When we started our search for our first home, we honestly didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. There was a lot to learn and so much to consider. After all, house hunting was something we had never done before! So, I put together a list of 10 things we learned from our experience as first-time buyers.
It’s ok to ask for help
This might seem like a given, but it’s a very important tip for first time buyers! You don’t know what you don’t know, so ask questions and ask for help. This help could be from your parents, close friends that have recently bought a home, or your realtor.
Please note: Just because you ask for advice or help does not mean you need to follow the given advice! This is one of the largest purchases you will make in your life, and YOU will have to live this the actual choice you make. So take all advice with a grain of salt, and make the final decision based on what is right for YOU and YOUR family.
Get a realtor you trust
I seriously don’t know where we would be without our realtor. (Probably in a home with some serious foundation issues, haha!) If there is one person you need to trust and have a good relationship with when house hunting, its your realtor! We worked with Chuck at Minette Realty, and he made ALL the difference in our shopping.
He knew exactly what to look for in a home, and didn’t sugar coat potential problems for us. He also had a vast vendor list, and was able to point us to everything from a good home inspector to a company that could fix antique windows. He even offered to teach us how to tile our bathroom! He really went above and beyond. All-in-all, you should be able to openly talk with your realtor and feel like they’re not just in it for the sale.
List your must haves vs your wish list
This was something that Brian and I did prior to looking on Zillow or even calling a realtor. Deciding what you need versus what you want in a home is very important. Especially as a first-time buyer, you are most likely not going to get everything on your list. So, write down your must-haves and know that it’s ok to not get something from your wish list!
Be ready to compromise on ANYTHING
In addition to making a must haves and wish list, you need to go into this process ready to compromise on anything. And when I say anything, I truly mean anything! We almost didn’t put an offer on our home because I didn’t think I’d have to compromise on the little oddities that were in our home.
I assumed I’d have to compromise on things like not having a two-car garage, or only having one bathroom. I did not think I would have to compromise on something like having “step-down” into our bathroom, or having a staircase that had short, steep steps. All homes are set up SO differently, so you have to go in totally open minded and really think if you can see yourself in the space regardless of its flaws.
If you are particular, don’t be when shopping
Ok, here me out on this one… I am a very OCD, particular person. I love interior design, and have a very specific vision for what I want our home to look like. When we were looking at homes (some under and some right at the top of our budget), I realized that I wanted to change multiple things in every single home we saw. This told us that no mater how much money we spent on a home, we would be spending more money to renovate.
For us, it just made more sense to buy a house with “good bones” that needed work. This way, we saved money on our mortgage, and would then have money to spare to remodel to our (my) specific taste. So when you’re house hunting, remember that not every home will be perfect! And depending on how much you’re willing to spend, almost non of them will be perfect! But, if you have vision, you can find a house with amazing potential and you can make it your own.
Location is king
You can change almost anything about a house, except where it is! Like I said before, we almost walked away from our home because of it’s little quirks. But, we made the decision to put in an offer because the location was hands-down the best we had seen. We are walking distance to a grocery store, coffee shop, schools, etc. It’s the exact type of neighborhood we wanted for our family, so we decided to take on the good with the quirks. And we are so happy we did!
There is ALWAYS another house
Trust me when I say this… There is always another house! We saw over 30 homes during our search and there were many that we wanted to put an offer on that either got swooped up too quickly, or were inevitably out of our price range. But, without fail, within a day or two of missing out on a house, another one we loved would pop up on the market. Trust the process, you will find the perfect house eventually!
Patients is a virtue (and a necessity)
While in reality, it only took us about three months to find a home, that’s not the case for everyone. Finding the right house for you and actually closing on it takes time. We had a shorter closing, and it was still about six weeks. We also know couples that took over a year to find their home. But staying patient (or trying to) will keep sane during the process, and help you realize that while this is a stressful time, it’s also very exciting! Enjoy the ride, and know that it will all come together in the end.
Shop around for your mortgage
It’s always good to get quotes from multiple mortgage brokers or banks. We decided to get three quotes, just so we had the piece of mind that we were getting the best rate we could. This can be stressful and hard to understand (at least for us it was), but we are glad we took the time to do it right since this was such a huge legal commitment and purchase.
Use a home inspector you trust
Because we trusted our realtor so much, we went with an inspector that he recommended after our offer was accepted. Having a home inspection was the thing I was worried about the most because our house was built in 1926. I was really worried he would find a crack in the foundation or bad electrical that would be too expensive to fix, and we’d have to back out of our offer.
Luckily we didn’t find anything major, but you WANT your inspector to find things. When you find things that need to be fixed during an inspection, you can counter offer to the sellers and have things fixed or receive credits to update it yourself. For example, our furnace is from 1983 (yikes)! We also had a few other items that we needed to get fixed, but we have very handy relatives, so we decided to counter offer to get money for a furnace.
All in all, every homeowner’s experience is different when house hunting and it’s a huge learning process! We’re excited to learn even more as we start to learn the ins-and-outs of our house and start making it our own.
How did your house hunting process go? Is there anything you with you would have know before diving in?