Three months ago, my husband and I finally realized a long-term dream and purchased a home. We were thrilled. For the past two years, we’ve been looking for homes, either falling in love with a home we couldn’t afford or finding a slew of dumps and duds within our range.
Well in May, it seemed like everything was finally falling into place. We found a house—a turnkey home originally built in the 1900s and renovated to perfection. I mean, it looked good enough to be on an episode of House Hunters, but we learned some hard lessons along the way.
So, I wanted to share and hopefully you can avoid the same pitfalls…
1. See Many Homes
See as many homes as possible, then compare neighborhoods, price points and your non-negotiables. That way, when you find what you are looking for, you can be certain you are making the right decision.
It’s hard to know if you are making the best decision, if you’ve only seen two or three homes.
2. Negotiate Everything
We got better deals on everything from our interest rate and movers to our home security system just by doing price comparisons and asking for discounts. The worst thing that can happen is a “no” answer. But, if you don’t ask, you have a “no” anyway.
3. Trust But Verify
Unfortunately, we’ve had to cover some major home repairs. And our real estate team (real estate agent, title company, inspectors, etc.) who were sooooo helpful when we were searching for a home, were mostly dismissive and dodgy when we ran into problems.
Get all the answers to your questions, concerns and hopes answered before you sign on the dotted line.
4. Get Inspections
We got a general inspection. But, at the recommendation of our agent, we opted out of the specialized inspections for Heating and Air Conditioning, Water Systems/Plumbing and a host of others.
However, six weeks later, we had to foot the bill for a $4,000 plumbing repair. Now, I wish we had paid for the extra inspections. We could have avoided some headache and heart ache.
Side note: some inspections are frivolous, i.e. getting a lead-paint inspection on a brand new home. (Lead paint has been illegal since the late 70s.) But I recommend finding someone not benefiting from the home sale and asking them to consult on what inspections to get.
5. Save Extra Money
After you pay the down payment, the closing cost, moving fees, etc., there are still a bazillion things you have to buy.
Save money for the things you need:
- changing the locks
- security systems
- a lawn mower
And for the things you want:
- new furniture
- a grill
- and landscaping
6. Prepare for the Unexpected
Remember I mentioned our costly plumbing repair a bit earlier? Well, we were in complete shock when our showers and toilets malfunctioned within ten days of moving into our new house. Thankfully, we had an emergency fund and were able to pay for the repairs.
I recommend establishing a monthly maintenance fund for your home for the problems that will come.
7. Ultimately, You Are Alone
Home ownership is not like renting. Therefore, research and budget for all your potential home needs, such as pest control, home repairs, lawn care services, etc.
There is no one to call when stuff breaks. Because we had just purchased, we’d thought the former owner, contractor or agent would help us navigate our plumbing problem. They didn’t.
Ultimately, you are on your own as a home owner. So don’t make the mistake we did.
8. Write a Letter
In a multiple offer situation, consider writing a letter to the owner, explaining why you love their home. The owner told us that’s why he accepted our offer…even though it was $3,000 less than another offer. Of course, there’s no guarantee it will work.
But several of my friends have won bidding battles with this tactic also.
9. Don’t Rush
“You can’t steal a house, Simone. You just need to get a part-time job and a roommate and figure out how to make this house work.” That’s what our agent told us after we declined to put an offer on a house that was out of our price range.
Don’t be bullied, and do not rush.
It may take a while to find the perfect house. And your real estate team may try to pressure you to hurry and make a decision (because that’s when they make their money). But you are the one that will make the mortgage payment for the next 15 to 30 years, and you are the one that has to be satisfied.
10. It’s Business, First
I really liked our agents, they were nice and returned our phone calls. So I expected they would help us even after we purchased. I liked the house…so I trusted the owners and contractors would do their best. But, ultimately, this is just a business transaction.
You are the one that makes it a home.
A new home can be a blessing or a a curse. I’m hoping when you buy a home, it’ll be nothing but a blessing:)
BMWK: What advice do you have for new/aspiring home owners?
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