After recently closing on our first house, there were many things I’m glad we did, and many that I wish we had done, but didn’t realize at the time. After everything, we ended up in our dream home and location! Below I’m listing 11 tips for first-time homebuyers, so you can avoid the mistakes we made, and buy your dream home.
1. Be patient.
This tip was one that I was definitely NOT good at, haha. Thankfully, my boyfriend was. Finding a house is a long and stressful process. You’ll see a lot of ones that you think are amazing but end up being awful!
2. Always be on the lookout.
The market is SO competitive, you have to be on-top of it all day and night long. I had MLS open on my computer 24/7 at work so I could check and get notified when new houses came up and I would call my relator instantly. I would also check Zillow all.the.time. You have to be on the ball in order to see houses before others have the chance.
3. Pick a relator experienced in your dream town.
This tip is huge! We found a relator with years of experience in our dream town, which is part of the reason why we ended up we getting our house. We got to see the house and put an offer on it (which got accepted) before the open house.
4. DON’T SETTLE.
This one may be the most important. Not going to lie, I started freaking out towards the end of our house- hunting process because I felt totally hopeless..like we wouldn’t find anything! I started crying over a house in a location I’ve never heard of and that had absolutely no characteristics we were looking for (except a 4-season porch with sunlight for #ootd selfies LOL..no shame). It’s tough, believe me, I GET IT! But don’t settle, you’ll be stuck with this decision for the next 30 years!
5. Know what to sacrifice.
I recommend making a list of your “must-haves” and another of “can sacrifice”. For instance, we wanted a finished basement and a large, private backyard but those are some things we sacrificed in return for house in our dream town and a closer drive to work. You can’t have it all! Unless of course, you’re loaded.
6. Get pre-approval.
This one may seem obvious, but it definitely helps! You’d be surprised to know many people still don’t do this.
7. A second opinion is important.
While I don’t think you should base buying your house off someone else’s opinion, someone else may realize things that you totally missed. We saw a house and thought we loved it, until we visited it again and our parents pointed out a bunch of things were wrong with it that we completely missed (like the shower curtain hiding a moldy, broken window).
8. Do an inspection.
I don’t care who tells you to don’t get an inspection because that’s the only way you’ll secure a house. DO NOT DO IT. Yes, it sucks that it’s $500, but it could save you a lifetime of headaches. We actually ended up getting an offer accepted on another house, and moved forward with the inspection. We thought it was the best house we had seen so far, and we’re not anticipating any issues. Turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong! There were termites, mold, no ventilation, asbestos, sewer leaks, and plumbing issues, which was going to be super expensive to fix (and the amount of money they offered wouldn’t have been enough to even fix half of these things). I never would have known this without an inspection, and we decided to end up backing out.
9. Be flexible.
Instead of sacrificing an inspection, offer to be flexible on closing dates. I said we could close as early as possible, which meant I had to stay in my apartment and pay rent for two months while also paying a mortgage. Obviously, this is something I really didn’t want to do, but this meant the sellers could move out earlier and move into their new house. Selling to someone else could mean they had to wait for the buyer to sell their house, which is a huge advantage for first-time homebuyers.
10. Pay attention to hidden costs.
Don’t forget about costs not included in your mortgage. This includes the more obvious – like cable/internet, electric, and insurance but also think of town taxes. One way to think about it is the more businesses the town has in it, typically the less-expensive the taxes. Taxes doesn’t seem like something to pay attention to, but it can add up to an additional thousands per year!
11. Be prepared to pay over asking & more than expected.
Originally, we were set on buying a fixer-up house that we could buy at a lower price and fix up. We actually we put an offer on two fixer-upper houses and went through with the inspection on one which we loved. We then realized everyone else wants to do the same thing! The problem with this is that you then need the instant cash to fix up the house. For instance, a bathroom and kitchen renovation is thousands of dollars. Increasing your mortgage payment is very minimal and that is spread out monthly instead. We ended up going over our original budget, but that really only amounts to $100 additional monthly. We decided that was a much better option for us, rather than shelling out thousands in additional loans or cash to be a in a livable condition. Also, paying 10-25k over asking price is pretty standard. Do I think it’s crazy people just don’t ask for the price they actually want? Yes, unfortunately it’s the reality of things.
I hope these tips help you when looking to buy your first home! I’ll be sharing a lot of home finds and projects on IG @emjacquelyn under my highlights “home decor” and “home DIY” and here on the blog.