How the Library Helped Me Buy My First House

I found The House by accident.

I have always been curious about houses and how we interact with them. When I saw a handful of houses for sale on Penn Avenue, I wondered how much they cost, and what was inside. But when I got on to check, I got lost in a browsing black hole checking prices for each neighborhood and marveling at the staggering amount of wood paneling that can still be found in Pittsburgh houses.

That’s how I found our house. As soon as I saw it, and the yard that came with it, I said yes (despite the wood paneling in the living room).

You see, I’ve always wanted a space I could lay claim to. When I was a child, I never dreamed about my wedding. I dreamed about the house I would someday decorate with all my Star Wars collectibles and artwork (this involved putting sand down in the basement to make it look like Tattooine).

Normally my husband discourages my house hunting, because we are not exactly wealthy individuals. But when I showed him this house, he said something like, “Wow. We could actually afford that. And it looks nice. And the yard!”

We saw the house. We loved the house. We decided to buy the house. But we didn’t know the first thing about making such a huge investment, except that we needed a real estate agent.

So I did what I always do when I want to learn something. I checked out a stack of books from the Library, some physical, some electronic. These three helped me the most:

The Just Right Home by Marianne Cusato (print and eBook)
justrighthomeThis book taught me so much about how we interact with our most personal spaces, and how houses function within the context of their streets, neighborhoods, and cities. It also addressed the issue of whether to rent or buy by using some sort of math that produced a ratio–the lower the number, the better it is to own your home instead of renting. Pittsburgh was one of the lowest cities listed. Reading this book helped me figure out what I actually needed out of a home, and reconfirmed by good feeling about purchasing The House.

Buying a Home: The Missing Manual by Nancy Conner
missingmanualThe Missing Manual series is similar to the For Dummies and Idiot’s Guide To books. It’s not as chunky as most of those books are, which I appreciated while I was traveling over the winter holidays. It takes you through the entire home buying process, from checking your credit for any surprises to searching for the right home to the mortgage application process to closing. This was a good workhorse book. Nothing fancy, just the information you need to know.

100 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Ask by Ilyce Glink
100questionsThis book also takes you through the entire home buying process, but organizes it as a series of questions. The book’s only major flaw is that it was written before the housing bubble burst, so it’s very optimistic about how much your new home will appreciate in value (though in the author’s defense, she does caution her readers that most homes do not appreciate forty percent in one year). She’s also all about adjustable rate mortgages, which scare the heck out of me. I want to know exactly how much I’m going to be paying every month! But the organization makes it easy to jump around and find answers to specific questions you might have.

I learned a lot about buying a house, but I never did discover how much those houses on Penn Avenue were selling for.



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8 responses to “How the Library Helped Me Buy My First House

  1. You just gave me an idea for a birthday present! I <3 librarians!

  2. You’re spot on about all the wood paneling still left! I’m in the mountains to the East and removed at least a dumpsterful of the stuff. Congragulations on finding a home that fits just right.

  3. Sheila

    From today’s PG – this article say’s our housing market is the most affordable in the US.

    • Thanks for sharing that! All of my out-of-town friends are flabbergasted at how inexpensive our house was for what we got. I’ve told them they should all move out here so they can buy affordable houses!


  4. Kate Grannemann

    I’m curious – what neighborhood is your new house in?

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