Saturday, November 12, 2005


Welcome to my new blog. I aim to use this blog to set out my experiences of relocating from England to the USA. I'll express the joys and the frustrations and hopefully it will help others who are mad enough to take the same leap. I've been here, in the US now for nearly two months. Although I love it here, very little has been easy. To start us off, here's my "Buying our house" story.

The StreetWe came over in July for a week to check the place out. While here, we looked at houses. I'd been in touch with a realtor and a mortgage agent from the UK and we met up to discuss mortgages. We explained that we had just had an offer on our house in the UK and that we should be able to put down about 15% deposit on a US house. We also made clear that if the sale did not complete before the closing date for the house in the US, we would need a 100% mortgage. If this was not possible, we decided that we would be better renting for a year or so before trying to buy a house in the US.

Lauren on the deckingThe realtor and mortgage agent said that this was bound to be OK as long as we have a good credit rating. One international credit check later we were set to go. Or so we thought....

This was the first time that the dreaded SSN reared it's head. SSN stands for Social Security Number. Without it the entire US would cease to function. We were told that the actual mortgage application could not be completed without an SSN, so all the paperwork was completed except the SSN. The rule is that one can apply for an SSN 10 days after entering the country. One can be given the number about 2-3 days thereafter and the SSN card follows in the post. After that, it would take about 2 weeks to process the mortgage application -- plenty of time before the closing date.

The back gardenTherefore, we could not move straight into the house, so decided to stay a month in an extended stay hotel. We got the SSN and were ready to go. As we hadn't yet completed on our house in the UK, we switched to a 100% mortgage. The underwriters turned down the mortgage, so we offered a 5% downpayment and moved into the house, renting it from the owners. The 95% mortgage was also turned down. Not only that, but we were told that even if our house sale in the UK had gone through and we could put down 15%, that would not be enough. We needed a minimum of 20%.

Emily on the deckingThis is when the system of earning commission kicked in and showed its full force. With the imminent falling through of the house purchase, the realtor and mortgage agent stepped up their skills to a whole new level. The realtor sweet-talked the sellers and the mortgage agent sent the mortgage application back to the underwriters and asked them to look at it again. After much persuasion, they eventually granted the 95% mortgage and, with much relief and champagne, we recently closed. I think the realtor and mortgage agent really felt that they'd earned that commission.

I think that the moral of this story is:

  • rent first, don't bother trying to buy unless you have enough savings for a downpayment of at least 20% and about $7K or so for closing costs.
  • don't expect anything to be easy.
  • don't give up.
Our House


Viola said...

I'm beginning to think that we were very lucky to get a mortgage. I've heard much worse stories than ours.

I spoke to a Canadian family who had to put down 30% before they could get a mortgage. An Australian had lived in the US for 6 years, then moved to the UK for 3 years, then moved back to the US. After another 4 years in the US, they decided to buy a house. It still took them almost a year to get a mortgage.

There are also lots more problem stories on the "Brits in America Journal".

Lauren said...

Hey Mum

Great pictures, I like your blog.
I think you made this website
in a really great way. You are really cool at websites. I love
this website.

your 8 year old dauter. [lauren.]