5 Best and Worst Things We Did Buying Our First Home
Can you believe we bought our first home a year ago!? I feels like just yesterday my girlfriend, Sasha, and I were about to give up the home search due to the market during the pandemic. Luckily, our realtor found us our dream home and somehow we survived the closing process which I refer to as "the most stressful month of our lives".
Looking back at the last year of fixing up & figuring out this home owner life, we have learned a few things I thought may be helpful to share for other new home owners or those looking to buy! I know how scary it can be to make this big jump, but I promise you figure it out as you go and hopefully these tips make it a little easier for you!
So let's get into it - the 5 best and worst things we did buying a home!
THE 5 BEST TIPS!
1. If you can pay rent, you can buy a home! Sasha and I thought it would be years before we could afford to buy a home and then our dog Nala got attacked at our apartment complex. The bite was inches away from her losing her eye and after that I made it my mission to buy a home with a yard for her to play without fear of her getting attacked. Six months later we were touring homes!
The truth is you don't need a 20% down payment, although that does make your monthly payment less. Some loans only require 3.5% down! And if you have good credit as well as proof of paying rent on time, you may be able to get a pre-approval letter to start searching. (btw another tip, don't get pre-approved by Rocket Mortgage. Most people near us won't accept a letter from them and every time they check your credit score it goes down by a few points so go to a broker first! Your realtor can recommend one!) We actually pay LESS on our mortgage now then we did renting our two bedroom apartment!
2. Finding a realtor we loved! DO NOT just go with anyone especially the ones recommended on home search sites like Zillow. When we first started our search, I naively clicked on the agent provided and waited days for an answer which in this market means the home I wanted to tour was already sold by the time I got an email back. Instead, ask your friends if they have anyone they would recommend. Our realtor and now friend, Heather at Green Tree Realty, made it SO FUN to home shop! Almost every day she would text us a listing or we would send her one and on the weekends we would tour the homes. Luckily, Heather has a background in architecture and isn't afraid to tell you the truth about the house. She never tried to talk us into a house for the commission and actually talked us out of a few which I am so grateful for today. Find a realtor that isn't in it for the money and actually cares about what you want! It will make the experience so much more fun.
3. If you plan to renovate, don't unpack! Sasha and I knew we had lots of home projects we wanted to do mainly the kitchen. The day after we moved in, we started painting the cabinets and lived out of boxes until we finished them two weeks later. It may have been a hassle, but made it so much easier to paint. We also found that doing the biggest project first made all the rest seem like a breeze. After sanding, priming, and painting 20 cabinets by hand, painting the walls was nothing.
4. Find a home with good bones! You would be SHOCKED how much a coat of white paint can fix a space. Sasha and I knew we wanted a little fixer upper to make it our own, but tearing down walls was not something we wanted to do. Finding an older home that needed a face lift allowed us to save some money and improve our investment as we went. So far almost every room, door, and window has been painted and you wouldn't even know it was the same home! We also added new faucets, shower heads, light fixtures, and door knobs to make it more our style. So far most of our renovations after been under $300 a project (except our heat and water system, but I'll talk about that below) and made a huge difference. Don't underestimate what you can do! Youtube and Google taught us how to do it all so don't be afraid to take on a no demo reno as they call it!
5. Don't stop believing! I know the market is crazy and it can be so discouraging to see crappy overpriced house after another, but I promise your dream home is out there! If you follow me on Instagram, you know I deeply believe in manifestation and that your beliefs create your life. You can read this blog here on how we manifested this home or check out the "guide" Manifestation 101 on my Instagram!
BONUS TIP! Write your seller a love note! We were out bid by $1,000 and the sellers picked us and I think it was because of our letter to them with our offer. I know if I were to sell my home, I would want to know it is going to someone who will put as much love into it as we have and would definitely affect my decision.
THE 5 WORST MISTAKES
1. Stop searching on Zillow! They are the slowest to update houses and half the time on that says available is already under contract. We found realtor.com to be the fastest. Of course, an actual realtor is best since they can see what will post before it hits the market and actually get you in the home to see it. Also download the realtor app, set notifications for your budget, distance, etc and have your realtor on speed dial. Homes go FAST as I am sure you know.
2. Waiting to make the big purchases. We did the stupid thing and waited until November to start looking at snow plows. Of course, all were sold out or double the price. We did the same thing with our new heat system and waited until it was literally falling apart to replace it. It cost us $700 in repairs to make it through the winter until we got a whole new system. If you know you want something, buy it out of season! You'll save money and a lot of struggle finding it. Also Facebook Marketplace is a great place to buy second hand and save some money as well as the planet.
3. Not getting home warranty plan. One of my friends on Instagram mentioned this to me when I was sharing about our heat and water system kicking the bucket. Apparently at closing you can purchase a home warranty for a few hundred or thousand depending on the house and it protects you from things breaking the first year. Kinda of like a lemon law of cars. Ask your realtor if it is a good option for you! There's a few things we could have used it on and wish we knew it was an option. Oh well, we know for the next home purchase!
4. Making an offer site unseen....yeah we did that and I thank the universe EVERY DAY that offer was rejected. At the very beginning of our hunt, Sasha and I really wanted to hunk of junk that was $15k over budget and falling apart because it had a mountain view. At the time, home tours were closed due to covid, so we could only see the outside. We low balled them an offer and they rejected it. I was heart broken at the time, but kept searching. A month later when tours started again, it was still on the market so we decided to look at it for fun. IT WAS AWFUL! We would have been so miserable in that home with tiny rooms, weird layout, and no privacy. Every home that you don't buy is just one closer to the dream. Keep the faith and be grateful for the rejection, it is actually protection.
5. Not buying sooner! Like I mentioned above we pay LESS in a mortgage than in rent for our two bedroom apartment. We rented for two years before buying and that could have been $42,000 towards a house. It never hurts to call a broker and ask what you can get approved for. We are lucky to have good credit, no debt, and good rent history. I honestly thought being self-employed would ruin our chances, but we still qualified! Ask around, find a realtor and broker, and start looking! You never know when the right house will hit the market!
I could go on forever with home tips and what not to do in life (that is kinda my job anyways as a life coach haha), but I'll leave you with this final tip - trust yourself. You're not too young. You desires aren't too big. You are allowed to want more for yourself and your family. It is all going to work out exactly as it should. Keep focusing on having fun, listening to your intuition, and enjoying the journey!
What tip did you find most helpful?! Anything you would tell someone looking for a home? Let's chat in the comments!