You’ve heard it is one of the most important, most emotional, and biggest decisions you can face, but how exactly do you buy your first home?
We are not claiming to be experts, but we successfully purchased our first home even though the experience scared the crap out of us. We learned a lot, and we’d like to share some personal advice with you.
There is no shortage of information on buying your first home, but we wanted to put a list together that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. This is advice that the experts don’t talk about, advice you would get from a friend.
As a first-time homebuyer, this is a BIG decision. Pre. Pare. Don’t let the situation take you for a ride. Be in control by doing your own homework. Read the advice of professionals.
Don’t walk into house-hunting blind, you will get hit by a firing squad of advice, information & marketing.
As long as there is a loan & money securely in place, it is shocking how easily you can purchase a multi hundred-thousand dollar asset without really letting it register emotionally.
We recommend Buying a Home: The Missing Manual. It provided a good broad set of information about the entire process. Being prepared makes the it go so much smoother on everyone’s end, especially yours.
2. Build your team
Realtor, Broker, Home Inspector. Insurance Agent. These are just a few of the people that you want with you along the way.
Some people like to shop all on their own, do all the legwork themselves, access the MLS and save the commission for themselves, and that is great for them. They’ve probably done all of this before.
The vast majority of first-timers have no experience & want people on their side who can help guide them through this process. Good people that will be on your side can be hard to find. If you want a good team, be willing to pay the 3% in commissions for them. They are usually worth so much more than money, they are worth peace of mind.
Build a team of people you trust and you’ll relieve a lot of stress and worry.
3. DON’T fall in love!
The reason most people get house fever is that they fall in love with one property and then get dead-set on it. There’s a tunnel that separates them from the rest of the homes and they can’t imagine living anywhere else.
There were a few houses slightly above our price range that we thought we loved. By staying firm on price, we were able to find a house that had everything we wanted along with the right price tag.
4. DO make some snap decisions
We had started looking for houses with 3 whole months to find something. Then, even if we didn’t find anything, we were prepared to keep looking and stay put.
In actuality, it really only took 3-4 weeks to find something we really loved. We busted our house-hunting butts for weeks and we were both exhausted by the time it was over.
In this hectic pace, we had to make quick decisions. There are so many options and choices to make that some must be made quickly in order to succeed.
Good houses can move lightning-fast, and sitting on the fence with small decisions can cost you a lot in the long-run.
(Side Note: Don’t waste the realtor’s time on wild goose chases for properties you only half-like, either. There were many times we would check out a house that looked good in pictures, and within seconds of entering the home, we knew it wasn’t going to work. You don’t have to be nice and cordial with your realtor by wasting their time walking through an entire house you won’t buy.)
5. Stay firm on budget
Plan your family’s budget and expenses. Houses are expensive, and you must be financially prepared when buying.
General rules are to allocate no more than 25%-30% of your take-home pay to PITI (or Principal, Interest, Taxes & Insurance for the home), and know that if you go over this, you are potentially cheating your family out of the ability to build up savings in other areas of life for other expenses and emergencies.
If the home you like is on the high side of your price range, step back and think if that’s something you really can handle in the future.
6. Stay organized
If you’re really looking for a house, chances are you’ll be looking at more than a half-dozen homes in a Saturday or more. All of the little nuances of a home can quickly get lost in the shuffle.
Many recommend taking pictures of each home, which is great if that helps you. We found that we didn’t end up needing a ton of pictures and we spent more time inspecting the details of each home while we were there.
- We only took pictures if we really liked a home.
- We reviewed the houses at the end of our trips and wrote down comments on the printouts from our realtor.
- When we got down to 2 or 3 properties, we made a Pros & Cons list so it was easy to see the differences in properties
- We kept our communication consistent with our realtor & broker. We CC’ed each other in email chains and made sure we all knew what each other were doing.
7. Go to the home inspection & pay attention!
We were shocked when we realized that not everyone attends a home inspection. We were expecting someone from both parties and likely both realtors to be attending the home inspection.
It turns out we were the only ones who actually attended! It was an invaluable opportunity for us to learn about:
- The internal structure of our new home purchase
- Potential problem areas
- Basic home maintenance
- Items to prioritize for future replacement
- Good working knowledge of the home and its basic functions.
We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention our wonderful realtor Barb Carroll. She was professional, punctual, and had a great sense of knowing what we wanted before we did. If you are in the Cincinnati area, check her out when you are ready to buy.
We hope that some real-world advice from actual first-time buyers will ease your mind about the whole home-buying process.