We will be closing on our first home in the next week or so…
1) Realize that home buying will bring out the opinions in everyone! When you start to make public knowledge that you’re shopping or have made an offer… suddenly your neighbor has an opinion on kitchen islands and your mom cares about crown molding and yada yada. Just be prepared mentally for the onslaught of opinions because most people have a been there/done that “storytime” ( much like weddings), and it can be frustrating.
2) Make the “Must Haves” list. You and your SO sit down to compile a list of what you both want and what you’re willing to compromise on. I found that our lists changed a lot during the process, because as we started looking we would add or subtract things. That’s OK—just make sure you keep the lines of communication open and if you don’t like something SPEAK UP. It is a very emotional experience and it is hard to explain, but when that much money and commitment is on the line, you start to freak out about unusual things. Don’t be alarmed if you wake up in a cold sweat over the linoleum floors or floral wallpaper in a house you like.
3) Find a realtor you like, and realize that in the real estate/banking world you’ll need to ask a lot of questions. This is where we messed up, our lender went through things very quickly. Thankfully, we have an awesome realtor who answered some questions that were not explained to us upfront. In hindsight, I might’ve gone with a different lender, but since we are almost done I didn’t want to bring it up. Make sure you’re comfortable because you’ll be in near constant contact with these people for weeks/months.
4) A lot of people will tell you to buy more than you can afford because you’ll grow into more income the older you become. That MAY be true, but it wasn’t something we were comfortable with. Don’t overextend yourselves financially, but also don’t settle for something you don’t love. It is a hard balance to strike, so set a budget range and stick with it. If yours is 225-240k and your realtor sends you one that is 260 “ with wiggle room”, don’t necessarily bite. It is a lot like trying on wedding dresses in the sense that looking at something you KNOW is over budget will really disappoint.
– In this same vein, work the numbers front and back and side to side before you ever go to the bank to see what you’ll qualify for. They’re in it to make money, and the more money YOU put on the line, the more they’ll receive in interest payments. Figure out how much per month you’re willing to spend on EVERYTHING (including property taxes, insurance and whatever the increase in utilities could potentially be) and start from there. Just the mortgage payment isn’t all that you need to consider.
5) Forget Pinterest. Seriously.
Pinterest can ruin your home shopping experience because you see elaborate kitchens and baths, great yards, refinished floors and updated fixtures and in reality: many of those homes are custom built or extremely expensive. Go into the homes you are viewing with realistic expectations of what you are willing to do to make it yours. If you and your SO aren’t particularly handy… don’t let that intimidate you, but also be realistic. Will you be willing to rip up every fiber of carpet or knock out walls?
HAVE FUN, it seriously can be a blast!