Several months ago, my husband and I purchased our first home (as a couple).
We were ecstatic about finally owning our own place, large enough where we could walk through the home and not feel like our son and his toys were trying to slowly shove us out so they could claim squatters’ rights. Going through the process of purchasing a home was… emotional. Interest rates kept increasing and sellers still had the upper hand in the market. We continuously got outbid on homes, even though we were offering $5,000 to $15,000 over asking price.
Even after we finally found a home we agreed on, put an offer on it, and had the offer accepted, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going to come and mess everything up. And we have had some events that have made me miss the liberation of not adulting and being responsible for maintaining a home. Even though this is the second home I’ve purchased, there were several things that I wish I’d known before this purchase that I didn’t see on other blogs covering the process of buying a home.
Most people probably already know the basics like: you have a better chance of having an offer accepted if you are pre-approved by a lender, that you should always have a home inspection, and that you should have a general idea of what you want in a home before you begin your search.
Here are some other things to think about that I wish I’d known before buying either one of my homes:
Do your research… but don’t be afraid to deviate from your list
When my husband and I first began looking at homes, we compiled a list of all our must-haves:
- Large, open kitchen and dining area
- Close to our son’s daycare
- Short commute
- Corner lot
- Large yard
- Built after 1978
- At least 2000 square feet
- Bathrooms with garden tubs
- Game room
- 4 bedrooms so we could convert one into a study
- Stainless steel appliances
- Lawn with Bermuda grass (that was all Josh)
- Top rated school district
- Low property taxes
- No pool
- Less than $250,000
No wonder we had so much damn trouble finding a house.
Luckily, it didn’t take us too long to figure out that our must-haves were far from actual must-haves. We began our house hunting during a tough market for buyers. There was next to no chance of finding all of what we wanted, staying within our budget, and living anywhere in the DFW Metroplex. We knew we wanted a home where we would be able to grow a family for the next few years. But we also knew that we wanted to be conservative in our budget so we could spend our money on traveling or other things besides a mortgage.
In the end, we tossed half of our must-haves and, even though we still ended up going over our budget slightly, we found a home that we felt could house our growing family.
Plan for your house for your life in 5 years
Unless you plan on flipping homes, odds are that you will remain in whichever house you choose for a few years. It’s easy to consider what’s convenient or desirable to you now. But what do you do when the adorable 1200 square foot 2 bedroom bungalow that you purchased above your initial budget, pushing your monthly finances to its limit, isn’t enough to accommodate the first planned (hopefully) kid? There’s nothing wrong with buying a house based on your current needs. However, if you don’t also consider your future situation, you might find yourself in a position of having to sell and move without much equity in your home or, worse, having a market that’s turned against you and not being able to sell at all.
Don’t downplay the significance of the commute time
While we were still young and impressionable early on in our home search, my husband offered the suggestion of searching for homes in areas such as Prosper or Little Elm, where we were more likely to find affordable (and newer) homes with everything on our list My full time job allows me to work from home during the week and, even on the days I would have to go into the office, I still probably wouldn’t have had to commute longer than 30 minutes.
Josh’s commute would have turned into an hour and a half. Each way. At best. Even though Josh would be the one having to put up with that hell everyday , there’s no doubt that both of us would have been affected. He rarely gets off before 5:30PM and often works much later than that. Our son has a habit of turning into a raging asshole right before bed. It doesn’t matter when we put him to sleep; he suffers from hardcore FOMO and doesn’t like missing out on all the action happening outside of his bedroom.
So you think I’m going to put that demon child to bed every night by myself without any sort of backup? No no no no no. There’s some other woman out there, much better than I, that would gladly make that sacrifice. I am not afraid at all to admit that my husband picked wrong with me if that’s the sort of woman he is needs in his life.
Plus, I am of the very unscientific opinion that the willingness to spend hours of our day commuting to and from work is part of what is killing Americans.
HOA Bylaws – READ THEM
If you have the fortune to live in a neighborhood with a Homeowners’ Association (HOA), you already know that it sometimes seem as if they’re determined to not let you live your best life. If you thought that homeownership meant doing whatever you damn well pleased with your own house, you obviously haven’t received a strongly worded letter from your HOA telling you to stop that shit right now.
During my 1.5 year stint out in California, I lived in a condominium community with some of the harshest HOA regulations in the city. Seriously. If I’d been smart enough to check out the Yelp for the HOA beforehand, I would have been privy to this information. Some of the big no-nos included:
- Using noodles or floaties in the pool
- Owning any sort of pickup truck or motorcycle that you intended to park on the premises
- Visible bicycles, even if they are just sitting in your car
- Having more than the maximum two potted plants
After two violations within 1 week of each other, I decided to finally read the bylaws. To my horror, I found that the HOA also policed the time period for seasonal decorations. No Christmas decorations allowed until December 1. I would be damned if I permitted anyone to restrict my Christmas celebration to a mere 31 days.
When I started the process of moving back to Texas, I wanted to find someone to rent the unit. Unfortunately, prospective renters were a little more wizened than myself and they had read the Yelp reviews. I did eventually secure a renter, but I’ve avoided HOAs since then. Staying away from homes with HOAs isn’t necessary, but do know what you’re walking into before finalizing the purchase.
Look up what cable/Internet providers service your area
I haven’t yet confirmed whether I can legally trash talk my prior Internet provider without the risk of a lawsuit, even if everything I were to say was true. So, to be on the safe side, I won’t throw out any names. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. And I refuse to ever be put in the position where I’m forced to submit to this company’s crappy services. Many homes and neighborhoods only have access to certain cable/internet companies because of… well, I don’t know, I think it has to do with wires or jumper cables. Anyway, unless you search for who’s available in your area, you might find yourself obligated to go with a company you can’t stand. They know you have no other options so they don’t give a damn about you either. Sounds fun, right?
Get a basic plumbing leak test done in addition to the home inspection
I know there are so many costs that come with closing on a home, it’s hard to justify adding another one. But hear me out. Your home inspector may be able to catch signs of other major issues with your home (such as cracking in the drywall indicative of foundation movement) that would allow you to either request concessions/repairs from the seller or hire an expert to do a more thorough inspection. But finding a significant plumbing issue is trickier. If it’s a slab leak, then there may not be physical evidence of leak inside the home. A water bill may or may not imply the presence of a leak but, as the buyer, you likely have no idea what the water bill should be. And it’s unlikely that you’ll have access to that information before your purchase of the home anyway.
On top of that, plumbing repair bills can be pricy. I’m talking in the tens of thousands of dollars. You may be paying that kind of money to repair a problem that existed long before you bought the home. Standard leak tests (without isolation of the leaks) will run you between $200 and $300 (in the DFW area). To me, having that peace of mind makes paying those costs worth it. I’d much rather confirm no plumbing leaks or be allowed the opportunity to negotiate additional concessions from the seller if issues are found.
Do not Chip and Joanna Gaines your way through your home
Like my husband and I did. We renovated our house from top to bottom – ripped out laminate floors, installed new engineered flooring, pulled up tile, replaced the carpet, tore down walls and paneling. Josh did all the heavy construction stuff, but I painted every damn room of that house myself. To this date, I’m still not sure who had it harder. What I do know is that heading to our house to work on the renovations after working full time at our jobs and taking turns watching a baby was the most exhausting period of my life. The only good thing about that exhaustion was that Josh and I were generally too tired at the end of the day to snipe at one another even though we were constantly irritated from all the work we were doing.
“Painting party” is an oxymoron
Speaking of painting, I dare someone to try to trick me into doing the devil’s work by inviting me to a painting party. Nope. Not doing it. Painting is the WORST. It you don’t have the patience for it, you end up with screwed up edges at best and paint in your eyeballs at worst.
And my whole body hurt like a bitch afterwards. I’m not sure how painting worked out every single muscle group in my body to lead to me being that sore afterwards. I think I must have unconsciously tensed my body due to my hatred of painting since it always felt like I’d survived a car wreck after a few hours of it.
If you can avoid it, do so.
I do plan on expanding on some of the lovely experiences we’ve had in the new home after we moved in (such as finding a wall filled with carpenter ants in our master bedroom). But, in the meantime, comment below if you feel like there’s anything else one needs to know about buying a home that frequently gets overlooked!