I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a while now, but I’ve had so many other things going on that I’m just now getting to it. When we bought our house it was the first time for us and I feel like there’s so much we didn’t know or couldn’t have anticipated before we started the process. And frankly, I wish I had known it to help us feel more confident about the process. So, I’ve decided to share my list of 5 things you should know when buying your first house (and these are actually helpful even if you're not new to the home buying process). Hopefully you’ll feel more confident and a little less alone when you do!
My Top 5 First Time Home Buyers Tips
1. Find a great Realtor – this is the person who has your back throughout the whole process. They’re the expert and you want to be able to trust them. It can be hard to find good ones because the more you spend the more they get paid, so they definitely have some interest in you getting a more expensive house. However, there are great people despite this fact. They won’t try and pressure you into anything you don’t want and they’re overall very trustworthy. AND using a buyers Agent is completely free because their fee is paid for by the seller. When a seller lists their house with an agent they sign a contract agreeing to pay 6% in fees and of that 3% goes to the sellers agent and 3% goes to the buyers agent. They know SO much about the industry from how to negotiate to if a house if fairly priced to many building codes and regulations that it’s so valuable to have them to go through this process with you.
2. Find a great loan officer – If you aren’t paying cash (and I’m guessing most of us aren’t) then you’ll need a mortgage and this is another area where finding a great person is key. As a first-time homebuyer you’re going to have so many questions – what is escrow? What affects my lending rate? Should I buy down my rate? What fees are included in closing and what aren’t? What inspections and verifications do we need to have done for the bank to approve the loan? And SO MANY MORE. Our loan officer made all the difference for us. We talked to 5 different companies/banks to compare rates and we ended up choosing the company we did not only because they had competitive rates but also because the person working with us was so kind, patient, and thorough. She explained every little thing in the process, and then when we forgot things (which is inevitable because you’re getting overwhelming amounts of new information thrown at you every single day) she would go over them again and again. She also made sure to account for every single possible cost so we were never surprised by what was happening and she took the time to go through many different options with us so we could find the perfect one. And that included going over all the possible first time home buyers programs could have qualified for and helping us set a budget.
3. Learn about different financing options and consider a shorter mortgage – If you’re coming from an expensive city where your rent was very high (here’s lookin’ at you San Francisco!) it’s likely that you could swing a 20 or even 15-year mortgage instead of the traditional 30. And even if you’re not, it’s worth looking into to see if it’s possible, it’s not actually a huge jump like you’d expect. And if you can do it you’ll be saving tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest. Plus, how awesome would it be to have your mortgage paid of in 1/3to 1/2 the time? That could mean paying off your house when your 45 instead of 60. Think about what you could do with all that extra money every month! We went with a 20-year and are really happy with that choice.
4. Understand your needs – And I don’t just mean about the house itself. Of course how much space, how many bedrooms/bathrooms you want, and the neighborhood are all important factors. But, also consider things like the market and what your current circumstances are. This will help you decide how quickly you may need to react. For instance, the market here is pretty hot and houses in our price range are often under contract within 24 hours. So we knew that if we found something we liked we would need to jump on it and mentally prepared ourselves to do that. And even if that weren’t the case our circumstance was that we were in a temporary living situation. If you’re in a house with no deadline for getting out then you may be able to take some time and look a little more slowly. We looked at several fixer-uppers during our search and while we were so excited about the thought of turning a house into EXACTLY what we wanted, we ultimately decided that it wasn’t the right time. We had nowhere else to live while doing the work and didn’t want to sign and short-term lease. Even though it was sad, it eliminated a whole category of houses for us, which ultimately probably made the decision even easier. We knew one non-negotiable was that we needed to be able to live in the house right away.
5. Take it easy on yourself – Even though we all love watching show like House Hunters and the idea of buying a house sounds like so much fun, the reality is a lot of it is not fun. There’s more paperwork than you can even imagine, lenders want to know every last little thing about you to the point that it can start to feel invasive while also making you feel like you aren’t a person you’re just a compilation of your paperwork, depending on your area you’re making incredibly quick decisions on what is probably the biggest purchase of your life, once you do find a house you’re constantly waiting to find out if something is going to crash the deal leaving you to start the process all over – will they accept your offer, will the inspection come back good, are they going to negotiate with you based on the inspection, will the appraisal be what you’re paying for the house? All of these things on top of potentially working on a deadline or living in a temporary situation makes for an incredibly stressful time. And it’s confusing because you feel like you’re supposed to be having the time of your life. First of, know that it’s totally normal not be. And then be ready for it. Try and build in some extra ways to take care of yourself and have fun during a process that can at times feel very challenging. Maybe schedule some extra workouts, eat healthy nourishing meals, get lots of sleep, go out and discuss the boring tedious stuff over beer and pizza, see a movie, hang out with your friends, celebrate even the smallest wins. Whatever you do just make it a priority to treat yo’ self more often during this time, trust me you will have earned it!