Anthony Tucker and Sammy Kallay with their son in kitchen

How We Bought Our First Home (On a Tight Budget)

First-time home-buyer advice: Ask a lot of questions.

Image: HouseLogic

Names: Anthony Tucker, 32, and Sammy Kallay, 31

City: Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas

Year of home purchase: 2018

Sale price: $252,000

Home style: 46-year old ranch

Professions: He’s an IT business consultant; she’s a nurse.

When Anthony Tucker, and his wife, Sammy Kallay, had their first child, they knew it was time to buy their first house. Like so many new parents, they wanted the works for their son, Okiyan — safe neighborhood, good schools, nice yard. But their budget wasn’t limitless, and their knowledge of real estate was zilch.

They weren’t about to buy their first home without advice. So the Dallas-area couple started by finding the resources they needed for a crash course in home buying.

What’s the first thing you did once you decided it was time to be a homeowner?

Anthony: We didn’t know how much we needed to save. We didn’t understand the market. We didn’t understand the [real estate] terms. We needed some guidance. We talked to a friend, and they told us we should call the REALTOR® who had helped them buy their first house.

What did your agent do to help you get on the path?

Anthony: She sent us to a lender who told us how much we needed to save and how much we would need to put down. He ran our credit scores and told me I needed to pay the balance on my Discover card to make my credit rating better. He explained escrow, points, and PMI.

How long did it take you to save enough for a down payment, and how did you do it?

Anthony: Three or four months. We had some money in the bank, but we needed more. It took a couple of months to get enough. We didn’t eat out. We didn’t buy so many things. I got a new job that paid more, so that helped.

OK, the money’s in the bank. You’re ready to shop. What was that like?

Anthony: I told [our agent] our budget and the neighborhoods we wanted to be in. She got us into a search that sent us notifications every time there was a house that had what we wanted. She would go with us to see the house and point out things to look for.

She would tell us if we needed contractors to check out plumbing or electrical things, and she had a network of contractors who could come to the house. That paid off when we were making the final decision.

How so?

Anthony: The house we ended up buying, [the sellers] had made an extension that made a problem with the foundation. We paid a structural engineer to look at it first, before we made an offer. He said in the long run, we might need to put up a supporting wall. What that did was give us leverage to come back to the seller and ask, “Can you lower the price?”

Did they lower the price?

Anthony: Yes. The price was $267,000. We negotiated with them. We paid $252,000. It was a worthy reduction because, according to the engineer, it will only cost us $3,000 to build that foundation wall.

How many houses did you look at before buying?

Sammy: Three. We bought the third house we looked at.

Good grief! That’s lightning fast. How long did you look?

Sammy: One weekend.

A weekend? Wow. Was it stressful to buy in a super-fast market like Dallas?

Sammy: I know! I was expecting it to be really stressful. But it went really great. [Our agent] sent us houses that fit what we wanted, so we didn’t look at houses that were not what we were looking for.

Anthony: We wanted to put in a bid on another house, but because there were so many bids on that house, we thought it better not to. We only made an offer on the one where we had a reason to ask for a lower price.

How did you know that third house was The One?

Sammy: As soon as I saw the picture, I said, “Oooh, this is a really nice house.” As soon as we came in and saw it, that was it. We knew that was the house. It would work with a family. It had a really nice flow.

What’s your favorite thing about your house?

Sammy: For me, it’s about my son. It’s open and has enough space for him to crawl around. I can see him wherever he is.

Anthony: It’s secure. I like being able to drive into the garage and close the door and go straight into the house. I like the fence around the yard. It’s a safe place for our son.

What’s your advice for first-time home buyers?

Anthony: Find a good agent. [Ours] was critical. Don’t be shy about asking questions.

Sammy: If you don’t know anything about the home-buying process, you need somebody who knows what they’re doing. [Our agent] made the process really, really easy. I don’t think we would have been able to do it ourselves.

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