This time last year, I had made the decision to move out on my own. Now moving out on your own for the very first time is a really big deal, so I wanted to make sure that I got what I wanted. All of the apartments that I desired to live in were in ideal places in the city; however they were extremely overpriced. That’s when I decided to consult with some of my family members and became intrigued at the idea of buying a house. On June 30th, 2017, I closed on my first home, and I can honestly say it was one of the happiest moments of my life. The road definitely was not easy, but I’m grateful for the learning experience. With that being said, here are a few lessons that I learned from my home buying experience:
- Make sure you have a strong support system.
The home buying process could potentially be one of the most stressful experiences that you go through. Things may fall apart and not work out in your favor, and literally all of it could be out of your control. I was grateful that I was able to vent out my frustrations to my mom, as well as have her guidance and reassurance. I talked to my friends who currently owned homes to get their advice, which was really insightful. My real estate agent was also very helpful and patient, which calmed me down during stressful times. This actually brings me to my next point…
2. CHOOSE YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT WISELY!!
Your real estate agent will make or break your whole experience; therefore your selection is extremely important. I got my real estate agent’s info through a friend, and I don’t think I could have made a better decision. On our first meeting, he sat down with me and walked me through the entire home buying process, gave me a book, answered all my questions honestly, and listened to my needs. He also did not charge for his services, but was still very efficient. (Tip: All real estate agents do not charge for their services; and some are more efficient than those who do charge) For a first time homebuyer, you need to make sure that your real estate agent is open and upfront about the process to prevent you from being blind sided later on. Speaking of being blindsided….
3. Make sure you have the funds you need set aside before you even start looking at homes.
One thing that my real estate agent did in our first meeting was present me with a breakdown of fees I would have to pay throughout my home buying process. In addition to the down payment, there was the earnest money, the home inspection fee, homeowners insurance, the appraisal fees, surveying fees, etc. These fees range between the cost of $100-500 dollars, but they are essential to making sure that your home is purchase ready. Most people focus on the final cost of the home, but you can’t get there, until you get these fees out of the way. If your real estate agent fails to mention this information to you on your first meeting, you may want to reconsider.
4. Credit and income is key!
This is pretty much self explanatory. You should already be on top of your credit and monitoring your credit score before you even think of buying a home. You also need to factor in your income and how much you are able to pay each month while still being able to live within your means. One thing I learned throughout the process that I didn’t know before, was that you could get a 15 year mortgage loan or a 30 year mortgage loan. A 30 year mortgage loan will be definitely be a cheaper payment each month; however, you will own your home faster with a 15 year mortgage loan. Guess which mortgage loan I went with?
5. Make sure you have in mind the areas you want to live in!
When I was looking to buy a home, I had decided on a few areas in my city that I wanted to live in. I am a single female so safety was definitely a huge factor. I also wanted to be in close proximity to the city and to my jobs. One thing to remember is that certain areas in your state are going to be more expensive than others. The outskirts of town are more than likely less expensive than the parts of town closer to the city; however, you don’t want to compromise your happiness. Check with your real estate agent to see if there are locations in your area that you may have overlooked that could be a better fit for you. Not only is the area key, but the types of homes are also key, which means….
6. Be open to looking at different types of homes.
I originally wanted a single family house and I was not interested in anything else. After telling my real estate agent that I was afraid of spiders and really was not trying to take care of a yard, he recommended town homes. I was still opposed to the idea. (Yes, I am a little stubborn.) It wasn’t until he started to send me townhouse and condo listings that I understood where he was coming from. In the end, a town home definitely won my heart. Want to know how many homes I looked at before I decided on mine? The answer is zero. This brings me to my next point….
7. You don’t need to look at a bunch of houses to know that you’ve found the one.
It’s kind of like dating. When you know deep in your heart you’ve found Mr. Right, are you gonna pass him off to the side to risk losing him? When I pulled up to look at the town home, I thought it was the cutest little thing! Then when I looked inside, I absolutely loved it and it had met all the criteria on my checklist. I still was a little hesitant so I had my mom and sister come back and check it out. They also loved it. The lady selling the home also left me the highly used washer, dryer, and refrigerator so I was actually going to be saving money. She even left me her vacuum cleaner! I honestly didn’t think I’d find a better deal in a nice area with all of the amenities that come along with it.
**Sidenote: Most town homes, condos, and lofts come with a fee in addition to your mortgage payment. Don’t count them out without doing your research.Make sure that you check what comes with those fees and if it’s actually a better deal than what you would pay living in a house. For example, my townhouse fee includes sewer, garbage, water, and maintenance on my little front yard. If I was living in a standalone home, I know for a fact I would definitely be out of pocket way more money…especially for my water bill!
8. Be on the lookout for down payment assistance programs.
I actually qualified for a grant to help with a down payment on my home. Be sure to ask your real estate agent about these type of programs. Of course they may have certain regulations, but it won’t hurt to find out what is being offered in your area. The grant I ended up using did not put very many restrictions on me. It was based on my income how much they lent me and I have to live in my home for a minimum of three years. These kind of programs could definitely help to cut down costs and you could use that money you’d planned on the downpayment elsewhere. I ended up using the money I saved for my down payment on a new living room and bedroom set.
9. Go to a First-Time Home Buyer’s Class.
Another requirement for me to get the grant was to go to a first-time home buyers class. At first I did not feel like I needed to attend because I was already halfway done with my process, but the information I received was extremely helpful. It was only a day long and it also gave me the opportunity to talk to people who were going through the same difficulties I was. In addition to an informative class, I guess you could say it was sort of a group therapy session. I definitely recommend taking a class at some point during your process of buying your home because it puts a lot of things into perspective. They also will provide you with real estate agent’s contact info, home inspector’s contact info, etc. to make your process go by smoother. The class I took was only $35, but the information I received was priceless.
**Sidenote: If you don’t have time to go to an actual class, you can take a course online! I function better in classroom settings and it was on a weekend so it worked for me!
10. DO NOT GIVE UP!!!
I started my process of buying a home in late February 2017 and with the way the paper work was looking, I was expected to close in April. Well, God had other plans. Like I said earlier, I ended up closing on June 30th. So many things fell apart from February to June. I won’t get into all of the details, but I wanted to quit so many times and just forget trying to move out all together. (This is where that support system comes in handy.) Whether it’s during the saving money phase, or maybe it’s the phase where you don’t get approved for the loan you want; it’s inevitable that you are going to have moments that you want to give up. Please just take a moment to breathe and de-stress to realign your thoughts. My home-buying journey was not easy by any means, but that moment at the closing table when I received my keys to my dream home made it all worth it! Your moment will be worth it as well!
Hopefully I’ve helped you with my tips! Leave a comment if you have any questions or want to share any of your own home-buying experiences.