I am pretty sure that house buying is like planning a wedding. You can learn all the things you need to do, talk to all the people who have done it before, but you really don’t know what it is like until you go through it first hand.
This means I am not going to tell you “everything you need to know about about buying a house.” But I do want to share things I learned and hopefully they can help you if you are planning on purchasing a house soon.
1: Your Realtor is Your New BFF
When I say BFF, I don’t mean you hug, chat for hours on end and you are always nice and cordial. I mean you need to be able to trust them 100%, you can be able to be brutally honest with them and they can be brutally honest with you, you know, in a professional way. This means they should be able to tell you if your non-negotiable list is too much and don’t meet your top price. But they are getting an income from this, so if they encourage you to make offers on something that is not a good fit for you, find someone new. You don’t want someone who is just looking for a paycheck. They should know what you want, and if you start compromising too much, they should be able to tell you to not settle.
2: Get Pre-Approved
We all love to dream, but if you are serious about home ownership, get pre-approved. It is more of a process than getting an auto loan, so if you find something you love, you don’t want to lose it because someone else had proof of financing.
3: Have a Down Payment
I highly recommend having some sort of down payment. It proves good financial practices and puts you ahead of the game when it comes to selling someday or paying it off. Your Relator BFF or your mortgage lender can help you figure out what the right amount for you is. Don’t get discouraged if you need to save for a little longer. When you are truly prepared the right house will be waiting.
4: There Is No Prince Charming House
Sorry to burst your bubble, but unless you win the lottery and can afford anything you want (which case why are you ready this!?), no house will be perfect. You are not going to get everything you ever wanted on a starter home budget, heck, you probably won’t get it with your second home either. Come up with your must haves list; bedrooms, bathrooms, yard size, location, layout, heating/cooling, etc. Whatever your list is, let your Realtor know, and be open to their feed back. They should know the market and if your expectations meet your budget. You may have to make compromises, but they should be reasonable. What changes can you make to turn the home into what you want? That will make the house even more special to you in the long run.
5: Prepare for Surprises
We were really lucky in that we did not have any huge surprises when we bought our first house. If there were any to come up, we would have been prepared. Have a financial cushion in case you need it.
6: Get a Home Inspection
If you only take one thing away from this article let it be this:
Get a home inspection
I heard of story of someone who bought their friends parents house. They did not get a home inspection. Probably because they thought their friend would tell them if there were any problems. Can you see where this is going? Problems, lots of problems.
I believe that the buyer most likely would have purchased the house in the end even if they knew about all the problems. Having know what the issues were, would have prepared them ahead of time for what was in-store and allowed them to budget accordingly. If the seller hints that doing an inspection will jeopardize them selling to you, walk away. It is not worth it.
7: Attend The Home Inspection
We did attend our home inspection. Unfortunately, I was more concerned with measuring rooms and windows than I was with what the inspector was looking at. Next time, my husband or I will pay better attention to what he is looking at and finding. There was at least one item that was miss marked on the inspection sheet. It was not a problem, just something I wish we had realized before we moved it. Also, the inspector is looking at things that you may want to know in the future. By following the inspector, you will have the knowledge in the future if you need it.
8: Know The Location of The Water Shut-off, Gas, Electrical, etc.
This is something you will learn by following the inspector around. They are going to be checking for these things, and have the best idea of where they are.
One story that my husband and I now look back and laugh at is trying to find our water shut-off. Our house had one shower when we moved in and it was not in the best shape. I was insistent on at the very least changing the fixtures on the shower before we moved in. In order to change the fixtures, we had to shut off the water to the house. There is a little more to the story, but I will share that at another time. The funny part is that I assumed our water shut-off was like the one at my parents house that was built the same year as our house. So we spent 45 minutes walking around the outside out the house, digging in different locations trying to find a water shut-off right next to the house. Turned out, the houses in our neighborhood did not have secondary shut-offs near the house. The only water shut-off is at the meter and you have to use a special tool or key to shut it off.
The good news is, it was not an emergency. But if it had been, you can imagine how frantic we would have been.
9: Clean Before You Move In
The chance of you having the opportunity to deep clean your house without furniture in it after you move in, is slim. Take the extra day and clean. Clean the cabinets. Clean the refrigerator. Clean the shower. It will be well worth it. When you start to move in, and you spend that first night in the house, you will be able to take a deep breath and relax knowing your house is clean.
10: Enjoy The Moment
You did it! You bought a house. That is a big deal. You worked hard for it and spent a lot of energy thinking and planning for this big event. Even if it is not 100% perfect, be proud of what you have accomplished. Take all the photos you want and enjoy!