Dear younger version of myself,
I know you have pie-in-the sky hopes for your first home. I know you think you’ll find the perfect house in great shape in the right neighborhood all within your tiny budget. Your naivety is probably really cute to your realtor.
I know this house hunt has been weighing heavy on your mind. I know you feel discouraged, and you probably think you’ll never end up in a place of your own. That may be true or it may not be. Don’t worry about it. For now, let me save you some heartache and give you a few pointers:
Be financially prepared. Save up, save up, save up. Be prepared to put at least 20% down. (This is more worth it than you think.) Get pre-approved for a mortgage so you know how much house you can afford, then aim lower. If you buy at the top of your budget, it can become very stressful to manage the mortgage, home repairs, and other bills. If, however, you buy under budget, you will allow yourself much more financial freedom down the road. (This includes factoring in a monthly budget for home repairs too!)
Be patient. Just expect that this process will most likely take a very long time. Even if you start looking today and pick a house tomorrow, and your offer just happens to be accepted, and there are no problems with the inspection, mortgage, appraisal, paperwork, etc., it will still most likely be weeks to months before you can move in.
Expect the worst, hope for the best. Realize that problems will frequently arise. Your inspector might find an expensive problem to fix. The seller may withdraw from the market. Perhaps there will be a problem with the deed, or your ability to get a mortgage will fall through. Obviously, nobody hopes for these types of problems, but it’s better to brace yourself for the worst so it’s not a shocker when it comes.
Don’t attach yourself right away. It’s easy to get that feeling that the house you fell in love with is “the one.” You see yourself raising your kids there, cooking in the kitchen, settling by the fireside. It’s good to think about whether or not a house will meet your needs. However, It can be a real let down if the deal falls through. Keep this in mind as you search.
Think of selecting a house like a marriage proposal. Think about marrying your house. Just like when you’re dating, there will be many features that you really like and really dislike about your house. You can blind yourself by viewing only the good, and later end up being disappointed when you uncover the uglier parts of its character. Better to have a realistic view of your house, both the good and the bad, right from the start. Then you can freely choose to love it, commit to the necessary maintenance of your relationship, and make the best of it.
Take it easy, sister. Don’t stress. Wait until you’re really ready so you don’t commit to something that will end up being a financial burden. Be patient, don’t get in over your head, and this whole thing will work out for the best in the end.
With love from your future home-owning self,