So you want to buy a house? Let me tell you why that will be the most nerve-wracking yet most rewarding decision you will make in your life! We bought our first house at age 23 (me) and 26 (Zach) and we are here to tell you that it is doable and not as scary as you might think!
As of June 2, 2017, Zach and I became first time homeowners! In April of that year (after paying a ridiculous amount in rent for 2 years) we decided to call New Braunfels our official home and begin the home buying process. As excited as we are to be in our house now, the stress level during the process was through the roof. So I am here to give you a few pointers on home buying from someone who went through it. I am in no way an expert but I am hoping our experience can help other people!
Tip 1: Know what you are comfortable spending and what location you want to live. Zach and I had many discussions about this topic. What we were paying for rent was high but not quite as high as a house payment would be. Living in NB is no joke and you really have to make sure you are getting the most for your money. We shopped around on realtor.com for a while to see what pricing was like in certain parts of NB. After living off of Hell’s Highway (aka 46) we knew we wanted to steer clear of any of the main roads in to NB. We decided on an area closer to Schertz and began looking at houses online we thought we would like. A good idea is to make a monthly budget and decide what your max allowance is each month for rent/mortgage. I use this Budget Workbook to help with all of our budgeting needs.
Tip 2: Find a good real estate agent who is willing to offer any and all advice. We work with an amazing real estate agent (hey Lesa!) who sent me a link that took me straight to a mortgage company to apply for a loan. We knew the price point we were comfortable in but we weren’t sure how much we would qualify for. Can’t start actually looking at houses until you know how much you can spend! The application process was super easy and we were approved for almost what we had requested by the end of the day! Then it came down to finding something we loved.
Tip 3: Look at houses. Here is the fun part! This wasn’t a very long process for us because we had already narrowed our search down online before we even went to look. We knew we wanted a semi-big yard, one story house that was newer and without an HOA fee. And I quickly found out that you can’t be that picky! You will never find EVERYTHING you are looking for unless you build you own home. We looked at two houses one night and it happened that we fell in love with the first house. However, it was in a neighborhood with an HOA fee so we had to be ok with that because the house was worth it.
Tip 4: Putting in an offer. We put in an offer the night we looked at the house. We discussed what a good starting offer was and we low balled them quite a bit. Don’t be afraid to ask for less than what its listed at! Real estate is a game of numbers. Discuss with your agent what a good offer is and go with it! In our case, they came back with a counter offer and threw in some more incentives for us so we accepted the offer! All in all, it took about a week to accept an offer. Then came the fun part!
Tip 5: Your life better be semi-organized or else you will go crazy. We decided to close on June 2nd because we still had our rental property until July 31 and we couldn’t pay both rent and a mortgage at once. This was not an issue however, it just means a little more work on your end. Our mortgage company was amazing and walked us through everything we needed to get for them. Which was a lot! To start, they want basically everything that says you are a good person, with a job, and make a certain amount. They want to see every bank statement for the past 3 months, letters explaining any gaps in employment (this was mainly for me due to internships), and explanations for any large transactions on your account. The best way to stay organized is to grab some file folders that you can sort out pay stubs, receipts, letters, etc. I highly recommend these Colored Accordion Files to help keep everything in order.
Tip 6: DO NOT open any new lines of credit, accrue any substantial debt, or make any large purchases. Once the mortgage company runs your credit and pulls a credit report, put those credit cards away, quit shopping for a car, and remove that fancy furniture set from your shopping cart online. Typically the buying process is quick so this isn’t a long term thing, although being debt free is a pretty good thing!
Tip 7: Be prepared to pay for some things out of pocket. For example, the inspection typically cannot be added into the final price and must be paid when the inspection happens. So make sure you have some extra $$ on hand to cover these expenses. While it might be a pain now, it will be worth it. Plus if you don’t have an extra $200-$300 right now, you might want to reconsider buying a house. Not trying to be rude but home ownership comes with big responsibilities. When something breaks, you are responsible for fixing it and that sometimes can cost a ton of money. Just know what you are getting in to and make sure you have wiggle room in your budget for unexpected expenses.
Tip 8: Make sure to be thorough in your final walk through. If something looks like it needs to be fixed, make note of it and don’t be afraid to ask for it to be fixed before closing. Would you buy a car with a flat tire? No way. So why buy a house where the shower head is leaking? Typically the homeowner will already have made any major changes that were found in the inspection. For example, there were a few cosmetic repairs the outside needed for our house and the shower head cord was too long in our guest bathroom so the previous homeowners went ahead and fixed those prior to our walk through. We did get very lucky with amazing sellers but just be prepared to ask for what you want and don’t be afraid.
Tip 9: Be prepared to sign a million and two papers. When you make it through all of the above steps and you are finally at closing day, be prepared to sit at a table with a large stack of papers in front of you. You will literally sign everything under the sun. You also have the chance to set up your mortgage payments so make sure to bring your bank and routing information (you can also set this up later, don’t stress). This step might seem tedious but it will be worth it when the title agent says “Congratulations” and you get to take a photo with the big key shaped sign.
Tip 10: Don’t be afraid to invite family over when you get the keys. We had all of our family with us and everyone was so excited for us. We got pictures of us outside and video of us walking through the door for the first time as homeowners. It was a great moment to share with those who have supported us through the journey.
Tip 11: Make it your home. You don’t have to go all Joanna Gains on the interior decor but pick pieces that you love and represent you. You will have plenty of time to decorate so don’t rush. We are almost 2 years into living in this house and are slowly still decorating.
There you have it! Just a few real world tips from someone who went though the process herself. It can be challenging but it is oh so rewarding!! Don’t be afraid and good luck!