Though inventory is low and interest rates are slowly rising, it’s still an affordable time for first time home buyers to enter the housing market. My husband and I took the plunge last year, and we followed tried and true financial advice to prepare for the purchase; we paid off $40,000 in credit card debt, continued setting aside savings, and opted to become a one-car family for awhile. We moved into our home about 90 days after we started our search.
Despite our preparation and best intentions, we learned three lessons the hard way:
- Find a great realtor. We started with a realtor we found online. We corresponded with him via email, and he showed us three homes one afternoon. He hardly spoke until we expressed interest in the third home; he then changed his tune and encouraged us to come in the next day and draft a contract. We barely had a mortgage pre-approval, knew nothing about earnest money, and felt rushed. That experience left my husband and I discontented. A long-time friend recommended a different realtor, and we went elsewhere. Our new realtor showed us the ropes, patiently answered all of our questions, and ultimately pointed us to our new home.
- Do the work. We found THE house on our first outing with our new realtor. It was the right size, on a nice piece of land with a spectacular view, and within a reasonable commuting distance from work. We told our realtor that we wanted to make an offer, and she drafted a contract. We had signed almost every page when we got to the Megan’s Law disclosure. We had not searched the statewide sex offender registry page for offenders near our new address, so we logged on. We soon learned that a convicted child abuser lived next door to the home we were about to purchase. We thankfully caught this before we signed the final dotted line, but we could have avoided the highs and lows of that day had we done the work on the front end.
- Pace yourself. Home ownership is a marathon, not a sprint. This applies to every aspect of the process: selecting the right home in the right neighborhood, applying for the mortgage that best suits your financial situation, and renovating or decorating your new home. Don’t rush or make impulsive decisions that will cost time, money, and sleep down the line. After almost a year, we still have a number of projects we’d like to complete and items that we’d like to purchase; there may still even be an unpacked box or two. We’re confident we’ll get to them when we have the time and money to enjoy the experience.