Often when I’m living through a season, I don’t always know what the lessons learned will be further down the road, even if I can identify the emotions I’m experiencing during the process. This was absolutely true as Dan and I searched for and closed on our first home.
It was such an exciting time of dreaming about our future and taking a huge step together in our marriage, but it can also be stressful, frustrating, and taxing on your sense of unity. Like so many other things in life, I think a lot of this stress comes from a mismatch in expectations versus reality.It's all about healthy expectations: 10 lessons learned from the #home-buying process. Click To Tweet
Now that I’m four or so months out from the home-buying process, I’m realizing that there are some very concrete actions you can take and mindsets you can adopt during this time that will help you to be less stressed, enjoy this season, and ultimately end up with a home that’s just right for you.
1. Decide in advance what you need in a house, what you really want, and what’s flexible. But don’t be afraid to change this list. Sometimes you don’t know what you really want or need until you get out there and see some homes. At the same time, avoid getting sucked into the trap of adding more “must haves” without compromising and moving a few items to your “nice to haves” category.
2. Start your search early . . . Once you decide it’s the right time for you to buy, it’s never too early to start looking. Download an app like Redfin that will allow you to view homes online and save your searches. Go out on home tours and figure out what you like and what you don’t. Even if you’re still months away from being able to start the negotiation process, it’s so helpful to picture yourself in different settings, figure out your needs, and get comfortable with touring houses.
3. But don’t get discouraged. By starting early, you need to go into the home-buying process with the understanding that many of the homes you see will sell before you’re ready to start making offers. The point of starting early isn’t to find your dream home right away and hope it’s still available months from now; it’s to learn about the home-buying process and get a clear picture of what you’re looking for in a house.
4. Avoid getting your heart set on a home . . . Because there are a number of hurdles to clear before closing: getting your offer accepted, possibly getting into a multiple-offer situation, passing home inspection, getting your loan, etc. If you’re blinded by emotions during any of these stages, you could end up making a decision you’ll regret later.
5. But don’t be afraid to let your emotions play into the decision. Buying a home is a huge decision, and if a house just doesn’t feel right or you can’t picture your family there or you don’t love it and can’t see the potential, even if the house meets all your criteria on paper, then move on. You need to love the house you’ll be paying for over the next 30 years.
6. Practicality trumps everything. A good layout should always win over pretty details and renovated kitchens. You can redo the aesthetic elements on a small budget; you can’t demo walls and rip out whole bathrooms on a small budget. Choose a house for its bones and structural elements.
7. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. And I mean the inside of the inside, not just the exterior versus the interior beauty of the house. If it’s within your budget, it’s certainly nice to have aesthetic updates that you’ll like and not have to redo, but those should not win over the big structural things. Always look for newer windows, roof, siding, and HVAC units. It’s not that these are impossible to replace, but they will cost you a ton of money without adding a ton of value to your home. These are also the changes that you’ll pay for without really seeing the impact. If I had to choose, I’d much rather spend $15,000 updating a kitchen than replacing the roof. (Though let’s be honest, I’d really rather put that money into retirement or take a few great vacations with it. Pretty much anything but replacing a roof.)
8. Buy smaller than you think you need. This one might be a little controversial, but I believe to my core that we don’t need all the space that America says we do. From a purely practical standpoint, don’t spend the top of your bank-approved budget. Often this budget translates into a monthly payment that is larger than what you may be comfortable paying, even if the bank determines that you can technically afford it. And then if someone in your family loses a job or faces a health crisis or any number of things, you have the flexibility to ride out the storm. Beyond that, though, I just don’t think big houses with tons of storage are necessary, nor do they contribute to greater happiness. It’s actually just a lot more to clean.
9. Be okay with growing into your house. Dan and I moved into our house in May, and now in August, we still have a completely empty dining room and living room, and we’re okay with that. It was not in our budget to buy furniture to fill these rooms, so we didn’t let ourselves feel the pressure to do so. We have friends and family over for barbecues, parties, and small group meetings without feeling an ounce of embarrassment at our “unfinished” house. We’ll furnish these rooms as money allows, and we won’t worry about it in between. Similarly, there’s no need to decorate and have everything in its place right away. There’s no rule that says one year into home ownership, your house needs to look “complete.” It’s okay to grow into your home over time.
10. Have fun! Buying a new home can be stressful, but it’s also a sweet time of anticipation and dreaming about your future. This is a big purchase and deserves to be treated seriously and considered carefully, but that doesn’t mean it’s life or death. Have fun touring homes and thinking about where your furniture will go and what colors you’ll paint the walls and how your kids’ feet will sound pitter-pattering across the floors.How to find a #home that's just right for you: 10 lessons learned from the home-buying process. Click To Tweet
What are some of the lessons your learned when you purchased a home? What do you wish you had known from the beginning of the process?
PS – In case you’re new around here, these are a few previous posts I’ve written about searching for and finding our first home: