The Home Buying Journey
Shannon Dwyer, a business development manager for Consumers Credit Union, talks about the trials and tribulations of the home buying journey in a tight housing market. From getting the pre-approval to finding the right home in Grand Rapids, Mich., Shannon’s story will give you the help and hope you need to find the home of your dreams! Money, I’m Home!
00:06 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money I’m home. Welcome in everyone, we’re talking finance to fitness with Consumers Credit Union, and I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. And we are recording today from the Chamber of Commerce in our beautiful city, downtown Grand Rapids. Joining us today, downtown Grand Rapids is Shannon Dwyer, she’s our Business Development Manager here at Consumers. But today she’s wearing a little bit of a different hat for our Money I’m Home podcast, and it’s that of homeowner. Welcome.
00:33 Shannon Dwyer: Well, thank you, Lynne. I’m excited to join this morning. And yes, I’m on my home journey, and finally planning to close next week so I’m super excited.
00:43 LJJ: Okay, so by the time this airs, you will have closed. We’re going to say that straight out.
00:48 SD: Yes, yes.
00:49 LJJ: But I want to ask you a question, it is a very tight home market.
00:53 SD: It is.
00:54 LJJ: Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you’re moving, why you’re moving, what’s going on in your life, if you don’t mind getting a little bit personal.
01:02 SD: Not at all, yeah. So originally, I came to Kalamazoo because I went to Western Michigan, so go Broncos! And really started my career right out of college at Consumers Credit Union. So, I actually started in our Member Service Center, and then transitioned into the Business Services Department, as we’re headquartered in Kalamazoo, spent my… Well, about seven years in Kalamazoo and then just last year, my husband actually got a job in Grand Rapids at Service Express, so he’s in IT sales, and absolutely loves it. We were looking at different places halfway between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, and I was just like, “You know what, I think Grand Rapids is meant to be our home. I think we need to make our way there.” And so, with Consumers Credit Union having such an amazing presence here, I talked it over with my boss, Gary Ferguson, VP of Business Services, and he was extremely open to it, which I am very gracious about. And that began the home journey a couple months ago, actually.
02:10 LJJ: You know what is cool about this story, Shannon, is it’s truly a testament of looking at what the future holds, dreaming about it, and making it happen. We’re going to talk a little bit today about that journey that you’re on with owning a home. So, tell us, when you decided Grand Rapids, what goes through your head as far as where you currently are, your situation; what steps did you take to get to where you are now?
02:41 SD: Career-wise, Kalamazoo has been an amazing market, we are headquartered there, so it was a great place to start. Grand Rapids is a huge market, great for business, so I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to grow in my career. But then as far as getting to Grand Rapids and exploring the different areas, there are just so many pockets of Grand Rapids that are wonderful, so kind of figuring out where exactly would make sense for us to live, was a bit of a process.
03:09 LJJ: What was the first thing you did? Did you hire a realtor or did you instead look on your own?
03:14 SD: We did, yep. So, one of our really close friends is a realtor, and she covers both Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. So, got in touch with her, and she… We knew quite a bit about Grand Rapids, just we have friends here, so they gave us some insight, but then our realtor did as well, guided us on the different areas. We were looking closer to downtown at first, but realized we’re at a point where we want a little bit more…
03:43 LJJ: Space?
03:44 SD: Space.
03:44 LJJ: Maybe a yard.
03:46 SD: Yes, a yard. We have a dog, so a yard is important. [chuckle] Which then we started exploring Grandville, and Northeast Grand Rapids, Walker. So, we were a little bit all over the place, and then realized our favorite area was really Northeast.
04:05 LJJ: And that was a feeling you had, right? After you… So, really anyone who’s in that home journey, whatever city they’re looking at, it’s a little bit of knowledge and a lot of heart.
04:18 SD: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And we liked, in the area that we are… Found our home in, there’s a lot of trails up there, it’s a good school district, thinking of the future. And so, we just fell in love with it, and actually, this is our second home that we finally signed a purchase agreement on in that area, so…
04:39 LJJ: Okay, so that sounds bumpy, right?
04:42 SD: Mm-hmm, yes.
04:42 LJJ: There is a very hot housing market right now.
04:46 SD: Oh, yeah.
04:46 LJJ: So really, you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m in the driver’s seat.”
04:49 SD: Oh yeah, at first.
04:50 LJJ: But what happens along the way?
04:52 SD: So yeah, this market is so hot right now. There would be homes that would come on the market, and pretty much within two days, you had to have your bids in. So, a lot of it would be, “By Wednesday night at 12:00 PM, bids need to be in,” when it came on the market on Sunday or Monday. So, we’re just like, “Wow, you have no time to waste.” If you like it from the pictures, you need to be there that day or the next day.
05:14 LJJ: How about a pre-approval, how important is that?
05:17 SD: Oh, I think if you don’t have a pre-approval, I think you might as well just not even shop yet. You really have to have that to include in your offer letter. And our real estate agent was amazing at guiding us based on what area we were looking at, “I think you need to come in a little bit higher, I think this one you can come in right at asking price.” So, I think if we didn’t have our realtor, we would have been a little bit lost in the mix.
05:43 LJJ: And how important is that… When we talk about pre-approval, someone will say, “Well, I don’t even know where to go to get that.” How important is that partnership between what Consumers has, which is experienced mortgage loan officers and the realtor to guide you?
06:00 SD: Yeah, and I would say that process was seamless because I’m working with a loan officer here at Consumers, and he had worked with my realtor previously, so they…
06:08 LJJ: Oh, so they knew each other?
06:09 SD: They knew each other, and the pre-approval process was a lot faster than I thought. So, our mortgage loan officer was able to issue that pre-approval on his own, which felt like he didn’t really have to go through any steps. He gathered some initial information, documentation. Next thing you know, we had a pre-approved letter and we were good to go, on our way into the Grand Rapids market.
06:32 LJJ: Doesn’t it just make you feel like an adult? [chuckle]
06:34 SD: It does, yes. Very much adult-ing.
06:38 LJJ: Okay, so you’re shopping the market, you know the area, you’ve got your pre-approval letter and then you’re… What? You’re starting to bid on houses? Because it sounds like it was that fast.
06:49 SD: It was, yes. Yeah, and actually… Well, first, we bid on one in Grand Rapid… I mean, I’m sorry, in Grandville. And we lost that offer to a cash buyer, which…
07:00 LJJ: Yep, there you go.
07:02 SD: Yeah, that happened. And then as we were exploring Northeast Grand Rapids…
07:05 LJJ: How are your emotions at that point?
07:08 SD: It’s tough because you get so attached. You start envisioning yourself in that home and it’s like, “Oh, we’ll put this there, you can have coffee on the patio.” And you start picturing yourself in that house and then like that, it’s gone. So… [laughter] On to the next one, yes.
07:23 SD: Yep, yep. But then we started exploring the other areas and that’s where we ended up more Northeastern Rapids near, what I’ve been told is now Knapps Corner area up there. And so, found a different home that we loved, actually placed an offer. We won the bid, so we were on our way.
07:45 LJJ: This is it.
07:46 SD: Yeah, we’re like, “This is it. This is great.” Actually, in that one, my husband was out of town so he didn’t even see it in person, I had to Skype him [chuckle] to give him a tour.
07:54 LJJ: It’s crazy.
07:55 SD: Yes, yes.
07:56 LJJ: The home that we’re in right now, we actually said yes with a video chat.
08:00 SD: Really?
08:00 LJJ: Same thing. Yeah.
08:01 SD: Yeah. Yeah.
08:02 LJJ: “Yup. Oh, yup, yup.” Be like…
08:03 SD: “That’s perfect.” [laughter] Yes.
08:05 LJJ: We were out of town.
08:06 SD: That’s amazing, yeah. So, John was like, “Alright, I trust you.” But with that, you can choose to get inspections, which I would advise you should always do inspections because luckily in this case, it uncovered some issues with the home that we just… You know, it’s built into a hill. It’s kind of a long story, [it needed a] retaining wall. But it would’ve been very expensive, and our realtor helped us try to negotiate with the seller and just didn’t come to a mutual agreement that made sense so we had to terminate that purchase.
08:39 LJJ: So, the second patio with coffee is gone?
08:42 SD: Yes, and this one was a giant patio.
08:45 LJJ: [laughter] I know.
08:47 SD: So, moving on to the next one. Yes.
08:48 LJJ: Alright. Can I say with confidence, third time’s a charm?
08:52 SD: Third time is a charm. Yes, yes. And so, this one, it’s funny, it was right on the other side of the belt line. So same area that we love, and this one, it couldn’t have gone smoother. It was on the market for a few days, we went and saw it, made an offer, got it right away. Inspections went wonderfully, [chuckle] unlike the… So yeah, so it was kind of night and day with the inspections.
09:18 LJJ: You know, what is interesting about what you’re talking about though, and especially in a tight, tight, tight market, like West Michigan is right now…
09:26 SD: Oh, yeah.
09:27 LJJ: Is how hard it is not to let your heart run the decision and how important to trust those experts.
09:37 SD: Exactly, exactly. Because it’s hard not to get attached and you don’t want to make too much of an emotional decision because I’ve heard of buyers, it is the kind of market where you pretty much have to go for asking price, maybe even a little above, but I’ve heard some people going very high. And I just… We weren’t… We really had to think that through and make common sense approach decisions to this and not let your emotions get too tied into it.
10:02 LJJ: It makes me just shake my head. I remember stories of California, and they’re still happening, where it’s not only, “Will you make an offer on the house?” But, “Hey, I’m going to throw in this boat [chuckle] because I want to win the bid,” and that really is how tight it is. And at some point, you’ve got to go, “Wait a minute.”
10:22 SD: Right.
10:23 LJJ: The market will change.
10:25 SD: It will. Exactly, exactly. And so, I know people… Some appraisals aren’t coming in high enough depending on what you’re offering. So yeah, it was tough. I was warned that it was going to be and then once I was in it with John, my husband, it was… Yeah, it was pretty tough. But now, we’re on a good path and very excited.
10:49 LJJ: So, you’re going to be closing and moving?
10:53 SD: Yep.
10:54 LJJ: What’s the stress level when you’re working? You’re a full-time, very high-level position, meeting with people on a day-to-day basis and now all of a sudden, you really… It’s a drastic change.
11:06 SD: It is, yeah. No, it really is. And I… With my role, one of the nice things is that I will be maintaining my Kalamazoo portfolio. So, I’ll still be doing some traveling back and forth, which is better than my husband traveling every single day. [chuckle] So going into that, it is a little stressful in transitioning markets. I mean, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo have their similarities but they’re very different. So, tackling Grand Rapids will be a challenge that I’m looking forward to.
11:35 LJJ: But you are wide-open for business, right?
11:38 SD: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that plug. [laughter] But no, we’re so excited and I do feel like Grand Rapids is where we were meant to be. My family lives up North so I’m a little bit closer now. [laughter]
11:50 LJJ: That sounds just great.
11:53 SD: Yes.
11:53 LJJ: Well, congratulations.
11:54 SD: Thank you.
11:55 LJJ: And thank you for telling us your journey. I think everyone’s is different, but I think the commonsense component of what you talked about seems to be the most important.
12:04 SD: Yup, yup. And connect with experts in the fields. Like I said, our mortgage loan officer and realtor, we wouldn’t have been able to do it without their expertise. So, I think if you pair yourself up with the right people, you will get a home. There’s going to be some bumps along the way, but you’ll find the right one. And my realtor told me when we lost like the first two, she’s like, “You know what? Every client that I have, they get so set on that home. And then the one that they end up in, you look back, you’re like, ‘Oh, why did we ever want that one?’ It’s the one you end up with is the one you’re supposed to have.”
12:38 LJJ: I think our daughter made… This was two years ago, and made I think five different offers before she landed in the home that they love and adore, and same thing. So, the thought process is, you will find it.
12:51 SD: Yup, yup. It’s not impossible, it just has its challenges.
12:55 LJJ: But get those experts.
12:57 SD: Yes.
12:57 LJJ: Yes. Thank you so much and welcome to Grand Rapids.
13:00 SD: Thank you so much, Lynne. I’m so looking forward to it.
13:03 LJJ: We have learned so much today on home buying. It’s Finance to Fitness, Money I’m home. Aaron, thank you so much for your production skills. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union.