Buying a house can be such a fun, exciting, scary, hard, lengthy process! As some of you already know, my husband and I purchased our first home together a few months ago. The process of buying a house was completely new to us, and there are several things that we learned (good and bad) over the course of the few months we searched. I’ve decided to make a mini series of what I am calling Making a Home, so that I can post little snippets of our long list of to-dos, and projects that we endeavor in over the course of time. Naturally, for “Part 1,” I thought I would take it back a few months to share some of my experiences in the home buying world, and things I have learned along the way!
Expectations vs. Reality
Months (even years) before my husband and I purchased our house, I dreamt of what our house would be like. Pinterest helped me formulate my perfect dream home, complete with the craftsman build on the outside with the white shudders offsetting the pretty gray siding, and my little imaginary mud room on the inside. I was so excited to plan these things out and imagine our family living in our quaint little craftsman suburb! Let me tell ya, I make a darn dreamy Pinterest house.
When it came closer to the home search, we started browsing Zillow and a few other real estate websites. Quickly, very quickly, the reality of a 25 year old couple living on one income’s budget hit us pretty hard as we realized: we ain’t gettin’ no mud room. As a matter of fact, we weren’t getting a mud room, OR the pretty gray and white craftsman build, for a couple of reasons. One being, what is on the market when you are ready to buy greatly determines what kind of house(s) you can purchase (i.e. no craftsman houses for sale, no craftsman house for you). Secondly, our first time home buyers’ budget could not accommodate such fine splendor of the custom cabinetry and beautiful built-ins. No, no. We were looking at the houses with pink shag carpet and hunter green sinks, and trying to imagine what they would look like if we bought some big area rugs and slapped ’em down on top. I say this all light heartedly, because, if you are in the same season of life as we are (20 somethings, figuring life out, living on a prayer), then the first reality of home buying I’d invite you to join in sharing is this: It will NOT be your dream home. This was the saddest reality slap in the face for me, and quickly we began to think more realistically. After we came to terms with what our budget would buy, the search became easier, because we quit looking at the heart breakingly good looking and expensive houses that put us into a pity party, and began searching for what could become our home, with a little bit of tlc.
Another thing we learned about buying a house, is that it takes time! From start to finish, we were in the process of home buying for 3 or 4 months. Saying that now, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but when we first decided to buy, we were ready right then and there! We expected finding and buying to be a much faster endeavor, but we realized there is a waiting period in every step of the process. Talking loans with the banks (sidenote: I’d highly recommend shopping around different banks for the lowest interest rates, and what they can offer you), searching on the web for houses you would like to see, walking through some of these houses, putting an offer in, going back and forth between your real estate agent and the seller’s agent on said offer, and even closing on a home. By the time we had gone through all of these steps, a few months had flown by! With this process being brand new to us, we were not prepared for all of the waiting periods. Another important thing to remember is: it’s ok to wait if the right house isn’t out there for you yet! You will regret it in the long run if with all of your eagerness you jump into a house simply because it’s for sale and in your price range. Make sure it’s something you could love! When you buy it, its yours…the reality still hits me some days that this house is all ours, and not to be afraid to put some big ol’ nail holes in the walls, and to fix the fan on our back porch, and to replace that dang ugly dining area light fixture (my list goes on, but I’ll spare you). Being a home owner is a lot of responsibility, so be sure you love what you buy and if not, be okay to wait for one that you do!
Location is another big part of buying your first (and every other) house. We spent the first month and a half debating on where we wanted to be! I wanted to be in my hometown that is adorable and small, and comfortable. My husband wanted to be in his hometown, in which I pictured smelling manure and chicken plants. What helped us decide was sitting down one evening and making a list of where we go the most often; work, church, shopping, eating out, etc. After seeing this list, we realized my hometown, though I may still be a tad bitter about it, was just not practical. My expectations were to be in a small town with a downtown, historical feel, but reality was that our family needed something more central to our daily schedule! We settled on the edge of his hometown and about a 5 minute drive to one of our largest cities in NWA (which was a great compromise for me, because I spend a lot of time here). And so far, to my surprise and delight, I smell no cow manure and no chicken plant! Win-win. Other things to consider and ask yourselves with location in mind are: What school district would we like to be in? What is the neighborhood like? What are the near-by homes selling for? What is the neighborhood next to?
All of these questions are some that we hadn’t even considered until our real estate agent started asking us. Especially if you will consider your first home as your starter home and not your forever home, like we do, these factors can add value to your home or take away value, so take time to think about these things and be selective!
Before we totally dove into the home buying process, we hadn’t realized the extra costs, aside from the actual house. Most loans require a down payment of some degree (3-5% for first time home buyers normally). On top of this, there is usually a fee of a couple thousand dollars to even take out the loan. When we learned these things, we thought it was crazy talk! Why they takin’ all our money?! Most loans also have closing fees, for the real estate part and the title ownership part. This can also somewhat determine what price range you can afford, as you don’t totally want to wipe out all of your hard earned savings (that’s a lot of pb&j’s and canned bean dinners over the years in order to save back a few bucks a month-some of you know what I’m talkin’ about). After doing some number crunching, we did a lot of research and found a route that works best for us. Be aware of the reality of financial obligations of buying a house, as there is a lot to it aside from the sale price on the house! Do your research and talk to a few loan officers to see what works best for you, and it doesn’t hurt to compare rates and fees that different banks will apply!
Lastly, after we purchased our home and moved in, we realized there were a lot of blank walls and some empty square footage that made our house feel bare. And to be honest, it’s been about three months of living here and we’re still there! What we have learned in this stage, is to allow your house to slowly be filled with the right pieces, and the right touches. You don’t have to rush out to hobby lobby for that 40% off coupon just because you have a space on your wall that is bare! Part of making a house a home is imagining and creating a space that is uniquely yours…that can’t be done overnight! Don’t be afraid of a little project or two, whether big or small. The time and love invested into your spaces will make a special bond in your house for your whole family. Even if it’s not your forever home, or your dream home, it can still be your special home! I am so excited to make plans for our kitchen, and some other spaces in our home that will truly make it feel like ours. Granted, it may be a ways down the road, it’s fun to dream and plan, and I’m looking forward to sharing our home with you over the course of the next several months!
I hope my insight on first time home buying was able to encourage some of you who are thinking about or starting out in this journey! Even though our first house may not be what we see for our family long term, a house is made a home by the people you invite into it, and the memories shared there. I am excited to share some of our memories in our new house with you! Keep up with me and Oak and Earth happenings by following me on Instagram (@terapianalto). We love to hear your feedback, advice, stories and love getting to know you! If you share any O&E experiences, please hashtag #oakandearthblog so we can share it with you!
Peace and Love-