I called the real estate agent that our the finance lady had suggested. I was still waffling a bit about going with him or sticking with the seller's agent, but after talking to him, he reaffirmed what I already knew (from my limited real estate dealings). Going through him won't affect the final purchase price of the house and as he put it, he'll be looking out for my interests whereas the seller's agent is most concerned with the seller's interests. I mean, I know that stuff is fairly obvious to most folks who've done this before, but I had never really appreciated how fundamentally scary/nerve-racking it is to seriously consider buying an actual house. It's a bit of a relief having someone who is going to help me with things and it's helpful that he knows the person who I'll be going to for the financing. There's probably 1,001 details left to deal with, but it's a first serious step.
It's funny, the restoration doesn't scare me at all, but thinking about actually having to do the financing and then signing on for a 30 year commitment is almost terrifying. Well ok, maybe not terrifying, but it's still a very weird and unusual feeling. Once I settled on the agent though, he set up a viewing of the house for tomorrow at 3pm. I'm going to take along my folks since they'll probably be helping me out on some level. I've worked out how I can pay a decent bit for the mortgage, but ultimately I probably need their 40+ years of ridiculously good credit, references, and assets in order to pull this off. I just don't pull down enough $$$ on paper to justify a purchase like this, but with their help, I can probably work it out (fingers crossed though).
One odd thing that I've noticed is that most people I've talked to about the house seem to think that the exterior looks really run down and bad. I look at it and think "It needs some point, a bit of work on the back and possibly redoing the balconies and porches... no problem." Apparently the interior is comparable to the exterior but some of the seller's agents have said that it's a "shell" and that it really needs a lot of work. However it isn't trashed. It's been very well boarded up for 5 years and apparently stuff like the floors, walls etc... are actually in good shape (so there's a good chance that there aren't any water leaks yet and that the roof is still functional... big plus). From the various things that I've heard, I'm guessing that the interior is aesthetically and functionally ok, but that the systems (electric, HVAC, plumbing) are shot or non existent (I'm 90% certain there is no A/C in the building and if that's the case then the heating is probably radiator based). If this is the case, then I would really really like this place. Putting all new mechanical systems in would be a chore, but not horribly difficult since I can definitely do the plumbing myself and the HVAC isn't too horribly difficult if you know what you want/need. The electricity might be a bit of a chore, but on the other hand, if I have to put in electricity, then I can also put it in exactly how I want it and that might be worth the hassle of doing it (i.e. setup my high draw areas for computers, etc...).
So - yeah... I'm very excited about this. I'll probably take the digital camera along so that I can take pics and if I get some good ones, I'll put them up. Bleh. Now just to wait 24 hours until I can get my first really good look at this place...