While I wait patiently (impatiently?) for our closing date to roll around, I thought I might post a few tips for first-time homebuyers. I will preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert on this subject! I’ve just learned a few things about the process so I figured I’d share my experiences. Here we go…
1) Save money. This sounds like a total no-brainer, and it probably is. Buying a house will cost a LOT of money up front. Probably more money than you ever think you will be able to save. Look at your paychecks, and figure out where your money is going. Determine how much you can reasonably sock away into a savings account, and then set up an automatic transfer. We’ve used Capital One 360 (formally ING) and have been happy with them. It helps to set up a spreadsheet and calculate how much savings you will have after a certain number of months – it’s good for motivation!
2) Find a good realtor. We found our realtor by a very happy accident. She was the seller’s agent for a home we asked to see. We didn’t end up purchasing that house, but we asked if she might be willing to work with us as a buyer’s agent and she agreed. With this, I think a lot of it just came down to our gut instincts. She was very knowledgeable, professional, and kind, and never pushy. I’ve heard some horror stories about overly pushy real estate agents! If they DESPERATELY NEED to sell you a house, they probably aren’t very good at their job. Just go with what feels right, and trust your instincts!
3) Figure out where you want to live (kind of). This one sounds really stupid, I’ll give you that. The husband and I narrowed down a list of towns that we were interested in based on proximity to work, school ratings, average home prices, crime rates, etc. We asked to be shown houses in those towns. At first we thought “how will we ever pick a town?!”, but the list narrowed itself fairly quickly. Certain towns we were priced out of (there were a handful of homes in our price range, but they were small or needed way too much work). Others didn’t have the amenities we wanted (no town sewer or water). Just go with the flow and see where the path leads you.
4) Listen to people’s suggestions (but don’t take them too seriously). Oh man. This one I wish someone had told me before I started house hunting! People mean so well, and they really just want the best for you. We got so much solicited and unsolicited advice, and it became completely overwhelming! Especially when, after a while, we realized that people were giving conflicting advice based on their own lifestyles and experiences. Eventually I had to ask people to stop giving advice because it was stressing me out so. very. much. If I could do it again I would kindly listen to everyone’s stories and advice, but not think about it too much. Trust yourself to make good decisions first and foremost!
5) It will take longer than you think. I’m not sure if this is the norm, but for us it took a while. The house hunting takes time, and then once you find a house, make an offer, and start on the purchase transaction, you’re looking at a few months minimum. Again, everyone is different, but to me it felt like (feels like?) FOREVER! Just make sure to pace yourself and enjoy the journey. 🙂
6) You will learn as you go. Try to not freak out too much. As with most things, you learn best by actually jumping in and moving through the steps. You’ll learn a lot as your make your way through the home-buying process. Just take everything one step at a time!