What I Wish I Knew Before Buying Our First House
Buying our first house felt like such a huge accomplishment. When I was a little girl I loved to play house with my dolls and dream of having my own one day. I’m a very domestic person too and being cozy at home is one of my favorite things. Sure, I love to travel, but I love staying home just as much. Anyone else a major homebody?
Here are some things I wish I knew before buying our first house:
- Get Pre-Approved- This is something I wish we had done immediately before starting our home search. I thought you just would walk into an open house, sign some papers and be good to go. HA! You have to be pre-approved for a loan and if you don’t do that before finding your “dream house,” you could miss out and lose it to someone else. So first things first, get pre-approved!
- Look at the Bones of the House – When walking through a house really imagine your things inside, especially if it’s empty. I didn’t do that and therefore didn’t realize how small the master bedroom was. We only had about a foot and a half from the end of the bed to the wall. Remember there are some things you can change, and others that you can’t.
- Make a List of Priorities Before Shopping Around – What is it that you really want? Is a backyard important to you? Would you like to be close to your work? How much space do you want between you and your neighbors? One thing I didn’t think about until after we moved was how important a neighborhood park was. Our first house was walking distance to one so I totally took it for granted. Now that Augustine is older, it would be nice to just walk down the street to play. Instead, it takes a bit more time since I have to load both kids in and out of the car. It might not be a dealbreaker for people with older kids, or no kids, but for me, this is something I would have loved during these early parenting years.
- Have Good Representation – Since there’s so much technology at our fingertips when searching for homes, the buyer might be the one that finds a home, not the agent. Even still, it’s important to choose an agent for the skills they have to take you through the process from start to finish. Interview a few people and find something with experience and a reputable name in the community. A buyer’s agent costs nothing so go with the best of the best! And if you need the best of the best, I’d highly recommend two of our best friends: Hanna Azboy in Los Angeles and Daniel Vachon in San Diego!! Both are incredibly smart and detail-oriented!
- Get to Know the Neighborhood- Once you find the house, walk around the neighborhood a few times. This is something that would be really helpful so that you can get an idea of neighborhood culture. Are there a lot of kids on your street? Is it a busy street with lots of cars going by? One house we were considering was very close to the airport and we happened to be there when a series of planes were arriving and departing. We ended up still getting a house close to the airport, but not quite as close as that one was!
- Don’t Skimp on the Inspection – Inspections are when a third party inspector comes to look at the house while you’re in escrow. They go over everything with a fine-tooth comb – at least they’re supposed to! I would recommend having a second inspection or going with someone that is really good because that could make a huge difference in them finding a potential issue. Then, you can go back to the buyers and negotiate with them to fix the issue or offer a discount in cost. We had a seller who didn’t disclose that there had been a leak, and the inspector somehow didn’t catch it either. A few months later we had to completely re-pipe the house and guess who had to pay for that…yep us! By getting a solid inspection you can perhaps avoid thousands of dollars in expensive repairs because let me tell you, home repairs are not cheap.
- Know your Closing Costs – Know much you really need in the bank to close the sale. This number was a little startling to me so I’d recommend looking at a closing cost calculator during the beginning stages.
- Remember it’s Just a House– I can’t tell you how many houses Matthew and I saw that we fell in love with. We put offers in based on our heart and when we didn’t get them we took it so so hard. There’s one street Matthew and I refuse to even drive by because it makes us so mad and sad! So remember it’s just a house. Also, you don’t want to fall in love with a house to the point where you ignore potential problems or think you can afford more than you can. Try to be realistic when buying. Trust me, you’ll find the right house for you, whether it’s now or in a year. The important thing to focus on is the family that will live inside this house. That’s what ultimately makes a house a home, anyway!
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I’m curious to know what tips you have for buying a home! While there were a few things I knew before buying our first house, nothing really prepares you until you go through the process. Matthew and I like to think we’ll definitely be prepared next time!