All of the paperwork is done and I can say that as long as something does not go horribly, horribly wrong, our house deal will go through and we will close in two weeks. I can’t say that I enjoyed our house hunting process. I went in very starry eyed, thinking that LD and I were so grownup and we were going to find a place that just sang to us and had the lights coming down from the heavens saying “this is the house that you will raise your kids in.” Sadly, that was not the case for us. Do I love the house that we chose? Yes. It is a great home for us to work together to add character to and change from a basic house into a great starter home or downsize home. The quality of the build is there and the layout is excellent. There is no wasted space. However, going into the home-buying process, this is not the house I would have chosen for us.
The house hunting process can be challenging. You find your emotions turned inside out, upside down, and backwards, but hopefully, at the end of it, you find a house that you love. If you are a first-time homebuyer, here are 5 suggestions for you.
1. Before you start, know how much is reasonable for you to spend. First of all, a 20% down payment is ideal. However, if you have between 10 and 20 percent you should be ok. We ended up with a 15% down payment. However, you should be careful not to borrow more than 2.5 times your yearly income. If you can afford a 15 year mortgage, that is ideal as you will definitely pay less in the long-run. For us, by the time we were actually buying the house, only my salary counted (because of LD’s new job) so we couldn’t afford the 15 year mortgage, but we do plan to pay the mortgage off early.
2. Read up on the home buying process so you know what to expect. However, no matter how much you read, the way certain things work in reality may surprise you. I was under the impression that all counter offers were done on paper and then we would have to sign them, but a lot of sellers like to skip the paperwork and agree on something before putting it down on paper. We spent a lot of time on the phone with our realtor discussing what was negotiable and what wasn’t. If we didn’t read up before we started, we would have been in way over our heads even if we had the world’s best realtor. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to house hunting.
3. Get a good buyers realtor. Our realtor was good about learning what we wanted in a house and finding us houses that matched our style, which I will say was difficult considering our “style” is a well built house with a good floor plan within a reasonable budget for turning it into what we actually want. Don’t be afraid to tell your realtor when they miss the mark and why. It makes their job a lot easier because it helps them identify what you actually want. A good buyers realtor can also guide you through the home buying process and can give you some suggestions on what to look for in the market before deciding on what you will offer.
4. When you find a house and are doing the home inspection, get a home inspector that will tell you about your house. We absolutely loved our home inspector (so much that we used him twice and would suggest him to anybody!). He would walk LD through any fixes that needed to happen and would even give him ballpark figures on what certain fixes might cost. He was also good about telling us the quirks that our home might have as well as what maintenance needed to happen in order to keep the home in good shape and how frequently. Some things are basics, but some of it included what areas needed to be checked for rain water due to the shape of the house and what areas of the siding are currently in good shape but might need a little extra love.
5. Make your lists of what you want in your new home and divide it between what are must haves and what would be nice to haves. No house will be perfect and have every item on your list exactly the way you want it. As time went on in our house-hunting process, we became more aware of what was on our list that were non-negotiables and what we could do without. For us, the non-negotiables were:
- Good layout
- Minimum 3 bedrooms, 2 baths
- Well built
- 2 car garage
- Within budget
We also were able to check off a lot of the nice to have list, but those items were just the icing on top. Keep your need to have list short (no more than 5 items) in order to keep your expectations reasonable. If you are having trouble cutting it down that much, put your house desires in a ranked order and take the top five.