Here are some tips for buying your first home, and 10 things I wish I knew…
All of our recent home renovations had Chris and I thinking back to how our house looked and felt when we first moved in, because things were mighty different…
Buying our first home was no piece of cake.
It took us a while to find the right home for our family.
When Chris got out of the Navy after ten years of service, our plan was to move from my hometown in North Carolina to his parent’s town in Michigan.
His family was much larger than mine and had waited 10+ years for the opportunity for him to finally move back home.
We talked with my family, and even though they were sad that we would be moving 15 hours away, we decided that alternating holidays and summers would be just fine!
My family would get to experience snow when they came to visit us, and we could visit the beach when it was time to head down south to my parents.
Once we moved to Michigan we stayed with family members as we began our search, and Chris and I went to many open houses.
We went back and forth trying to figure out what we wanted and needed for our growing family.
With one little boy under our roof and plans for more to come, we sat down and made a list of essentials.
Things like a big yard, more than one bathroom, and so on.
We finally found a house that felt like home from the second we walked in, and walked in a couple of months later with our moving boxes and giddy smiles.
There was plenty to learn when it came to our first home buying experience though!
This post is sponsored by Homes.com, the folks that can help you through every stage of buying, selling, renting, or refinancing your home; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Don’t Fall In Love With A House
There was this house we saw online when Chris and I were first looking at homes to buy, and I can remember every picture of the listing.
We traded my laptop back and forth, oohing and ahhing at the size of the rooms, the beautiful central fireplace, and the kitchen layout.
We called it ‘Tanglewood’ because that was the name of the street in its address.
The house sold quickly before we were ever able to even connect with a realtor and see it in person.
We were both incredibly sad to see such a perfect house go just like that, because we had fallen in love with it and set our hopes so high to put in an offer.
With each home we saw, we found ourselves saying ‘It’s nice, but it isn’t Tanglewood…’
Unless you have the incredible gift of time travel or a wallet that never runs empty, know that falling in love with a house doesn’t mean it’ll be yours.
Even if you get the chance to put down an offer, the sale isn’t guaranteed!
If you are dead set on the way a home looks, try using the Homes.com Snap & Search feature, which will find available homes for sale with the same look in your price range!
I wish we had this option when we were house hunting – I’d love to have found a home similar to our Tanglewood.
Get An Idea Of What You Can Afford
The first step to buying a home is having an idea of how much home you can afford.
Homes.com has a mortgage calculator, which is a really useful tool to help you gain an idea of your future mortgage and calculate monthly payments.
Consider the Neighborhood
Even if you don’t have kids, always consider the neighborhood!
What is the crime rate like?
How are the schools rated?
Knock on the doors of the neighbors next door to your prospective house, and get a feel for who you’ll be seeing each day.
When we purchased our home, we loved it so much, but I wish we had done more research into the school district we were in.
While I can always drive my kids to a better school district with open enrollment, it certainly will have an impact on us when it comes time to sell our home and move.
Listen To The Home Inspector
This is key!
When buying a home, one of the most important days to come will be the inspection.
The inspector will go through the home and look at everything.
Depending on your loan type, certain issues that the inspector finds may impact the possibility of you being able to even purchase the home.
Be sure to listen to him/her and their recommendations – their job is to find all of the issues/problems, and things that need to be fixed before the sale can go through.
If the inspector says the garage roof will need to be replaced next spring, listen to them!
In some cases, problems found during the inspection will need to be taken care of by the seller.
Connect With A Real Estate Agent
In order to see the beautiful house(s) you’re looking to buy, you’ll need to connect with a real estate agent so you can take a tour!
Homes.com can help you find an agent close to you to help you with the home buying process.
*Don’t feel pressured to use the same realtor that a family member has used in the past, either. Your sister may be encouraging you to use the same person she used because she’ll get a nice referral check/bonus for referring you, but that may not always be the best option.
Try to find someone who understands what you want and need, and will be a pleasure to work with.
You will be spending a lot of time with your realtor signing paperwork, discussing what you need in a home, and working out the details of your sale.
They will also be accompanying you to the closing of the sale (read: more paperwork).
The person you need for the job may not be the same person your sister used, and that’s okay!
Just be sure you like them and enjoy working with them!
Smaller Yard Vs. Bigger Yard
You might not think that a big yard is important, and who knows – maybe it never will be important to you!
But if you have a large family, or multiple kids, or like to entertain – try to find a home that has a bigger yard.
You might have more grass to mow, but at least you will have the room you need for birthday parties, family get-togethers, and room for the little ones to run around and make memories in.
There’s also a lot of resale value in homes that have bigger yards!
So while it may not impact you, it might impact prospective buyers in the future when you decide to move.
You’ll Change Your Mind About What You Want
I thought I wanted a home with carpet in every room. I was also willing to sacrifice the size of our yard for more square footage inside (due to the cold weather in Michigan).
But now I find myself craving a bigger yard and more space outside.
Parties can get pretty cramped in our home, even in the summer.
Be Realistic About Renovations
Try to be realistic about the home repairs your new home will need.
It’s understandable that owning a home is expensive, and the longer you spend in your house, the more likely it is that you’ll be dedicating a portion of your savings to the pipes that are leaking or replacing the carpet.
For your first home, try to stick to signing your name on a home that only needs aesthetic repairs (such as paint, or replacing the kitchen sink), but stay away from any foundational repair needs.
Consider Property Taxes
One thing that most first-time homebuyers fail to think about is property taxes.
Property taxes include taxes levied by the county, and taxes needed to be paid to the school district, city government, and utility authorities.
This can greatly affect your mortgage, and impact your lifestyle depending on how high or low the taxes are and what that subtracts from your budget.
Your mortgage will include these taxes, and pool them into your escrow account so they can be paid off (usually twice a year in Summer and Winter).
You’ll still owe property taxes even if your mortgage is completely paid off, but you’ll be responsible for saving the money yourself and paying them when they are due.
Rooms Can Be Re-Purposed
Don’t be afraid to throw the rule book out of the window, and change things up when it comes to the rooms in your home!
With our home, we had two living rooms (a living room and a ‘family’ room), and a very small dining space.
After a few years of trying to cram ourselves in the kitchen for every meal and furnishing both living rooms for absolutely no reason other than that was what we knew the rooms were designed for, we made some major changes.
We wanted to make the most of our space.
These changes helped us make the most of our square footage, and maximizes the use of every room in our home.
Just because you have two living rooms doesn’t mean you have to use them for that purpose.
There were so many homes we passed on for this reason, and I think back to all of the spaces we could have reinvented!
Have you purchased your first home yet? If you have, what are some things you wish you knew the first time around? Share with me in the comments below!
*Post originally published September 2018, last updated December 2021.