Today sorta kinda marks the one-year anniversary of John Brian and I buying our first house together (I say sorta kinda because we closed on February 29th…of which there is no such day this year).
In honor of this day, I wanted to share with you all a little bit about our experience and some tips I would suggest for other first-time home buyers. There is definitely not a shortage of online articles from financial institutions and other reputable sources detailing what first-time home buyers need to know and have, so this is in no way a definitive list. I do hope, however, that our experience will shed some light on an exciting, and often stressful, time in life and maybe help someone going through the same process.
Honestly, we kind of fell into our house-buying process on accident. We were living in a great starter home that John Brian already owned as an investment property. The house was perfect for us being newlywed, but we always found ourselves going to open houses in a neighboring town because we loved the area and dreaming about what our perfect home might be like. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a fantastic realtor at one of the open houses that we clicked with immediately. We began discussing with her what we wanted and before we knew it, we were seeing more than open houses. One sunny Saturday afternoon, we found it. Our perfect house. It had just gone on the market that morning and we had to have it!
Alas, we had not been pre-approved for a loan, because up to this point, we were just browsing. John Brian immediately called the lender he had previously worked with to try to get the process started, but unfortunately, the house we fell in love with was put under contract the next day. We didn’t even get the chance to put in an offer. We were bummed. At this point, we already had our credit pulled, so we kept looking.
Many houses later, we finally found it. The perfect house. The only non-perfect quality? The price. It was quite a bit over our budget, but we had hope since it had been on the market for a couple of months. We figured perhaps we could get it for below asking. We made our best offer, and I wrote a beautiful letter describing to the seller how deeply we loved the home. I detailed how I envisioned my future children playing in the playroom under that big window with the great view, and how I looked forward to entertaining my guests in the grand dining room.
Despite my Pulitzer Prize worthy note, we were told that they would not sell for below asking. Again, we were disappointed. Our realtor encouraged us to look at a couple more houses that we hadn’t looked at yet that we originally nixed for various reasons. Out of those homes, we found one that checked off most of what was on our list. There were a couple of qualities that we sacrificed, but the price was great for what we were getting. We made an offer and were accepted!
We now love that home and have made it our own. I’ll definitely have some blog posts coming soon about all of our DIY’s, but let’s jump into what we learned in this process.
- Don’t actively tour homes when you aren’t looking to buy. We weren’t directly opposed to buying at the time, but honestly, we didn’t even know what we could afford or if we could afford a new home at all. We really were blessed in our whole process, but if you aren’t ready to seriously consider buying, don’t get your hopes up by looking.
- Find a realtor that “gets” you. As I said, we weren’t really looking for a realtor when we stumbled upon ours. We were visiting an open house, and we immediately clicked. Our personalities matched well and she really understood what our needs were and what we were looking for. She also understood our life stage and did not encourage us to look under or over our comfort zone. Finding a realtor that has these qualities is so important in your home search.
- Know how much mortgage you can afford per month, and how much money you have for a down payment. If you don’t have one already, make a budget based on your current financial situation. Then, make another one based on your desired new home. Don’t forget to factor in differences in utilities, HOA fees, etc. Know what YOU can afford, not just what the bank thinks you can afford. Which leads to…
- Get pre-approved for a loan. If we had been pre-approved when we found that first home, we may have gotten it. I do believe everything happens for a reason, so I know in my heart that wasn’t the home God had in store for us, but sometimes I still wonder. When you decide you are seriously looking for a home, do your research on lenders and get pre-approved. This will also give you a ballpark of what you can and can’t afford. This will keep you from looking at homes outside of your price range. Which brings me to…
- Don’t look at homes that are outside of your budget. We definitely made this mistake. I fell in love with a home that was way outside of our budget, and looking back, I am so grateful our offer was denied. We would be struggling so much if we had to make the mortgage payment associated with that house. It’s better to not fall in love with a home that is over your budget, because it will cloud your judgement when it comes to finances. Just don’t do it. Along those same lines, don’t get too attached to any house before you close. You’re just setting yourself up for heartbreak.
- Look at homes you don’t even think you would like. The home we ended up buying was one I had looked at many times online. I would go through the pictures and love it, then I would get to the very last picture…the one of the backyard. I hated the yard. It was small and very unappealing. I thought that was a deal breaker for me. We ended up finally going to see the home out of desperation of not finding what we were looking for, and the yard wasn’t as big of a deal as I had originally thought. The rest of the home and the price well overshadowed the small negative that was the backyard. Sometimes you just need to make some compromises, which finally leads to…
- Understand that your perfect dream house most likely does not exist in your price range. If you have an unlimited budget ,this doesn’t apply to you; but if you are like the rest of us lovelies in the middle class, this is something you need to wrap your brain around. We wasted a lot of time in our early searching process looking for our “perfect” home – the home that we loved absolutely everything about. Guess what? That house didn’t exist. At least not anywhere near our price range. Once you come to accept this concept, you can really begin to look for the right home for you at this time in your life and budget.
Searching for your new home can be extremely stressful, but it is also an extremely exciting time in life. Know that not everyone’s situation and experience is the same, and that this is just our experience and my advice from what I learned in the process. I hope this advice can offer a little help to someone in their journey towards their new home, and make the process just a bit less stressful and a lot more fun!
All of these tips primarily pertain to the home search, not the actual home buying experience. That would be its own blog post entirely, which may come in the future. We also learned a lot in the process of selling my husband’s investment home, which is also another blog post on its own. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in those future blog posts. Also, if you’ve gone through this process yourself, what other tips would you have for someone who is searching for their first home?
Thanks for reading everyone! Until next time,