No other profession go through something as crazy as the so called MATCH that doctors go through to find their first jobs right out of medical school.
MATCH: a process that consists of numerous speed dating sessions between the job applicants (4th year medical students) and prospective employers (teaching hospitals) which culminates into both sides (employer and employee candidates) ranking each other on their respective lists of favorites to least favorites. Then the MATCH is made by a computer algorithm based on the rank lists submitted by prospective employers and employees.
In other words, not one single medical student know 100% where they will be PRIOR to MATCH DAY, when the results are released to applicants and residency programs, which usually happens late March.
So how does one plan his/her life when they find out LATE march where they are heading and get settled and ready for working 80+hrs starting July 1st?! That’s 3 months time where lots need to happen, finishing medical school, graduation, moving, completing training/health clearance/paper work/residency orientation.
How especially if one has a family, a partner, and children who need schooling and housing requirements are a tad more complex than a single student who can pack up all belongings in a car and drive across the country to the new job/new beginning?
For me personally, I started looking for a house before I even applied to residency programs in August (beginning of 4th year of medical school), nearly 6 months prior to MATCH day. Housing and cost of living was one of my criteria in deciding whether I’d apply to a residency program at all. I believe that learning is 90% what you put in, very little to do with the prestige or funding of an institution. So I didn’t apply to Johns Hopkins or Harvard. I applied to programs with solid education, with university level research, level 1 trauma centers and are leaders in their regions so that interesting medical cases will be funneling into the program where I train. So from the get-go, I did not waste time on programs where I can’t afford to support my family on a resident’s income.
Fortunately, I also had a very competitive application, with high boards score, top of my class ranking, and extensive publication, research, leadership, and volunteering. I received so many interview invitations that I had to cancel some of them. Everywhere I interviewed, I genuinely liked. At the end of 4 months of arduous journey throughout the US crashing on people’s sofas and eating airport meals, I came home and ranked the programs… With 99.99% certainty, I knew I would match into my TOP 3 choices.
So as soon as I decided who’s my top 3 in late January, I started watching the housing markets in all 3 cities simultaneously.
Came MATCH Day, I found out THE CITY where I would spend the next 6 years of my life.
I called up a realtor, hopped in a rental car with my kid and my dad and drove to my future home town. In one day, my realtor showed me 25 houses in my price range and desired parts of the town 🙂 I didn’t make an offer.
I came home, continued to watch the housing market and ready to pounce. Early Saturday morning, I saw a house (of fantastic value in a neighborhood I could not possibly afford otherwise) came on market and immediately called my realtor. He went and saw the house for me, we chatted on the phone, and made an offer (remotely, I had not seen this house in person but fully trusted my realtor.) The house was of such great value that it received 2 other offers within 12 hours of its debut “for sale” on the company’s website (so not even available on Zillow or Trulia yet as these 2 sites lag 2-3 days behind real estate company’s offering on their website.) My realtor guided and helped me won the bidding war and our offer was accepted early April.
Then, my partner, my daughter, and I went to see the house in person for the first time during inspection. Came home and continued to work with doctor’s mortgage under-writing, appraisal etc. We got the key to our first home Mid May.
Packed up the whole house on Mid June in a super-sized Penske and moved into our first home in a brand new town.
I could not have dreamed of a better home than what we managed given our circumstances (only income source was my to be intern income of ~50k annually.) Our home is the cheapest in the neighborhood, with “step-out-the-front-door” access to beautiful, nearly pristine nature, surrounded by various amenities (for our rich neighbors), amazing public schools (best in the city), and 15-20 minute scenic drive to my work at the hospital.
I think all in all,
timing and preparation is key to our dream come true 🙂
Here are my steps to getting settled into an IDEAL housing situation before starting residency,
- 4th year August: keep housing/ cost of living in mind while applying to residency programs (if you care to be able to increase your net worth during residency or afford some things for your family without building up more debt). take a look at zillow/trulia and see what kind of housing you can afford where.
- October-January: further zoom in to places you really want to live, don’t waste interview time and $ speed dating programs in cities where you don’t want to live
- Late January: As you finalize your RANK list, start following housing markets of your top 3 programs/cities. You can even contact a few realtors proactively, letting them know that you aim to purchase soon after MATCH Day. *I was forth-coming with the UNCERTAINTY of where exactly I would end up but explained to them that the chances were really high that I would head over to one of the 3 cities I ranked my top 3.
- Late January, good time to get your pre-qualification letter ready to go with your offer. Contact a mortgage officer and get all your ducks in a row... submit all the paper work he requests so that he can give you a letter (stating how much mortgage you qualify for) to go with your offer.
- MATCH Day! time to get serious. Call a realtor, make a trip, and see houses.
- Once you see your dream home in your price range, make an offer. Once your offer is accepted, just follow the guidance of your realtor and mortgage officer to get the deal closed and get your keys!
- Do you own a home?
- When did you purchase your home? as a premed, or med student, or resident, or attending?
- What lessons did you learn from your home-buying experience?