Sunday, June 29, 2008

New House

So the house may not be new, but it will be new to us. After a long, grueling month of wondering where we will live once in Nevada, we finally know. We had to shop online and have family visit the home before we decided to make an offer. When we did, the days just seemed to drag on waiting to hear if it had been accepted. Normally, it is a rather quick process, but we were in the market for a foreclosed home owned by the bank. They are not the quickest people when it comes to making a sale, but if the money tickles their fancy, your chances seem to be better (I can't imagine why).

Rent or Buy

After two weeks of waiting and finally deciding that our offer had been rejected, we started to look at other options including a dreadful return to rental units. Fortunately, before all hope was lost, we heard back from our buying agent that the selling agent was fired. As the French would say, 'tant pis' (too bad), but we were grateful it was that and not that our offer was rejected. Another selling agent stepped in and offers were re-accepted. Our agent helped us choose a strong offer and we submitted a second with toes and fingers crossed this time.

The next day we heard back from our agent with some of the best news we have heard in a while. Our offer was accepted among all that were submitted! We finally made it to the 'first time home buyers club' and haven't looked back since.

Now it is a matter of getting through the hoops of paperwork, escrow, home loan, earnest money, insurance, and whatever else comes with the news. We are extremely excited to be on our way to owning our own turf, carpet, walls, driveway, and stone backyard. Well, the stones in the backyard are not the most exciting part, but we are learning to like whatever comes with the house.

Summer Fun

Our dilemma is in our enthusiasm to leave Utah. Sure our families want us to stay nearby, but we have seen enough and want to establish a home of our own in a place that does not have the letters 'U' and 'T' anywhere in the mailing address.

As a result, we have enjoyed (probably too much) the last months of our stay in Rental Kingdom. Dishes, laundry, groceries, cleaning all go undone while we find more entertaining excuses to keep us occupied. We get around to the mess or task when the cupboards or dresser are empty. The lack of air conditioning doesn't seem to help much as we would rather not move from the whole in the couch more than once because we might drowned in our own sweat.

When we aren't stuck in our sauna of an apartment we like to get out for ice cream, cold drinks or a movie in an air conditioned theater. If we feel a little more daring we go out for walks or find a trail to somewhere fun. It might still be in the heat, but at least we can get some Vitamin D while we are out and about cavorting in the sun.

Move-In

We were hoping to be able to move-in a couple weeks before school started so that we would have some time to get settled in our new environment. It seems that will be delayed a little longer than we would have liked. If all goes well, we can expect to be moving in the first or second week of August. Just a note for the future to plan well in advance so this doesn't happen again. For now we are seeing three walls and a front door made out of storage unit steel. Hopefully it will not last for long so we can be in our new home soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Perfect Computer


This blog post comes to you from the keyboard of my first laptop. It is amazing to think I have made it this far without one. The upgrade from a 4GB desktop to a 250GB laptop is a huge technological advancement I am learning to appreciate very quickly.

Many institutions of higher education are requiring their students to have laptops and medical schools are no exception. Had it not been mandatory, I am certain by the time I graduate, I would have a tree or two sitting in storage from all the paper I would have used.

Choosing a ComputerLike the desktop I used, computer technology becomes obsolete in no time at all. Knowing that medical school is at least four years and another three to four for specialization, I opted to purchase a laptop that would have the latest technology to meet these long-term needs.

With all the features a new computer provides, you can imagine the difficulty in finding 'the perfect computer.' Most schools will provide a list of minimum requirements which the majority of newer models fulfill. After a little searching, I found Best Buy's laptop discovery tool, that helped narrow the options easily (Under the 'compare laptops' tab).

Although the models offered did not include everything available on the market, it was an useful way to see a variety of brands and features in one place. It led me to the HP Pavilion series. After a little in-store shopping, I found the dv6838nr model seen above.

Computer Deals

It will not take long for you to find that computers come at a hefty price. Obviously, some are more affordable than others, at the cost of less technology. Below are some suggestions for getting more bang for your buck:

  • School discount programs - Many schools offer discounts to their students when they purchase computers from them rather than other corporate entities
  • Online discounts - Companies offer significant discounts when items are purchased online because there are less retail expenses involved. Circuit City, CompUSA, Best Buy and Frys are some of the major vendors that have a large selection.
  • Online stores - Some companies solely operate online and can therefore charge less for their products. Consider buy.com, overstock.com and tigerdirect.com
  • Used Computer - Both used and refurbished computers can offer significant savings
  • Listing Services - You can save when you buy from craigslist, ebay, and amazon, but know that the product is not always guaranteed.
  • Free Shipping - Vendors that offer free shipping can help keep money in your pocket.
  • Student Discount - Many companies offer discounts to active students, be sure to ask about available savings.
  • Mega Stores - Sam's Club and Costco offer member savings that are generally lower than competitor prices.
Buying a Computer

Once you have found the right computer, try to find a local store that carries that model or one similar. Actually handling the computer before you purchase it can have a lot of sway in your decision. Some stores offer competitive discounts as well if you find the same computer elsewhere.

Check out some of the discounts on computers and accessories available at Amazon that can be shipped right to you.


Touro University, as well as other medical schools that require notebook or desktop computers, account for this purchase in their first year student expenses. TUNCOM specifically assumes a $2000 allotment will be sufficient for this investment which tends to be more than my total computer expenditure. It is considered a school expense and therefore loan money would be used appropriately in this purchase.

Above all else, know that you and your computer will have to become very good friends during the medical school experience. Take some time prior to the start of school to use some of the programs, find where things are located on your computer, and set up your software before classes start. This will save you the headache of trying to learn it at the same time you are learning course material and improve your classroom efficiency.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Housing

Finding housing can be one of the most exciting and stressful experiences of the pre-matriculated medical student. While obtaining all the necessary documentation, supplies, and loans it is crucial not forget that you have to live somewhere. I was actually surprised to learn that my wife and I could afford more than a one bedroom home from Monopoly.

Studies have shown that individuals who buy a home tend to have more money saved than those who continue to rent. In our case we had to choose between paying $1200 for rent every month or paying a mortgage of $900-1100. Obviously the former choice would be throwing money to the wind whereas the later would ultimately build equity in our name. The decision was not hard to make as you could imagine. With that in mind, this blog will concentrate more on the purchase of a new home rather than renting a unit.

Home Loan
Many of us who are entering medical school have never purchased a home and likely do not have the money to afford paying cash for one. Currently, we are in a 'buyers' market which means it is easier and cheaper for buyers to get a home. Certainly my wife and I would love to have a lavish home with furnishings and the like, but neither of us make the kind of money that would be required for this to happen.

Our first task was to find a mortgage lender, someone who could determine how much home we could afford. Through a careful review of our expenses, debts owed, savings, and salary we could determine a monthly mortgage payment that would not be too expensive for our budget. In our case, I do not plan to work as I will be a student. This means one salary will be figured into the equation, which is usually a safe way to avoid foreclosure.

The goal here was to become pre-qualified and pre-approved. Qualified simply means you are eligible for a loan where approved means you have the loan waiting to be used. Sellers prefer an approved buyer as they will not have problems receiving their money. Thus pre-approved buyers have a greater chance of purchasing the home they want sooner than a buyer that is only pre-qualified.

Now that my wife and I knew how much our monthly payments would be, we also knew the price range in homes that we should be seeking. This significantly reduces the amount of homes in our search and allows for a more focused house hunt.

Location
Knowing where your school is located and the neighborhoods in the area helps greatly when looking for a new home. In my case, I would like to be able to live close enough that I could bike to and from school. Not only to economize with rising gas prices, but for the sake of exercise and proximity. If you are fortunate, Google will have your neighborhood on their street view allowing you to see it online before visiting in person.

Safety, climate, populations and other information may be useful as you look for the perfect place to call home. Consider your city's reported values and how they compare to national averages. After all, a purchase suggests you will be there for an extended period and you want to be certain it is the right place for you.

Realtor
Let's face it, you are strapped for time and orientation is just around the corner. Looking for all the available homes would be impossible without a realtor who's job is to help you find the right place. Our lender helped us find a realtor and we have been running ever since.

Know what your home must have so your realtor can narrow down the listings. We chose to have at least three bedrooms and two baths. The garage was not mandatory, but it would be nice for storage purposes. Having the proper hook-ups for a washer and dryer were the other must as the coin laundry gets really expensive. Other things to consider would be cabinetry, appliances, basement, landscaping, backyard and remodeled features.

Walk Through
Since you will be eating, sleeping and studying in your new home, you had better like it. Take time to actually walk through the home yourself or have someone you know do it in your place. If you are out of town, the realtor could take pictures of the home and email them for your approval.

We drove to Las Vegas and stayed with family over Memorial Day weekend. Our realtor sought out homes to visit and we spent a couple days looking at various locations, properties and options (condominiums and houses). This visit was valuable as we could see the homes and their respective neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the real estate market is moving fast and the homes we tried to obtain were already sold by the end of the weekend. This only emphasizes the need to start early.

Many of the homes on the market today are repossessed by banks as foreclosures. The savings can be extremely valuable. In fact, the only homes that we visited were foreclosed as they were in good condition, newer models, and most importantly in our price range. For example the home we are currently looking to buy has been reduced in price by more than $100,000 in less than three years!

Buying Your New Home
So you have finally found the home you like. Your realtor and lender will do most of the difficult paperwork and organizing your offers to the seller. Once accepted they work out the details necessary to close in a timely manner and you make your move into your new home.

Any day now we will be hearing back from the bank as to whether our offer was accepted. It is stressful not knowing if we need to keep looking for other homes or if we can start planning our move in its entirety. In the meantime, wish us luck and happy hunting!

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