“Secrets” to Buying a House Without Getting Hosed

Vox presents six secrets to getting a house without getting hosed. It’s an interesting read, but I’m not sure if their tips are actually secrets or even whether I agree with all of them, so YMMV. For instance:

Choose your realtor carefully. … When evaluating real estate agents, it’s important to keep in mind that their incentives aren’t aligned with your own priorities as the buyer. You want the best home at the lowest price — and you may be willing to wait quite a while for the right deal to come along. In contrast, agents make more money when they can close deals as quickly as possible — and they make more money when their clients spend more.

Yeah! Which is a good argument for not using a realtor. Partly because I’m historically anti-broker, we didn’t employ one when we were house-hunting; I had Excel and an obsessive nature and I put both to good use. Honestly though I’m not sure what a broker could have added to the experience? Doing the work myself wasn’t that onerous and saved us a good chunk of cash. We didn’t do a mortgage broker, either, or any other middleman. More relevant to our peace of mind was having a smart, kick-ass real estate attorney. Ours once answered the door in a robe and slippers, but underneath that terrycloth she was a shark. Hers was the only expertise we paid for, and it was well worth it.

I think the best advice in that Vox article is to buy less house than you can afford. It’s tempting to get pre-approved for the biggest loan you can and, once you see that amazing condo / horse farm / converted 1830s mill, go a litttttle over-budget because what’s the harm? But in a couple of years, you and your partner might both decide to DWYL, at least part-time. You might get laid off, or get sick, or develop an itch to learn Spanish in Ecuador. Having low monthly mortgage payments will allow you so much more flexibility and room for experimentation in your lives. The pleasure that room will give you will be more lasting than the rec room with a wet bar in the basement.

Hottest Corporate Celebrity Couples: Family Dollar Tree & Truzilla

Dollar Tree is buying Family Dollar even though Family Dollar is totally the better name. Two of the nation’s leading super-budget chains can, by their powers combined, do more to take on Wal-Mart.

The deal will give Dollar Tree more than 13,000 stores across the United States and Canada, vaulting the company ahead of Dollar General to become North America’s biggest discount retailer, with more than $18 billion in annual sales. …

Dollar Tree sells a mix of consumables in suburban stores across most U.S. states, as well as discretionary items such as gifts, party goods and greeting cards. Everything has a price tag of $1 or less. Most Family Dollar stores are in low-income neighborhoods. Its presence is biggest in Texas and the eastern United States, where it mainly sells lower-margin food and household products. “This acquisition will extend our reach to lower-income customers,” Dollar Tree Chief Executive Bob Sasser said. 

The markets are happy. Wal-Mart shrugs. Dollar General declines to comment. I wax nostalgic: my first date involved a dollar store and a pink bubble necklace that I kept on my bedroom dresser for years.

Related: Brokelyn’s Dos and Don’ts of 99-cent Stores. Yes to cheap0 pregnancy tests; no to toothpaste. And definitely yes to frugal gift basket ideas!

+ Zillow is buying Trulia. Gasp. What does this mean for our real estate porn habit? 

An Elegy for the “Non-Creepy” Realtor, aka Maggie Estep

Lately I’ve been hearing about writers in my Gen X demographic taking jobs in real estate — one of the more flexible, potentially decently paying occupations that, say, a middle-aged writer can qualify for with relatively little prior training. First it was the former bureau chief of an NPR affiliate station. Next, a colleague from a magazine I once worked at.