My boyfriend and I are in the works to finding our first home together. Truth be told, I’m already a first-time homebuyer, but when the opportunity for me to move to Chicago came, I had to leave my one year old milestone back in the desert.
That being said, when I was looking for my true first-home back in 2013, I wasn’t actually searching for a home, I was really just looking for a place to rent with a friend, and somehow ended up one night, sick with a cold (runny nose and everything) hugging the notary because I was officially a home owner! Looking back on it, I don’t regret my decisions, but boy, I have learned a lot and don’t plan to make some of the same mistakes I did back then.
MISTAKE #1: MORTGAGE PAYMENT = RENT PAYMENT
This is FALSE! I don’t know where my mind was on my desert oasis home when I thought to myself that the mortgage payment I was looking at, was basically just like a rent payment, as if I had nothing to worry about; just one payment every month. WRONG. I had a Home Warranty, utilities, HOA fees, bi-monthly pest control visits, and I had not budgeted for any of this. Looking back now, I should have really considered being more diligent in making a budget, and aiming low, then chopping a little more off the top. Who cares if your dream home budget is on the low end – that’s why you have a realtor!
MISTAKE #2: HOME FIRST, LOAN LATER
I’m not going to lie, stepping in to someone else’s home when they aren’t there and judging the era of design based on the choice in carpet and paint is a whole lot of fun for me. Even more fun, is thinking about all of the possibilities a home could be! This lead to a problem I still face . . . open houses for the sake of checking out the neighborhoods.
When my boyfriend and I were first looking for a home, we thought one of the coolest things to do would be to drive to a neighborhood we were interested in and get in to open houses (after all, this is one of the biggest advice friends and realtors kept mentioning to us). Then, if we liked what we saw, it would advance to Zillow.com or Realtor.com to view more houses. We met realtors who started sending both of us emails on new properties in the area and both of us would gawk over what we knew were weren’t going to get. We weren’t approved for a loan at the time, let alone knew how much we really could afford. Although both of us knew that buying a home wouldn’t be for another few months, or even years, I think we both got caught up in the dream of living in each of those homes.
MISTAKE #3: SIGN IT & MOVE IN
Although, I was very aware of what I was going through when I was getting my new home, somehow, I kept finding myself visiting the bank to pull out more money. Realtor costs, closing costs, property taxes, fees here and there – it was never ending! I ended up pulling out all of money in not one saving account but two! I have learned the hard way that getting your home, just isn’t as easy as paying that first mortgage payment, signing a paper, and moving things in. Make sure to talk with you realtor about what your first costs look like – include everything – even the cost for hiring a moving company.
MISTAKE #4: BUT IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!
This is one I think my boyfriend suffers more than I do, but let’s face it, we all get caught up in a beautifully designed home that seems to be just at, or just slightly over our budget. (I mean, when a place looks that good, we can afford a few thousand dollars over budget, right?).
Here’s a tip: DON’T BUY THE FINISHES! Make sure to look at the bones of a home. Ask yourself:
- Does the layout make sense?
- Can I cook in a kitchen that size?
- Do I really need that many rooms to make a small motel?
- Is it in the right kind of neighborhood?
- Will it meet the needs of future possibilities? (pets, children, inlaws, etc)
- Can I live without a garage?
Buying a home because it is “move-in-ready” can make things easy if you are not prepared or ready to make any changes, but don’t be afraid to make the right home yours. Rainbow houses are a simple, easy, and cheep fix. Outdated kitchens can quickly come back to life.
MISTAKE #5: SETTLING
I know what you are thinking, “this shouldn’t even be an option!” And you know what, you’re absolutely right. It’s one thing to “settle” in to an apartment where you can get out of in a year, or two (depending on the lease). But a home . . . a home is a 10-30 year commitment for most people! When I was looking for my first solo home, I was on the hunt for both a rental and a home at the same time to meet the needs of my friend and roommate, and myself (I just needed something – and fast). It needed two beds and two baths for privacy, and needed to be close to my office (because I wasn’t planning to leave my job any time soon). Although I loved the home I ended up with, truth be told, I think part of me was a bit ready to be done, and frankly, with my roommate’s cross-country move-in date approaching, I was desperate to find something. I think one of the biggest problems first-time homeowners have in finding their home, is the constant overwhelming effect home, after home, after home has on a person. Eventually, you just want to be able to glide into your bed and just enjoy your wonderful new home.
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