This book came along at an opportune time. I’m getting married in September, and we will be looking to buy a house in the next couple of years. In fact, whenever he saw me reading Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, my fiancé asked me, “So, now you know all about buying a house?” I think it’s reasonable to say that, while I might not know everything there is to buying a house, I’m much more aware of all the procedures and paperwork that go along with making that ultimate of purchases.
Bray, Schroeder, and Stewart start off the book with a chapter titled “What’s So Great About Buying a House?”, which was one of only a few chapters I had issues with. I appreciate that a house is a good investment, and that you’re really paying yourself in equity when you pay off your mortgage. Having just moved into an apartment, it didn’t exactly feel great to have apartments talked about in less-than-glowing terms, either. The ideal thing is to buy a house; that’s why I’m reading the book. I don’t need to be sold on the idea.
Most of the rest of the book is really quite good. The second chapter encourages the potential buyer to think about what they really need and make priorities. It also mentions some more unorthodox forms of houses, such as condominiums, modular and manufactured homes, townhouses, duplexes, and co-ops. New homes are also discussed. To be honest, this chapter was very helpful, since I would never have considered a condo as a house; they always just seem like a rental property in my mind.
I also like the fact the authors encourage the house-hunter to know exactly what his finances are and to do his homework on the housing market in the area. Having your numbers straight has to make it a lot easier when it comes down to looking for a home, but I suspect it’s not something everyone does. It’s good to have the reminder.
The other section of this book that I have some issues with is the part about nontraditional loan sources, such as borrowing from a parent or a friend. I think it’s a horrible idea, even if there are tax breaks for the giver and the receiver. Personal relationships and business agreements rarely end well, and I don’t think it’s a great idea to ask even one’s parents for a loan for a house. If you can’t afford it without the help of family and friends, you need to save up some more money.
The rest of the book goes through the steps one takes before looking for a house, during the house-hunting process, and while drawing up contracts and closing on a house. I thought all this information was very useful. I knew that an inspection is a great idea; I didn’t know that a general inspector can’t tell you about any pest-related problems (and that it might be illegal for him to do so in some states). It also overwhelmed me with its completeness; I’m a little glad that we aren’t in the market quite yet.
Included with the book is a CD-ROM with examples of different forms, which is also helpful. It cut down on the number of forms reproduced in the book itself. In fact, the entire layout of the book is really nice; I didn’t have to cut back and forth between the main text and asides. They are all included in the flow of the book. I love it, since that’s my least-favorite part of books that have small sections that force me to then figure out when I should cut over to read.
Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home is a useful resource for those looking to buy their first home. It made me feel like I’m much more prepared for the process in front of us in a couple of years.