There are few people you can learn better from than the ones who have been there/done that. In her Forbes article outlining her experience as a first time homebuyer, Julia Delitt names a few things she did not expect from it.
Dellitt and her family were living in an apartment, finally ready to make the big move. So they did their homework — checking their credit, getting pre-approved for a loan, finding a Realtor they wanted to work with, and doing the rounds of open houses on weekends. On that first weekend, they made an offer, only to find the experience not quite as simple as it had looked on HGTV.
While they eventually found just the right house. . .
. . .here are a few things she says they learned. A big one was not even a consideration at the beginning of their house hunting expedition — transition. Because they were renters and started looking for a home about three months before the lease on their apartment ended, they assumed they’d plenty of time to find something, and if that were not the case, they could rent month-to-month. Instead, the exact opposite happened. They ended up having to cover both their new mortgage and previous rent for a month. This is something homebuyers see as a worst-case scenario, so they don’t plan for it, according to many real estate experts.
Having some extra contingency funds for expenses that turns out to be more than anticipated (movers, closing costs, extra taxes, etc.) helps you avoid unnecessary financial headaches on top of such a significant investment.
It’s easy to chuckle at picky home shoppers when watching real estate reality TV shows, but when you see properties in real life, you can surprise yourself — becoming one of the very people you criticize when watching those shows.
Dellitt advises would-be home buyers . . .
. . .to stop complaining about the small stuff that can be easily fixed — like ugly wallpaper, old vinyl floors or melamine counter tops, reassuring them that so much can be changed or fixed along the way.
Another thing rookie homebuyers tend not to focus on is how their wish list may be unrealistic within their own budget for a home. If you want an attached garage, a fenced-in backyard, and a downtown location, there is a point at which you may find those three things are incompatible. In the end, Dellitt and her family found a home in a quiet cul-de-sac with everything they wanted, but it was about ten minutes from the downtown area — not their original plan.
Her final warnings involve how unexpected paperwork can show up in your mailbox a while after your move — things like a request for a title abstract, or perhaps supplemental property tax bills, etc. And then there was the inspection that had been performed. She speaks of deferred maintenance items she knows she and her husband will no doubt have to address in the future — some small fixes and others will take a bit of budgeting. For the items that needed immediate attention, they negotiated with the seller and got bids from contractors.
Is the drama was worth it? “Despite almost losing our home of choice, I’m so glad we stuck to our guns,” says Dellitt. She encourages first-time buyers to ask questions, even if they sound like dumb ones. Don’t get hung up on how much you don’t know. “These feelings popped up big-time during the house-hunting process, especially when I blasted our Realtor with ten questions a day via text and email. But you know what? Good real estate agents want you to feel equipped and informed…”