Adventures in Buying Your First Home
It's been a busy year for me; I got married, and bought a home! My husband's parents were so kind and offered to give us money for a downpayment on a house. They knew that we wouldn't be able to afford the downpayment ourselves for a very long time, and wanted to help us out. I am eternally grateful to them for allowing us to start our lives as husband and wife as home owners.
What I learned from buying our first home...
- First things first: Get an Agent
Sites like Redfin and Zillow would like you to think that they are all that you need to buy a house. It's a lie. You need a real human person who has been trained in Real Estate. You have to like this person, you have to trust this person. You will have to have a very long talk about what you want in a house, in a neighborhood, in transit options, ABOUT EVERYTHING. I had a 2 hour talk with my agent about even the littlest things, like, what if the house was a color I didn't like, would that be a deal killer? Your agent is there to think of the things you don't when you are all caught up in the fun and craziness that is buying a home. If you have a meeting with someone and you don't click, walk away.
Then, you really need to look at your budget, and then be realistic in how much that can change. In Seattle, it was like the Thunder Dome. Since houses were selling the same week they came on the market and people are so desperate to find housing, people were offering WAY over the asking price for homes. We made an offer on a super cute stand alone town home, slightly above asking and we were turned down. Only because someone else was offering 100K OVER THE ASKING PRICE. Sometimes, we even lost houses because someone was paying cash. CASH. Who has that much CASH in their bank accounts to pay that much for something.
So we had to re-evaluate the budget. Yes, we could afford something at that asking price, but since all the homes in Seattle are going for over asking price, we had to start looking at cheaper homes that we knew we could get if there was a bidding war. Again, another reason to get an agent. They will know the range to show you so you can be the most likely to win a bid.
Not all homes are brand new and perfect and pretty. If you are looking at a house that is over 5 years old, there will be some issues with it. Sometimes you can ask the seller to fix things, sometimes that will kill the deal. So really think about what you are looking for in a house. We ended up getting an older home (which is what I wanted, something with charm and history), that clearly needs some work in the backyard and some minor things fixed. But because I know those things are a) easy enough to accomplish and b) I know I can do them to my own standards and desires, I was ok with them.
We were looking for a house that was move in ready, but still enough of a blank slate that we can customize it to our own tastes. Besides, a little home improvement is good for the soul! It helps you get in touch with this hunk of property you just spent SO MUCH money on. It's not an apartment where whatever goes wrong you can blame on the neighbors, or the landlord. You OWN this. You are landlord now. You might as well get to know your house and how it works and what is wrong and what isn't.
If you aren't paying cash, you'll need a loan and a mortgage. So do your research! We talked to so many different banks and mortgage companies until we found the right one for us. It was a lot of hard work, confusion, intense documents and stress, but it was worth it. We are getting a great rate and plan that is perfect for us. We were referred to the one we chose to go with by our agent. Again, get an agent!
Alex and I have been the house for a few months now, and we love it. I love the huge deck, I love the huge windows, I love that I have a driveway. I love that it is OUR HOME. I can't wait to do a few more renovations and really see what this house becomes.
We've still got a lot of work to do to make this look like a put together home and not a hodgepodge of boxes and old furniture. But when we're done, it's going to be amazing! I'll most likely be sharing some of our DIY and other improvements!