Entering the world of home ownership

In July, my wife and I relocated from the Central New York region to Lincoln, Nebraska, so that she could begin pursuing her Ph.D at UNL. While this move brought many firsts with it, such as moving across the country, one of the most exciting aspects (for me) is that it also brought first time home ownership with it. The housing market in Lincoln at the time was slim, so we purchased a house that was move in ready, but could use some updating. I plan to detail some of the renovations in future posts.

The Supporting Cast

Having completed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University before our move, it was important to us that we purchase a house that we could afford–being house poor did not sound appealing to either one of us. Through Dave’s Endorsed Local Providers program, we decided to use Kraig Spence of Churchill Mortgage as our mortgage broker and Roger Schreiner of Home Real Estate as our real estate agent.

The Hunt

Knowing that we wanted to relocate in July, Liz and I began working with Kraig and Roger in February. After many phone calls, emails, and text messages, the plan we formed was to fly out to Lincoln in April to meet with Roger and look at houses. Liz and I knew that we wanted to identify a house and make an offer that week so that we could avoid making a second costly trip. As April came, we booked our travel and made our way to Lincoln. On Monday morning, we met Roger in person for the first time at his office. As the clock kept ticking as we talked, Liz and I began to wonder if we’d see any houses that day. Finally the talking wrapped up and we ventured out to look at all… 7 houses on the market in our price range (say, $180k – $215k).

The first house we looked at made me think of the townhouse apartment we already lived in and would obviously be leaving, except stretched out to be house sized. Not that we didn’t like the apartment, but yuck. The house didn’t have an awesome price in our opinion and didn’t make us fall in love, either. Onto the next!

The second house we saw was gorgeous, except it was a spec house, representing the house we could buy, that was scheduled to be done sometime in August. How often do construction projects finish ahead of schedule? This made us leery of it. Being the bean counter that I am, I also worried about what our ability might be to increase the home’s value over the five years we plan to live in Lincoln (after her Ph.D Liz wants to become a professor). Bring on house #3!

The third house seemed to blend in well to its development, not having a lot of curb appeal but also not having a lot of curb “dis”-appeal, either. The inside was nice, consisting of 3 bedrooms and 2 baths on the main floor, and another bedroom, bath, bonus room, workout room, and family area in the finished basement. The biggest problem with this house was that it was in some nearing desperate need of some updating. It featured aging wall to wall carpet, gross (although extremely popular) golden oak trim, and low end construction grade kitchen cabinetry (also featured in oak–veneer). Liz and I could see the potential in this house if we could make the right deal. Onto the others!

Roger showed us four more houses that day, none of them amazing and in our price range. Liz and I talked that evening and decided that the third house would be our best bet.

The Deal

We called Roger and let him know that we wanted to put in an offer on the third house. He immediately got to work and Liz and I immediately got anxious, trying to keep our minds off of things. It wasn’t long until Roger called us back and informed us that the sellers were expecting to receive another offer, as well. He urged us to make our offer more competitive by adding a multiple escalation clause. We had never heard of one of these, but they basically make your purchase offer work like an eBay auto-bid tool. If another offer comes in that is higher than yours, this clause would automatically increase your offer, up to some limit. It turned out this clause was key to getting our offer accepted! Liz and I spent the remaining days answering questions from the closing team and doing some site seeing around Lincoln and Omaha.

The Hiccup

Eventually the time came to close the deal. We planned to do this remotely from NY. Roger visited the house for us in the week leading up to make sure that it was in acceptable condition. He noticed that a fair number of houses in the neighborhood had signs out for roofing companies–not a good sign. He informed us of the situation and let us know that he had already arranged to have a roofer come out and inspect the roof. Apparently, in Nebraska, unlike NY, hail damage to roofs is a thing. Sure enough, the roofer reported that the roof on the house had been totaled by a severe hail storm. If we had closed on the house in this condition, Liz and I would have had to pay out of pocket to get the roof replaced. Roger’s experience here saved us big time. Instead, since the seller still owned the house, they submitted a claim on their homeowner’s insurance to get it taken care of. Although this caused about two weeks of delay, it saved us over $10k!


One of the things that Liz and I are most thankful for is that we found Roger. We feel that his experience and insight was key to us getting a house that we are enjoying so far and having avoided the added cost and hassle of having to make a second trip to do more house shopping. We also appreciated Roger honoring our parameters for the type of house we were looking for. He did not start the hunt by showing us houses that were $100k over our price range. We are also very thankful for Kraig and his team. Between them and Roger, things moved as smoothly as they could.

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