A big reason why I haven’t been on this blog or social media much in the last year? We bought a house in December! And boy, did I learn a lot through the process. While I know this is a running blog, I thought I’d share our first-time home buying experience for others out there who might also be terrified, confused, and overwhelmed at the idea of jumping into home ownership (because we sure were, and honestly still are)! SO here are my top five things that they don’t tell you about buying your first house.
- It costs a LOT more than they say it will.
Those mortgage calculators online are ALL WRONG. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have, the total you’re going to end up paying each month is never going to be as low as those estimators will tell you. Because if you do a little research, those calculators are almost always sponsored or offered by mortgage providers or other entities that have a stake in getting you to apply for a mortgage with them. Of COURSE they’re going to want you to think you can afford that bigger loan! Don’t believe them. Figure out your monthly budget and go by that.
In the same vein, you’re going to have to pay for so much more than just the down payment. Inspections, septic tank sweeps, any work you may need to do before you can move in… it all adds up. Whatever those estimators say your down payment should be, err on the safe side and add $3,000 or more to that, and make sure you have it in CASH. You’re going to need about that much cash on hand to cover all of the miscellaneous costs that will come up during the process, while still having enough to cover closing.
Follow up on EVERYTHING.
If you’re Type A like me, buying a house is going to drive you insane. Because people are gonna people. They’ll make mistakes. They’ll forget things. For example, the person responsible for getting your home insurance set up will do things like write 2021 on the policy instead of 2022, thereby expiring your insurance one month in. Or your mortgage may get sold one week after you close and the new owners of your loan will send paperwork to your old address so you won’t get it until three weeks after the payment is due, falsely sending you into collections.
What I’m trying to say is this: double and triple check everything once it’s “done”. Because chances are, someone missed something or didn’t hit send or entered a wrong number, and it’s going to end up creating much more work down the line.
This brings me to my next tip:
You REALLY need to like and trust your real estate agent.
We love our agent, Aggie, like family. If I thought I was the one that stayed on top of things, she was on top of ME. She had been through this process so many times, so she’d seen it all. She was there to tell me to relax when something worried me, like the crack in the front door window, but also gently reminded us to be more serious about other things, like getting the anti-tipping bracket installed on the oven. It was the first thing the town inspector went for, yet we’d never heard about it in our lives!
Most importantly, she was the bulldog we needed when the seller started acting foolish, and she even kept me company when I would have been alone during a plumbing inspection. And it was a good thing too bc that plumber was cree-py with a capital C.
One thing a realtor can’t help you with, however, is the next thing on my list:
Take time to plan your move, and start earlier than planned (if you can).
Because the house we bought was only about a mile away from where we moved from, we originally thought we’d do most of the move ourselves in small batches over a few days/weeks, then hire movers to get our big items in.
We were so stupid.
Cars are only so big, and if you’re an average human, your stuff probably takes MUCH more than a few trips back and forth. Hell, lamps took up all of one trip entirely. On top of that, movers turned out to be out of our budget because closing costs were an extra $5K above what we’d planned for (see tip #1 above), so we had to go the U-Haul-and-friends route.
Which we will never do again.
You can only ask so much of friends, and do so much with the U-Haul truck while you have it. We started at 9am with 4 people, and by the time I had to return the truck at about 4pm, we still hadn’t even touched our closets or spare bedroom. But we were determined to get it all done so we pushed through, so we packed, loaded up and drove boxes back and forth between the two houses for the next SEVEN HOURS. We packed up the final load, with the turtle and the cat in their respective boxes, along with our TV carefully laid across our mattress pad, and closed the door on the old house for the last time just after midnight the next day… and still had to set up at least the mattress before we could crash for the night.
0/10 stars. Would not recommend.
But that leads me to my last and final tip:
Wait a while to decorate and renovate.
I am the worst at waiting, especially when it comes to decorating and unpacking. I wanted everything to be perfect as soon as we moved in, but unfortunately, perfect costs MONEY. And once we signed those closing papers, we suddenly didn’t have much of it. We needed some time to build our cushion back up. At first I hated the idea, but it actually worked out: living in the space for a month or so before getting everything “set up” and “finished” gave us a chance to actually see if we really did want to keep the living room laid out like that (we did) or if we really did need those god-forsaken overhead kitchen cabinets that I kept hitting my head on (we didn’t).
Living without everything in perfect harmony around me was a tough adjustment – I’m the type that straightens the pillows on the living room couches before going to bed – but it ended up being worth it. We found the right arrangement and also didn’t waste any more time or money redoing things because we got it wrong the first time.
I’m sure there are about a million other things I could go on about if I think hard enough, but these are the things that stand out.
What about you: do you have any first-time home buyer tips? What about the process shocked you? Share in the comments!