Adult life is exciting and boring, all at the same time.
The boyfriend and I have always been renters. We rented in college, we rented our first apartment together, and now we are renting a house.
Guys, we feel discouraged with our current rental company. We’ve had… issues. We went 2 weeks in the winter without heat. We never know who to contact at the rental company to discuss the house. The basement door took 3 weeks to get fixed (it was off the hinges… and leads to the outside.). There is a shed in the backyard that the landlord is using as storage and she comes by all the time to get items out of there. We were chastised for not saving all our landlord’s mail, including junk items, and bringing it to the rental company. (I sent a strongly worded response e-mail concerning this issue suggesting that our landlord have her mail forwarded… I mean, it is just me? Is that not an obvious solution? Geez.)
We have 6 months left on our house lease and we had a crazy, ridiculous, and genius idea.
Let’s stop renting.
Let’s buy a house.
It seemed like such an easy fix. It’s a big step, sure, but we want a place that’s truly ours and that we can paint, or re-do, or change if we feel like it. We’d like to be able to hang a picture on a wall without worrying about being charged for the nailhole when we move out. We’re ready to buy.
A lot of my friends on social media have bought houses recently. I know this because there have been lots of selfies on my newsfeeds with a set of keys that are captioned “first time homebuyers! #keys #firsthome”.
I found myself wishing these new homeowners wrote blog posts on what first-time home buyers should do. I’ve found that the online articles tend to be super generic and they slant towards the company that wrote them. Not incredibly helpful. So, I thought I’d share our experience so far.
This ever-present and awful question must be answered first: Can we afford to do this?
Luckily, money- wise, we could definitely make it work. We pay a decent amount in rent + bills every month, so it wouldn’t be a ridiculous change. In fact, the amount we pay in rent + bills would be more than a mortgage payment. So, we would be paying less every month. Score!!
Now, a house does have additional costs that don’t come with renting. So we looked at what a mortgage payment + costs of upkeep would cost, and we’d still be paying much less than we are now. (By we, I mean the boyfriend. He spreadsheets and budgets and I use my fingers for basic addition. Just saying.)
Well, if the answer to the question “Can we afford to do this?” is yes….where do I start?
First, I researched and researched and found a well-renowned mortgage broker in our area. We decided not to go through a bank — all the How To Buy a House! articles I read stated that big banks aren’t the way to go anymore.
I pushed aside my nerves and finally called. If you’ve read this post, then you know we have been working on rebuilding our credit and budgeting and being adults and all that jazz. I was nervous to hear what a mortgage broker would say.
After a nerve-wrackingly long phone call, our mortgage broker informed us we were good to go and set our pre-approval price. Sidenote- if you want to shop around for mortgage brokers, you can. You’ll take one hit on your credit and then for the next 14 days any mortgage lender can run your credit and it won’t show up as duplicate hits. So don’t panic about that.
Mortgage broker, check!
Next, I found us a realtor through another small but well-established company. I’m not sure why I’m so against going with the big boys when it comes to realtors and mortgage brokers. I’d rather have a more personalized experience, I guess. So far, I have absolutely zero complaints about our mortgage broker or realtor, and I call them all the time and ask a million questions.
After that, the house hunt began.
It’s hard to do something for the first time. Especially when that something is trying to buy a house.
Here’s a few things I’ve learned so far… and the journey is still in progress.
- Ask your mortgage broker every single question you have, even if you think it’s stupid.
- Discuss different types of loans with your mortgage broker. There’s 100% financing still available for some houses. That’s big. And that’s important.
- Give your realtor a list of what you’re looking for. If you’re like me, you’ll feel awkward and uncomfortable demanding things from someone, even when it’s their job. I finally caved and e-mailed our realtor a list of what we wanted and she came back at me with a bunch of options. (She also explained that’s her job… and I shouldn’t feel bad asking her to do her job. I should wear a badge that explains that I have social anxiety. Oh well.)
- Check out houses in all ranges of your budget. We went to the very lowest end of our budget and then went to the highest end, and we learned a lot. Sure, we could save $20,000 dollars, but the neighborhood isn’t great. Or, sure, we could top out our budget, but we don’t really need 4 bedrooms. Look at all ranges and all types.
- Be persistent. I know that’s a little premature to say because we haven’t found a house yet. But sometimes you open the door to a house and just you know it’s not your house. Don’t get discouraged. Keep going.
- Trust your instincts. If it’s not the house, it’s simply not the house. Even if you can’t exactly explain why you don’t like a house, that’s valid. Go with your gut feeling.
- You can change the inside and outside of a house (within reason), but you can’t change the lot or neighborhood. I don’t mean huge renovations (unless you’re loaded, in that case, great for you… really…). I do mean paint, fencing, flooring… anything you could save up for and change. You can’t change if the neighborhood feels unsafe or if the backyard is too small. Keep that in mind.
- DON’T TRUST ONLINE PICTURES. This might seem obvious, but seriously, some people are magicians with a camera.
- Don’t watch HGTV all the time. Okay, so that’s what we’ve been doing, and for a little while we were like… uh, we’re going to buy and renovate a cheap house, yeah! But, for most of us, that’s not a valid option. So don’t get sucked into HGTV. (Okay, FINE, I’m literally watching HGTV right now… I guess I’m a “do as I say, not as I do” type of person.) Just don’t get any crazy HGTV ideas that aren’t feasible for your lifestyle.
As another point of interest, we’ve been using the following sites to search for listings:
I tend to favor HotPads, and the boyfriend favors Zillow. We also get a list from our realty company every day.
We haven’t found the perfect house… yet. Luckily, we started early and have some time to keep searching. Then, I’ll share all the next steps. Until that happens, anyone else have any advice for first time home buyers? Really. Any advice is welcome.