to do research yourself. Lokes and I went through great lengths to make sure we were always in the know, and we still were duped in the end. If our mortgage broker had been honest, and had told us frankly from the beginning that the PMI would not budge because of our circumstances (no credit history, no money down), we would’ve given up the house in Duvall, taken our earnest money back and looked for another home that would’ve qualified for the FHA loan that could’ve ended up saving us a truck load of moolah. To be robbed off this choice, right on the day of signing, was just NOT cool.

10. If you’re a Microsoft relocation, TAKE SHORT RENTAL LEASES when you arrive if you intend to utilise your homebuying relocation benefit, because it has a time limit, so make sure your lease period corresponds with that. We have had to pay a hefty early termination fee to break our 13-month lease.

Lastly, these are just lessons learnt from our recent experience, so please take them at face value. I’m no real estate/mortgage guru. Just one sucker to another!



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