What I learned by buying my first home. As I’ve mentioned in a few different posts, I recently purchased my first home. I’ve meant to write about the experience for some time but didn’t know where to start. So I figure I’ll start by sharing some of the things that I didn’t know before I started looking, and some of the things I think everyone should know before buying your first house.
1. The Two Most Important People You’ll Hire – It’s absolutely imperative to find a good Realtor and a home inspector you can trust. It was the first, and largest mistake I made. I was a little naïve as to all a Realtor did during the home buying process and probably didn’t hire the best one I could have. Between finding properties to show you, negotiating the purchase price, and knowing what to include in a purchase contract. Finding a talented Realtor who you can trust is key to finding the right home for you at the right price.
The second most important person you’ll hire is your home inspector. After you find the house of your dreams and have your offer accepted you’ll need to get a home inspection. Your inspector (if he/she is any good) will go over every inch of the house with a fine tooth comb and report back to you any and every cause for concern with the property. It’s important to note, your inspector WILL find things that need to be fixed, or things that may be cause for concern down the road. It’s important to distinguish between minor and potentially major problems because it’s quite overwhelming when you hear it all at once.
2. Know What You Can Afford (And Stick To It!) – There are plenty of good calculators you can find with a simple Google search that will help you out. Especially with your first home, it’s all too easy to fall in love with a house and get swept up into a bidding war with another potential buyer. Stick to what you want, and can afford to pay for the house. If someone else outbids you, or the seller isn’t willing to play ball and negotiate with you, then so be it. Being prepared to walk away and find another property will end up being a great asset to your financial well-being over the next 15-30 years. Note: It’s also important to get pre-approved for a mortgage before making an offer. The amount you get pre-approved for and the amount you can actually afford are VERY DIFFERENT. Don’t forget that! It’s like a credit card, because you have a $10,000 limit doesn’t mean you should spend $10,000.
3. Ignore What Can Be Changed – When at an open house, or a showing its too easy to evaluate the house based on the current owner’s tastes and style. I’m sure I probably passed on a property or two because I was too focused on the current owners terrible taste in furniture or paint. The aesthetics of the house, can and will be changed once you move in. Paint is cheap, those bright orange walls can be changed. Just try to picture what you’ll be able to do with the space once you move in and you’ll have a much more enjoyable house hunting experience.
4. Know Your Limits - Listen. HGTV makes home repair look a hell of a lot easier (and more enjoyable) than it actually is. Know what you’re capable of doing before you purchase the home and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches. If you’re like me and anything more than a few simple repairs is above your head, then don’t get talked into buying a “fixer-upper”. It’ll just mean a lot of frustration for you if you attempt to do it yourself, or a lot of money to pay a pro to do things right.
5. Consider External Factors - You may not care about living on a high traffic street. School districts may not be important to you if you don’t have any kids, but these kinds of external factors will weigh heavily on the value of your home if/when you decide to sell. The house itself may be the house of your dreams, but if you can hear the cars on the interstate when you open the windows there’s a good chance it won’t appreciate as much as it would in a better location.
If you’re looking for more information, I can highly recommend this book:
Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home I borrowed it from a friend and read it while I was researching the home buying process and it really helped me understand a lot of the ins and outs of it all.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of things to consider when buying a home. Just a few things that I didn’t know before I started myself. If you have any tips or advice when it comes to buying a home, feel free to share in the comments section. I’m by no means an expert on it and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would be grateful for the help!