Home Sweet ( Southern) Home
I can’t believe how quickly time is flying this year. It’s almost as if I blinked and now March is right around the corner. 2016 was quite the adventure and I’m excited to have things slow down for a while.
I think we are (finally) officially done buying things for our house and we are settling in perfectly into our neighborhood.
As much as I love our house and having the home I always envisioned, there are some things I wish I would have known before becoming a first-time homeowner. The home buying process can be overwhelming and there’s a lot of things to know so hopefully these five pieces of advice can help you before you say goodbye to the renting lifestyle.
Have an Open Mind
When looking for your first home it is so critically important that you really keep an open mind (easier said than done…I know). You could miss out on an amazing house if you can’t look past small details such as paint and decor. I remember the bright, drastic colors when we saw our house for the first time and thinking the decor didn’t make sense, but I knew it was everything else we wanted: location, price, size, curb appeal, modern bathrooms and kitchen – so I was able to look past other details. Don’t let pictures online scare you from seeing a house in person because it may surprise you.
You can see the drastic difference paint can make in my other post here. However, I cannot emphasize enough that you really need to think about how you would transform the space and make it your home.
You can always update and change things such as tile, cabinets, and a handful of other things down the line. I remember trying to envision I was on some HGTV show and didn’t sweat the small stuff and tried to see the bright side of things.
Make a list of what is truly important to you when it comes to buying your home and what isn’t a deal breaker. This can make the home buying process easier by knowing what things mean the most to you.
For some people, not having a laundry room isn’t a deal breaker if the washer and dryer are tucked away in a closet. For us, an actual laundry room was a must have in our first home. So identify what is a need and what is a want.
There Are A LOT of Moving Pieces
Luckily, my husband has a background in real estate so I knew we were in great hands when it came to buying our first home. However, I didn’t quite know just how much is involved when it comes to the home buying process. There is just so much to do before and after your offer is accepted.
You’ll want to make sure you get pre-qualified for a mortgage before you start looking. This will allow you to have a better understanding as to what you can afford and how much your lender will allow you to borrow. Pre-qualifications are very straight forward and are a necessary first step if you’re thinking about buying a house.
Once you know what you can afford, it’s time to shop (first for a realtor then for your home). Find the pro, then the house, and then make an offer!
After we put in an offer on our house, I remember going to get burgers and just anxiously asking “so what happens now?”
Are there multiple offers? Will the sellers counter if they don’t like our offer? There are many variables in play, but the important thing is to remain calm.
Luckily, for us, it was quick and easy. We reached a deal the same day!
But what happens after you have an agreed upon deal? This is where things start to happen (and happen fast):
- You need to be prepared for your offer to be accepted. Be ready to wire a good faith deposit within a few days of your offer being accepted (I can only speak for Florida, but the standard here is $5,000).
- Then comes inspections to make sure your home is structurally sound, there aren’t any wood destroying organisms, the roof is in good shape, electrical components are up to code, etc. In Florida, you usually have 15 days to have an inspection done, so time is of the essence!
- You will be working with a mortgage broker to find your mortgage that best fits your situation. You’ve been pre-qualified, now it is time to get pre-approved. Submitting tax returns, pay stubs, W2s, bank statements, and any other pertinent financial information will be required.
- Once your loan is underwritten, it’ll be time to lock in an interest rate. You will want to find a mortgage professional who will help you reach the best rate. You’ll hear confusing terms such as points and floating rates, so having someone who you trust can make the experience much less confusing.
- During the time between your offer being accepted and your scheduled closing date, you will also want to start taking the steps to change the utilities from your old residence to your new home (you can do this in advance with most companies – just tell them when your move in date is). Schedule the movers during this time too – remember when I said to be prepared?
- It’s also important to maintain accurate financial records during this time as your lender require additional documentation from you. Don’t open new credit (like a car loan or a credit card) and don’t fall behind on any payments after you’ve been pre-approved. You want to keep a spotless record while you wait for closing.
- If you’re thinking about switching jobs, don’t do it during this period (unless you absolutely have to and even then, check with your lender first!). It can seriously derail your mortgage as you look riskier to the bank if you change jobs right before they’re about to lend you all this money.
- Get ready for your final walk through – if your contract required the seller make repairs to anything before closing, make sure it was done before you sign on the dotted line. If you notice that there is something that was supposed to be repaired but wasn’t, point it out to your realtor. Alternatively, if you see something that is in need of repair, but was previously in good condition, mention that too.
- Take a deep breath – it’s time to close. Review the closing settlement statement with your lender to make sure that all the numbers are in order and ask all the questions you can think of.
Expect A Lot of Unexpected Expenses
I always heard people saying “being a homeowner is a lot of responsibility” but I never really understood what it meant…until now. I was prepared before buying our first home that we would have to invest in things that we didn’t have when we lived in an apartment, such as a lawn mower and more furniture to fill our home.
However, there were expenses that seemed to come out of nowhere. On top of trying to decorate your home with all the fun stuff you want to buy there’s a lot of stuff you don’t want to spend money on, but then that little lightbulb in your head goes off, reminding you that you’re a homeowner now.
Our home was built in 2010 and, while not brand new, there was no work that had to be done. The AC was in great condition, roof still has a lot of life left, new washer and dryer – what could go wrong?! Well, inevitably something will go wrong.
We moved into our house in June 2016 and here are some of the unexpected expenses:
- Emergency tree removal during a hurricane – $600 – what are the odds. That was fun and kudos to the guys who came out and did it so a tree didn’t fall into our bedroom.
- Digital panel on our dryer went out so we were unable to use our dryer – $200
- Garage door spring broke (but when you replace the one, it’s better to replace both at the same time) – $225
As you can see, little things like this are a pain, but it is part of owning a home. As I’ve stressed before about the importance of saving here, you always want to be prepared for the unexpected.
As a new homeowner, you never know what will come your way.
Be prepared to spend your first month of living with frequent visits to Home Depot or Lowe’s. Every little thing starts to add up – so save, save, save!
You Won’t Get Everything That You Want
The best piece of advice I got before purchasing our first home was from my mom when she said: “you won’t get everything you want in your first home.” If you do – congrats! But realistically, you won’t. Maybe you won’t have an updated kitchen or the flooring isn’t what you had envisioned. Maybe your backyard is smaller than you wanted or the landscaping is a nightmare. Perhaps a bedroom doesn’t have a walk-in closet or the appliances are outdated.
Whatever the case may be, prepare yourself to accept things like this. With HGTV and Pinterest showing us so many amazing home ideas, it can be a let down when trying to find everything you want in a home to match the price tag and location.
It’s important to not become one of those people you hate on House Hunters because they get hung up on the smallest detail. Give yourself a break and realize buying a first home is an accomplishment in and of itself and you might not get everything you once envisioned. Chances are, your first home will not be your forever home and it’s amazing of what just a little TLC can do to transform a space.
You may have also heard the term “house poor” – where you spend way too much on your mortgage, taxes, and insurance. Instead, working with your mortgage professional should allow you to determine the proper budget so that you can afford the right house, but also maintain a lifestyle that allows you some financial freedom.
Andy and I both discussed the importance of owning our first home, but also not compromising the lifestyle we were used to living. We discussed what kind of payment we would be comfortable with and this helped determine the budget when looking for our first home.
Timing is Everything
Sometimes what is meant to be is all based on timing. I had my eye on our house prior to when we were seriously looking for a house because we weren’t sure if we were ready to tackle on another thing right after our wedding.
However, I suggest you keep an eye on the market to see what’s out there so you are mentally prepared and financially ready to know what you are up against. Depending on where you live, pricing can change drastically over time.
Living in Sarasota, we learned firsthand how much home values have increased over the past 3 years. As much as I wish we could have bought sooner, we were still just adjusting to life in Florida back then. I recommend you make sure the timing for buying your first home feels right for you and your family.
By keeping my eye on the market, we made an effort to look at potential houses to see what was out there. Sometimes what you think may be the right house for you isn’t when you actually go see it in person. Don’t rush anything that doesn’t feel right and don’t set a certain time to buy because sometimes life throws us a curve ball.
To our surprise, we found our house at the perfect time. By keeping an eye on the market you will be ready to know what is and isn’t right for you.
Good luck on your next chapter and happy house hunting!