After 2 years of searching, Stephen and I have finally found a house that we love! We were preparing for the season where houses come on the market in droves, and the first one that we went to see met all of our criteria and we fell in love with it. But we decided not to rush into anything. We don’t want to get stuck with a money pit. We don’t want to overpay.
Here are some tips on buying a house from an ordinary person (not real estate expert!). I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of mortgages, approvals, or insurance. This is how we went about our home search and things we kept in mind.
- Make sure you set a budget. Don’t go by what the banks tell you that you can afford. Run your numbers on you own. I made a spreadsheet with our monthly income and fixed monthly expenses (daycare, cell phones, approximate utilities). I got the remainder of our income and plugged in different mortgage payments to see where we would stand. I knew the amount we could afford to spend on a house from the very beginning.
- Decide where you want to live. We started our search in the town that we thought we wanted to live. It turned out all of the houses that were in our price range were much smaller than we wanted with small yards. We wanted a place that we could have a swing set and plenty for space indoors for a home office and to host holidays. The first town we looked in did not have houses that met our criteria. Once we expanded our search to other towns, we started finding a lot of houses we liked.
- Find an agent that you can trust, but always do your own research. Even if your agent is a great person and comes highly recommended, make sure you do your own research on pricing, the neighborhood, inspectors, anything else! After all, they are going to make a commission on the sale and that could sway the advice they give. I’m not saying that real estate agents are bad people, but it just pays to have your own knowledge.
- Don’t fall in love with the house too much before you close. You never know what could go wrong. My sister and brother-in-law found a house they loved. They negotiated the price, signed the contract, and got the inspection going. That’s where it fell apart. The inspector found that the septic system was old and not well maintained. He said that it could collapse at any point. To replace it would cost approximately $15,000! My sister and her husband decided to walk away from the sale. I know they were heartbroken about it, but they decided it was not worth the risk or the expense. They have since found another home that they love and have been living there for years.
- Listen to the inspector, but don’t freak out about the little things! Every home inspection report will probably come back with dozens of things that can easily be fixed, like a power outlet is not working properly. Keep on guard for big problems like termites or the septic issue I mentioned above.
- Be patient! There are a lot of moving parts in buying a house and it can get overwhelming at times. I went from really excited, to terrified, to regretting our decision, all within the first few days after our offer was accepted. Then after our inspection, I realized it was such a great house and we really lucked out in finding it. Now we’re just waiting for all the paperwork to be finished up and have nothing to do but wait. It’s hard to wait, but we just have to be patient.
Once we close at the end of the month, I keep you updated on our moving process and setting up our house!
I am not a real estate expert. I am just laying out the attitude and process we had during the pre-search, search, and contract phase of buying our home.