The marketing coordinator at our Brummel Properties office was a first.-time home owner last year. Here’s her account of making the leap into home ownership.
I bought my first house (with my life partner) in May of 2014. This one, in fact.
It was both exhausting and exhilarating.
After renting 4 places in 5 years, I thought, finally, a place where I can settle in and not have to worry about repainting in a year, my rent shooting into the stratosphere, or those ominous crashing noises from upstairs neighbors.
For the average home buyer, it can be overwhelming. While I’m very glad we bought a house, there were a few things I wish I knew when I started. Here’s what I learned along the way.
1. You will look at a lot of houses
This seems like a no-brainer, but house hunting becomes a sort of part-time job. You scour the internet, sort through emails from your broker, drive around neighborhoods looking for “for sale” signs. Often, we loved something and hated something about all of them. Some we knew right away we couldn’t see ourselves living in, others it was a matter of deciding if the pros outweighed the cons.
1 (b). You should have your own broker
Anyone can find a house and call or email the agent who is listing it. Doing this fifty times, with fifty differnt people, though, is exhausting. Hiring a broker means they can do that – and you don’t have to pay them. They split the commission on the property at the time of sale with the listing agent. This is the smartest thing we did – asking someone knowledgeable, capable, friendly, and with lots of experience to facilitate all of the conversations and scheduling. They have the time (it’s their job, whereas I had another job to do 40 hours a week while trying to find a home) and usually already have relationships with lots of brokers.
2. The buying is just the beginning
I have lived in my house for about 18 months. It was not a fixer upper – the sellers had taken great care of it. They even kept a log of every bit of maintenance and repairs that they left with the house (this is both super rare and really awesome). But just because it was in a great shape didn’t mean we didn’t have a lot of work to do; we haven’t stopped doing work, really. The yard is constant upkeep, the garage needed more insulation, the bathroom and basement needed to be repainted, the roof suffered major hail damage right after we moved in. It’s estimated that home owners save $700,000 in their lifetime vs. their renting peers, but you make up for it in non-stop care and upkeep.
This is a fair trade, but it’s worth knowing up front – your relationship with your house, like any good relationship – will require lots of attention. Forever.
3. The paperwork will try to kill you
The amount of things I signed, faxed, emailed, over the six months between starting our home search and our closing date was more than I’ve worked with in my whole life, before or since. Between the mortgage company, two brokers, and a lawyer, there were weeks we were signing and sending back paperwork on a daily basis. Also, handing over your financial history to a mortgage company to ask them to find you worthy of homeownership is an anxiety-riddled process. This is another reason is pays to have a broker – ours had great contacts with mortgage companies and real estate lawyers.
4. Research the neighborhood
Sometimes it’s easy to know when a neighborhood isn’t for you. Sometimes you won’t know that the guy behind you likes to race his RC car at 6 AM every Saturday in the summer. It’s worth trying to talk to some of the neighbors before making an offer to get a vibe for the street.
5. It’s okay for things to fall through
There were times it genuinely felt like we would never find a house. There were things we couldn’t agree on, and sometimes all the houses we looked at were nightmares. It was frustrating. Sometimes we fell in love with a place online only to find it had already sold before we could even look at it.
It helped to take a break on some weekends from endless showings. And eventually, we found a house that was really perfect for us. It was good that we didn’t go with things we were lukewarm on and totally okay that some things fell through.
Your house is out there! It’s a process, but enjoy finding the place you will call home.