Advice for First-Time Home Buyers

Hello everyone!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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…
  4. 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…
  5. 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.
  6. 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…
  7. 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.

img_0328Searching 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,



Happy 2017!

Hello everyone!

Clearly, I was not that great at posting on the blog in 2016.  I hope to be better in 2017!  In the mean time, let me update you all on what the Dunkins have been up to this past year!

To say that 2016 has been a whirlwind seems quite the understatement.  From riots in the streets to the Cubs winning the World Series and Pokémon Go to the US Election, our society has had its ups and downs.  Much like the world around us, life has taken John Brian and I on quite the roller coaster this year.  All through our ups and downs, however, we have seen one common theme this year: the unconditional love and provision of our heavenly Father.

img_0024We have been so thankful to have been able to take many adventures during our first full year of marriage.  In February, we travelled with John Brian’s family to Colorado for their annual ski trip.  You see, John Brian has been skiing his entire life.  Unfortunately, this may be a hobby that was just not designed for me.  Let’s just say that even with private lessons from a master ski instructor, sliding on snow at any speed past that of a narcoleptic snail is just not going to happen with me.  I think I’ll stick with shopping 🙂 img_0328

On February 29th of this year, we closed on our first home together.  We weren’t decisively looking to move, but the perfect house at the perfect price landed itself in our lap during the hottest housing market DFW has ever seen.  Our home was a huge gift and blessing from God this year and we look forward to growing into it for many years to come!

img_1940Let’s fast forward to summer.   We had a great time spending Fourth of July weekend with close friends in the hill country south of Austin.  Then, perhaps the best trip we took this year, was the surprise trip John Brian planned for us for our first anniversary.  We headed down to the Big Easy!  In New Orleans, we stayed at a cute boutique hotel in the French Quarter, rode the street car (NOT trolley, as we learned), took many tours around the city,and, of course, ate beignets at Cafe du Monde!  We also took a trip down to the Garden District where my dad lived over forty years ago and took pictures in front of his old img_1793house.  It was definitely a highlight of the year to learn the culture of a new city together and walk some of the steps my dad did when he was my age.

It may seem like 2016 was a sweet and easy road for us, but God had other plans at the end of September.  On our way into church one Sunday, John Brian collapsed and an AED had to be used to revive him.  Not knowing what exactly happened, we spent the next week in the hospital waiting on the solution to a relatively unknown problem.  It was perhaps one of the scariest seasons in our lives thus far, and a tough time in our marriage so early on.  There were some extreme lows during the time, but the everlasting love and peace of God that passes all understanding was more present than I’ve ever experienced.  Faithfully, God gave us the perfect doctors, surgeons, and prayer warriors to intervene in this situation.  John Brian had a risky surgical procedure done in which God continued to demonstrate His incredible power.  Everything about this situation, from where he was and who was around to help when he collapsed to the surgery and recovery, had God’s hand involved.  I am still in awe just thinking about the incredible, amazing way that God showed Himself, His care, provision and love throughout the entire ordeal.  We praise Him so much for all He has done. img_2774

Of course, we don’t let a little heart trouble keep us from being busy!  Almost immediately coming out of the hospital, we volunteered with the Texas State Fair Parade, John Brian was in a friend’s wedding, and at the end of October, we took a trip  with friends to see friends in Boston!  This was another city neither of us had ever been to before, and it was a great experience.  We went to Salem, Massachusetts, the day before Halloween, walked the Freedom Trail, and of course ate way too much lobster!  (But is there such a thing…really?)

November, unfortunately, brought one more hardship on our family.  My youngest brother, Mickey, who suffered from cerebral palsy, passed away at the age of fourteen.  While this has obviously been hard on our family, I am so thankful that he is no longer physically suffering in this world and that he is dancing and singing with Jesus in heaven!

Now that the new year is upon us, we’ve been able to reflect on how God has been there with us every step of the way during 2016.  We could not be more thankful for His many blessings and His provision.  We are also extremely grateful for so many of our friends and family who have lived life with us this year.  Thank you for laughing and crying with us.  Thank you for praying with and for us.  We are reminded every day what a strong support system we have, and thank God every day for each of you.  We love you and pray that God blesses and provides for each of you the way He has for us this past year.

Here’s to 2017!