So my husband and I bought our first house this year! Yay! It was a super stressful process, to be honest. I had always imagined I’d be really organized, have a cute little binder with likes & dislikes, I’d walk around the houses slowly, in the daylight, just like they do on House Hunters. 🤩
But we ended up seeing most houses in the dark, after work. We’d have a cranky toddler in tow and barely enough energy to see one house a day, never mind two or more.
There were so many factors that stressed up the situation. My employer was in the middle of a merger so I was hanging in the balance waiting to hear about layoffs. (I ended up having my meeting/review the week prior to our closing date, talk about stressed! Luckily everything went well and I was offered a great position.) I was dinged with a collection on my credit report from a million years ago so there was a chance my credit score would be affected. If we passed the 120 approval period, they’d have to rerun my credit before closing and it could have been potentially delayed. If you’ve ever bought a house you know delays can get expensive. And the interest rates skyrocketed in the midst of our search! We were approved at a 3.75% and when they ran the numbers after the P&S was signed, it shot up to 4.75%!! It was insane! Luckily I was working with an amazing mortgage broker and she got us down closer to 4%, but as you can see we were just sweating bullets the whole time. Stress coming from every angle.
So, needless to say, I had no list of likes/dislikes. We had a general sense of what we wanted/needed but that was it. The process wasn’t as delightful or glamorous as expected but we certainly did learn a ton. Here are my tips, as a first-time home buyer.
Approval Amount v. Affordable Amount
When you work with a broker, they generally review your credit, income, bank statements, savings, etc. They will then tell you how much you’re approved “up to.” I was giddy when I heard our number! I couldn’t wait to shop for houses in that price range!! And then she told us what the monthly payments would be and I almost threw up.
Find out what you can afford for monthly payments (including PMI if you don’t have a down payment of at least 20%) and what you can afford for a down payment. Then ask your broker how much house that will buy you. Shop in that range.
House & Home
Some advice my husband and I were given: “You can make any house your home.”
While I was house hunting I thought that was a crock. And now, as I’m sitting in my house writing this, I completely get it.
You really can make any space your own. You can take pride in it, you can alter the way it looks, you can choose to embrace any space and make it yours. Knowing that now, I wish we hadn’t been so caught up in silly details while house hunting. For example, one house we looked at was great inside and out, but the back fence was chain link and I hated how it looked. A chain link fence separating yards was not in my dream house vision. But really, it was just a fence, we could have replaced that in a year or two with a vinyl one. There are more examples than I care to admit of silly decisions like that one. So take it from me, you can make any house your home. When you’re looking, try to see a house for what it could be, not for what it currently is.
My mom gave us a deep clean from a professional cleaning company as a house warming gift. It was such an amazing idea. I didn’t even think of cleaning amidst the stress & madness of hunting, offering, and closing. But I would highly recommend it. The cost can vary from $350-$700, and maybe more depending on the size of the house. But for the whole year or so before you buy, you’re in saving mode so make room for this expense in your savings account! It’s worth it, I promise.
The day after we moved in, the cleaning crew showed up around 9am. They stayed until about 4pm & they cleaned every. single. inch. of this house. We ended up going out around noon that day and when we got back it felt like a different house! My husband said as soon as he walked in that it felt different. Money well spent, indeed. Plus, the bathrooms were in pretty rough shape and we thought we’d be spending a ton on reno’s but it turns out they just needed a good scrub! So really, money saved in the end.
The home buying process is stressful. You’re making your dreams come true so of course it can’t be easy. Go in with an open mind, stay on budget, and it’ll all turn out great.
Do you have any house hunting or first time home buying tips or advice? Drop a comment below!!
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