The Three Biggest Moments in a Person’s Life
1) Having a Baby
2) Getting Married
3) Buying a House for the First Time
(You may debate the order but let’s just say these are the top 3)
I checked off getting married in 2011 and wasn’t ready to tackle #1 on the list quite yet, so for the past two years my husband and I have been preparing for #3 on the list, buying a first house.
Despite the thought of jumping into homeownership being incredibly exciting, it also really scared me. To dispel my own fears and to help out others who were in the same boat I took to our blog and wrote Is the F Word Stopping You From Becoming a First Time Home Buyer?. The post focused on one of the biggest barriers to us, and so many others, beginning the journey toward owning a home…the F word…Fear.
Well it is ten months later and I am giddy to finally say I, Lindsay Adele Listanski, am a proud first time homeowner. I’m not the only one bursting with excitement check out my husband in the first official picture in our new place:
So now that our ten month adventure of house hunting has come to an end and our new adventure of being first time homeowners begins, I felt it would only be right to offer up what I learned to those who may be starting a journey of their own.
Here are some things that I learned along the way.
1. Working with a Real Estate Agent is a Must
Despite growing up in the real estate world (my father has been with Coldwell Banker nearly 30 years), having my own real estate license and being the social media manager for Coldwell Banker I STILL had seemingly endless questions. Without the help of my agent (who happened to be my dad) I truly would have been lost. Check out what could happen if you don’t use one.
2. Get Pre Approved (Immediately!)
I am NOT a numbers girl, but thankfully my husband happens to be a financial analyst. Despite him being a number crunching genius we learned very quickly that “we didn’t know what we didn’t know.”
When we first started out we made up some rough numbers based on monthly payments, average taxes in towns we liked and a guesstimate on what utility bills might cost. What a HUGE mistake this was. We completely forgot about closing costs and didn’t factor in private mortgage insurance which ended making a significant difference in our price range.
Thankfully we weren’t too far along in the process when we realized this and got connected with Coldwell Banker Home Loans. The team helped us to understand our price range, closing costs, and the different types of loans available to us. By understanding the pre approval we had a much more realistic view of what we could and couldn’t afford. If you are thinking about buying a home I suggest doing this first before you do anything else. Read more about this process here.
3. Make a List of Must Haves
Right from the start we made a list of things our first house must have. If you are having trouble deciding between must haves and nice to haves this may help.
These were our “must haves”
- Good Location: We wanted a home in a residential community that was safe, within 30 minutes of our jobs, and not on a main road.
- Backyard: Big enough to entertain friends and family.
- Closet Space: Like I need to say more?
- Three Bedrooms
- Storage Space
This list really came in handy for the next thing I learned.
4. Getting Attached is Easy
House hunting is like riding a roller coaster, even more so at a time when inventory is low. It is filled with up, downs and plenty of loops. When you know there is not much on the market it becomes easier to stray from your list of “must haves” but remember these are your must haves not nice to haves.
Looking at houses reminded me of trying on wedding dresses. Each one was exciting and I liked some parts of them but never the whole thing. The more we looked at, the more desperate I became to make it work. My best advice is to have an open mind but to really stick to what you decided was most important to you. In the end patience is key even though there may be some times where you feel upside down on the emotional roller coaster. This brings us to number five…
5. Everything Happens for a Reason
I truly believe everything in life happens for a reason.
The first home we found that we were ready to put an offer in on was actually farther away than we wanted to be but we liked it enough to go for it. As we were leaving the house and doing one last final check outside we noticed several vertical cracks in the foundation. Needless to say we bailed and I was bummed.
The second house we found was in the town we wanted to be in (Yay!) but the open house was packed (Ugh). It was a beautiful house but at the tippy top of our price range. We put in an offer but realized that if it did go to a bidding war, which our agent said it 99% would, we would quickly be out of our price range. Again we bailed.
After these two upsets I was just about to throw in the towel but you know what they say, third time is a charm. Days after we dropped out on what seemed like a dream home we found “the one” and had our offer accepted the same night that we found it. It had all of our “must haves” and was right in our price range . Looking back we are happy the other two never worked out and realized our patience truly paid off because things couldn’t have worked our better for us.
As I begin my new journey of owning a home with my husband I will continue to document what I learn. I am so proud to have accomplished the “American Dream” of home ownership and encourage others who are on the fence to explore their options as well. Have more questions about my experience or the process? Tweet to us at @Coldwellbanker.