We own a house.
As I write the words I don’t think I truly believe them. Is this real life? Is this some fantasy that people in their 20s can actually own a house?
It also has a fair amount of fear associated with it. If the roof leaks, we won’t be calling the landlord. If something drastic happens in life, we can’t just up and leave.
But what’s life without a little risk?
Or a lot of risk.
The house buying process was immensely fun. We asked our realtor approximately 3,000,000 questions about the whole house buying process and we spent 6 weeks looking at different houses, deciding if we needed to raise our price range and decide what was truly important to us in a home. That last one was the most interesting.
Husband put a lot of emphasis on the yard. He really wanted a big backyard with either a lot of potential, or one that was already developed. We’ve never lived in a place with a yard. Our whole marriage has been in apartments and I was shocked when I found out that this was one of the most important things about buying a house. We found a corner lot, with a huge yard. At first, I thought it was a double lot because it was so large.
I found out that kitchens are really important to me. I’m not sure if I would’ve guessed that for myself, but every house we went into I went straight for the kitchen. I would say our kitchen is eclectic. It’s a 50s kitchen, and I’ve spent a lot of time scheming about all the different ways that I can improve it. It’s got a lot of charm.
After spending 6 weeks looking at houses, we kind of gave up. Our realtor showed us a house that we would’ve had to put an offer on immediately if we wanted it. It didn’t feel right, and I started to feel like there wasn’t a house out there for us, that maybe we should keep renting.
Our friends knew that we were looking at houses, so someone suggested that I look at one that was on the same street they lived on. I told her I would look at it, but in my head, I knew that I had seen all the houses in our price range and that we were taking a break from looking at houses.
Then, I saw it.
People can argue all they want about love at first sight, and I don’t know if it exists for people, but I am sure that is exists for houses. I was in love. It was our house. It was beautiful, had a big backyard, close to Husband’s work (but not too close), newly renovated, exactly the price we wanted to spend, and the oh so marvelous corner windows. How could it possibly be?!?
I’m pretty sure that I squealed, jumped up and ran to go show Husband the perfect house. He cautiously agreed that it was a good house. He had given up hope of finding a house, so he was slow to warm up to it. I jumped right in and fell in love immediately. I called both our parents over the moon excited that I had found this house.
I sent the house to our realtor, and when he saw it he said, “That’s their house.”
And now it is our house.
I dread the moving and the packing, but I’m so excited for what that household has in store for us. The people we have over, the memories we make in a home that is all our own.
A year ago, if you would’ve told me that I would be buying a house, I would’ve of believed you. Two years ago if you would’ve told me that I would be buying a house, I would’ve laughed in your face, or more likely say something polite like “Well, anything is possible,” and never believe that it would really happen. Moving to New Mexico was not our ultimate end goal in life, and buying a house wasn’t what we expected, but I’m so glad that it’s happening. I think about it now, and I’m not sure what my life will look like in a year from now, and I may laugh if I knew the answer. Life is a little unpredictable.
Looking back at the house buying experience, here is what I learnt from the whole process.
The sooner you start, the better
Depending on the market where you look, make sure that start soon. It takes a while for you to find out what you want, and to look at all the houses available and have enough time to decide once you know what you want. Give yourself plenty of time (if you are able) so that you are not rushed to make a decision.
Look at lots of houses
You may think you know what you want, but the more you look at houses the more you become aware of what is important to you. When we started, we had no idea what we wanted, other than we were sure that we wanted 3 bedrooms and 2 baths.
By the time we looked at 6 or 7 houses, it became very clear that Husband really wanted a nice yard, and that I wanted a big kitchen. We had no idea what was important to us until we crossed houses off our list because the kitchen was too small or the yard wasn’t big enough. Look at as many houses so you figure out what you want and cross houses off the list that don’t fit your specifications.
Find a real estate agent that you like.
There are so many cartoons out there making fun of real estate agents being pushy. There’s a reason that’s a stereotype. Real estate agents get paid when the sale is made. Most of them want to get paid. They may push you to go quickly or look at houses that you don’t want to.
You don’t have to stick with just one real estate agent. We have friends who went out for coffee with their real estate agent to make sure that they could get along with him. Find someone you like, and go with them.
Your real estate agent works for you.
You don’t have to feel bad for having your real estate agent wait while you check everything out at a house for a long time. You don’t have to feel bad when you ask to go see a house for the second time, and you don’t have to feel bad to ask your agent to go see a house in the evening. Of course, don’t abuse them, and always be kind, but don’t feel bad. This is their job.
Get pre-approved (know your price range)
Go to a bank, or a mortgage broker, or someone and get pre-approved before you go look at houses. If you don’t know where to go, ask your real estate agent and they can usually recommend you to someone. You fill out a form or talk to someone and they will tell you how much you are approved for. Usually, it’s wise not to buy a house that is at the very top of your range, since that can make you “mortgage poor” which means you end up spending a lot of your income towards your mortgage payment and have to live on a tight budget, which isn’t ideal. Find out what payments you are comfortable with and look for prices in that range. I’ve heard financial advisors say that your house payment should be about ⅓ of your monthly take-home income.
Don’t look at houses outside of your price range
We had one day where we just looked at a bunch of houses all at once. At the end of looking at houses in our price range, we looked at one that was at the very top of what we were approved for. It was gorgeous. The house needed no work done to it and it was exactly what we wanted. But we really couldn’t afford it. Of course, it was nicer than all the other houses we had looked at, it was $20,000 more than everything else! We loved that house and after we looked at it, we started to compare every other house to that house, but nothing could live up to it. I wouldn’t recommend looking at any house that’s outside of what you’ve been pre-approved for.
Everything is negotiable
Everything. If you want the appliances, keep them. If you don’t, have them take them away. You are in charge. The amount of negotiations that you can do successful depends on multiple factors, but don’t think that you can’t ask for something if you want it. You may not get it, but don’t be afraid to ask.
Have an idea of what you want, and prioritize those things
Like I said before, you have to look at lots of houses to truly know what you want, but once you know what you want, make sure you prioritize those things. For example, Husband and I decided that it wasn’t too important for us to have two bathrooms, but the yard was really important. Also, it was important to us that the house we buy would be close to Husband’s work. Once you know what you want, be willing to compromise on what is truly important and be willing to let go of some things that aren’t.
Don’t rush into anything
We looked at one house that was set to go on the market the next day, and it already had an offer pending. If we wanted that house, we had to put in an offer that night. There was nothing technically wrong with the house, and it was nice, but the whole process became much more stressful because of the deadline. Buying a house is one of the biggest life decisions that you can make, some don’t feel pressured at all to rush into it. Go at a pace you are comfortable with.
Trust your gut
The day that our house went up for sale, I had a feeling that would be our house. I tried my hardest not to be too excited or get my hopes up, but I just had a feeling. If your gut says yes, then do it. If you’re unsure and you have to talk yourself into it, then it may not be your house
Have a “ Then it’s not my house” mentality
Putting in an offer and waiting for a response it excruciating. It’s so difficult to be patient. You have to hold that house at arm’s length and not get too attached. Even at this moment, when we are under contract and we will most likely get the house, I’m still expecting something to go wrong. But if something does go wrong and we don’t end up getting the house, I know that Husband and I will say “Then it’s not our house.” While we were waiting for a reply to our offer, we kept saying, “If our offer is not accepted, then it’s not our house.” If it is our house, then we will be overjoyed, but you have to think that the right house is out there for you, and if one house doesn’t work out then another one will.
Ask lots and lots of questions
Your real estate agent works for you, and part of their job is to answer all of the questions you have. They usually know a lot of stuff, so ask them! Hopefully, if they don’t know the answer, they will be able to point you in the right direction of someone who does. They know a lot, so use that to your advantage and learn as much as you can from them.
Do your own research
Most of the houses that we looked at, I found on realtor.com. My real estate agent would find houses for us to look at, but for the most part, I found the houses and he would show them to us. Be on the watch for new houses popping up. I think that looking at different houses and getting a feel for them through pictures, gives you an idea of what houses are worth and what’s a good deal. As soon as our house popped up, I knew it was a great deal and that we needed to look at it immediately. I only knew that because for weeks I had been looking at houses in our price range, and houses outside our price range. I did this just for fun, but it ended up being really helpful because we were able to have a good understanding of the current market so that we could make a good decision.
If you like a house, look at it more than once
This was my parent’s advice to us, and I’m so glad we took them up on it. The first time that you look at a house, no matter how long you are there, you look at all the good things and you are enamoured by the house. It all seems awesome and you tend to focus on what you like about it. When you’re serious about the house, and you go a second time, you are more prone to look at what is wrong with it. You see the flaws in it and you end up with fewer surprises. We had friends come with us when we went to look at it the second time, and they were able to point out stuff to us that we hadn’t noticed. You are able to look at things with a more realistic lens and see if you can really live in that house comfortably. We found that when we looked the second time, we were able to dream more about what we wanted to change or reconfigure to make it work better. We have a relatively small kitchen, which was concerning to me, but when we went the second time, we were able to brainstorm ideas about how we could solve that problem and make the space better. Go at least two times so that you take your rose coloured glasses off and see the house for what it truly is.
It’s a scary process
Buying a house for the first time is straight up scary. It’s an investment and a commitment. I was scared out of my mind to accept the counteroffer that we received, and I told him “I’ve never bought anything bigger than me before.”
You have to remember that just because something is scary doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. People buy houses all the time, and if you know that you can afford it and you’ve thought this through, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger. From what I’ve heard, everyone is scared to buy a house. But you have to overcome your fear and be able to be confident in your decision.
Enjoy the process of looking at houses – that’s the fun part.
That’s part of why you look at so many houses because it’s fun! Enjoy it! Set up a day of looking at a lot of houses and use that as a fun day. Some people may not enjoy looking at houses (aka crazy people) but for those of us that are sane, have fun with it.
That’s my newly acquired wisdom! I hope it’s helpful for you!