01 Aug My First-Time Homebuyer Experience & Advice
After nearly three years working in the real estate industry as well as four years living in an apartment that only kept increasing in rent, the time came for my husband and I to purchase our first home. Excited to have something to call our own and start building equity, we began the hunt!
Though the prospect of house hunting and eventually decorating a new home excited me, I always imagined the purchase process to be daunting, with so many important and seemingly final decisions along the way.
Since I work with Realtors® every day and keep an eye on the market as a part of my job, I felt I would have an advantage over other buyers. However, I also realized, I’d never actually bought a home before so I definitely didn’t know everything. The process surprised me in a few ways, and I hope my insight can help other buyers (first time or not) prepare.
It was more emotional than I expected.
I don’t think you can truly understand it until you begin thinking about moving – your home is the foundation for your life and your happiness. Especially as an introvert, the stability in knowing where home is helps me feel at ease and confident in other areas of my life. So the nagging thought in the back of my mind that I wasn’t sure where we’d be in 30 days’ time was tough to silence. Change is hard, even when it is an exciting and positive one.
I think it is normal to shed a few tears when something doesn’t go your way or have to endure 24 hours of butterflies in your stomach waiting to hear if your offer was accepted but keep your eye on the prize. We hit a number of roadblocks along the way, but we kept our faith, knowing it would all be worth it once we were moved in – and it was!
The takeaway: If you start feeling a little drained, take some additional “me time,” and you should only start signing paperwork when you feel comfortable. I made sure I had some vacation days I could use not only to move but to have time to feel more settled before I got back into my routine. I also scheduled myself a massage for when it was all over – a nice reward to look forward to!
Throw your expectations out of the window.
My husband and I had a very clear idea of what we were looking for… so much so that we put an offer on the first house we toured! Before we knew it, we were under contract, but as soon as we thought we had it all figured out, everything changed. During the inspection (which happened to be on my birthday), we noticed some red flags, and we didn’t end up moving forward with that home.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Once we got back on the horse and looked at more homes, we realized just how many compromises we would have been making if we stuck with the first one. But even with house two, there were some tough decisions to make with repairs and further negotiations. It all worked out in the end, but things definitely didn’t go as “planned.”
The takeaway: There’s no magic number of homes you should look at before you make an offer and remember that even having your offer accepted doesn’t guarantee that’s where you’ll end up. It’s a process. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent questions along the way so you fully understand your options, and try not to put any unnecessary pressure on yourself for things to happen on a pre-planned timeline. Also, maybe don’t schedule a home inspection on your birthday…just in case.
Know that everyone will have an opinion but trust your gut.
Finding a home is very personal in many ways and initiates some self-examination. From understanding your finances to thinking about whether you’re going to have children to how many years you think you will live in the house, it is a lot to process and plan.
As personal as it can be, it is also something all of your friends and family will be curious about and have an opinion on. Sometimes I felt so excited I could shout from the rooftops, “We’re buying a house!” But I also had fears that some people wouldn’t understand why we were making certain decisions – how much we were paying, why we were choosing a certain location, etc.
The takeaway: Take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Everyone has had different experiences in their own real estate ventures that may lead them to feel positively or negatively about homebuying. At the end of the day, only you know what’s best for you.
Pick a great team.
What ultimately helped us feel confident in our decisions was knowing that we had the best possible team behind us from our real estate agent to our lender, our closing attorney, and our insurance broker.
I understand now why so many of our agents describe their business by saying that their clients turn into friends. For several months, I was talking to our Realtor® in person, on the phone, via text, or over email multiple times a day – almost more than I talk to my husband or mom! I knew it was important to pick someone we felt comfortable with, but I didn’t truly appreciate it until we went through some difficult decisions and conversations. Our agent’s positive attitude, encouraging words, and incredibly hard work was crucial to us having a great outcome and landing our dream home.
The takeaway: Work with people you trust and who have a proven track record of success – they will guide you through the process and eliminate as much stress from the equation as possible.
I could not be happier to be writing this post as a homeowner! It feels truly wonderful. To all of the buyers and sellers out there, I hope my advice has been helpful and I wish you the best of luck with your next real estate transaction.
One final piece of advice: Choose a Coldwell Banker Caine real estate professional, of course! Now, back to unpacking… or maybe just a glass of wine on our new porch.
About the Author
Marisa Stephens is the Digital Strategist and resident foodie at Coldwell Banker Caine. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, drinking craft beer and spending time with her husband, Louis, and their shorkie, Winston.