Do’s & Don’ts Of Buying Your First Home
Home buying is probably one of the most stressful things Eli & I have been through as a couple. We found out in August that the military was relocating us, we closed on our home in mid-November & moved the first week of December. It all went so very q u i c k.
If you’ve been following along you know that we ended up going with a new build home — check it out here!
For us, ALL of our struggles throughout the home buying process occurred due to a third party, not each other. Phew.
Step 1 in this process needs to be ensuring that you and your spouse are on the same page with just about everything you want in your new home.
Want a downstairs laundry room? Need double sinks in the master bath? Would you prefer a gas stove in the kitchen? You’re going to have so many other stressors that having this hashed out before you start house hunting is almost a necessity.
Our situation may differ from some as our move happens to be halfway across the country and we had time constraints due to it being a military-move. Long distance moves are not my cup of tea. This caused limited time and resources to be available to us in almost every aspect possible. Live and learn!
*Spoiler* We put offers on THREE houses before landing on our dream home! 😩
1. Don’t sign any type of user agreement with a realtor until you are POSITIVE you want to work with them throughout your entire home buying experience.
We went to South Carolina to view homes. The realtor we had chosen to assist us in this process showed us nearly 20 homes in ONE afternoon and had us sign numerous forms less than 12 hours later. Shame on us for not reading each item thoroughly. This included a formal offer.
If you’re a first time home buyer, there are SO many terms… forms…. procedures…. GAH. So overwhelming!
Unbeknownst to us, one of the forms we signed our names on included a user agreement stating we were required to use this woman as our realtor regardless of how well she did (or didn’t do) her job. We did not realize this until we opted to buy a new build home, which doesn’t even require you to use a realtor. Long story short, we still had to use her broker after much back and forth.
They still earned a profit but did next to NONE of the work. I need to add as well that we chose this realtor from out of state from a personal referral. While it may seem ideal to do this, it could easily bite ya where the good Lord split ya.
2. Do make a list of items you can and cannot live without when you’re viewing homes, as well as pros and cons.
If either one of you doesn’t like a house, just walk out and don’t waste your time. This is something E and I did well. We would just give each other a look & we’d know it was time to leave and move on to the next home.
We knew that we needed at least 4 bedrooms, a home office, double-sinks in the master bath, & a gas stove. Some were necessity and some were for our sanity. As soon as we entered a home without any one or combination of what I just listed we would give each other the “nod” and request to see the next home.
It is super helpful to make a “Pros + Cons” list at each home as you walk through and view them. Also, take very detailed notes. You may forget an important detail later on, especially if you’re seeing many houses on one day, so be sure to jot all you can down while you have the chance.
This could help in avoiding an unnecessary second or third viewing later, too!
3. Don’t submit an offer on a home just because you feel pressured.
Read that as many times as it takes for it to sink in. Do not EVER sign your name on an offer for a home if you do not feel 100% satisfied and comfortable with the purchase. Buying a home is likely going to be the largest purchase you will ever make. You should feel as ease when signing your name on any dotted line pertaining to it.
We felt pressured by our realtor to make a decision on the original home we had an offer on. We were given less than 12 hours (8 of which we were sleeping) to choose one home out of the several we had viewed. The one we “decided” on I knew I disliked. I would have had to redo ALL of the floors. Uh… pricey! I was not at all happy with this choice and I knew it.
After signing the offer and getting in the car to drive form South Carolina to Illinois we were finally able to discuss in private the homes we had seen and the decision we had made. We quickly realized we had made a mistake.
We pulled out of the offer. We then put an offer in on the home we both loved out of the options seen the night before.
4. Do spend a healthy amount of time considering all pros and cons of each home you have seen privately.
Never make a decision before having time to digest everything about each home. If you’re viewing multiple homes in a day definitely spend a few days considering everything and making that pro’s and con’s list I mentioned above.
Using the thorough notes you took while viewing homes, sit down with your spouse and have a heart-to-heart regarding each and every one of them. Discuss what you loved and what you hated.
Like I said above, we had the opportunity to talk in the car for a solid 14 hours about all of the homes. We realized that we didn’t want carpet on the stairs. We couldn’t stand certain neighborhoods. Our furniture wouldn’t fit ideally in many of them. Our decor would clash in some. And… I could not buy a home that did not have the light + airy feel I wanted in my home. Feeling like your house is a home is EVERYTHING.
Don’t let a realtor pressure you into buying THEIR favorite home. Odds are it’s their favorite because of the commission amount they’re going to earn from the sale!
5. Do counter back-and-forth as many times as you feel is necessary.
This can be extremely stressful.
If there are items revealed after inspection that should be fixed (especially any of them large), make sure to counter to get them fixed OR ask for a reduction in price so you can fix it yourself.
You’re buying a home. It’s always better to over-ask than not ask at all.
I personally felt so bad to ask the seller’s to do additional work or fix items on the inspection list when I could tell they had spent money to prepare the home to sell. Thank goodness for E taking the reigns on this one… he had no problem countering back-and-forth 4… 5… 6+ times!
This is a situation where you shoot for the stars with requests. You’ll be surprised how much a seller is willing to negotiate and do for you to make the sale and get as close as they can to asking price. They want you to love the home as much as they did and they’ll likely work with you to make that happen!
6. Do view any single home as many times as you need to.
Our situation didn’t allow this as we only had one day in town to find a house. I pray none of you are ever put in that situation.
However, if you want to view a home more than once… DO IT. Your realtor will understand and so will the seller. You’re about to choose where to grow your family, spend Christmas with your kids, and retire with your best friend.
Viewing a home just one time won’t allow you to actually see every little thing you’re likely wondering about. Trust me. It never fails that you will have forgotten to look for a certain detail that will ultimately mean a lot to you if it’s not to your standards later.
Request to see that home a dozen times if you have to!
7. Long distance home shopping? Do give yourself ample time to view tons of them & make sure your realtor shows you the ones that you’ve requested to see.
This is probably my biggest regret with this experience. We took a 3 day trip. One day to drive from IL to SC. One day to view nearly 20 homes. One day to drive back home.
I wish so badly that we would have dedicated far more time to see different subdivisions, school districts and plenty more homes.
We had provided our realtor with 7 homes that we wanted to see. We had vetted them out and knew they had a lot of potential! When we arrived she only had 2 of our selected homes on her viewing list & about 10 homes that were her choice. This was incredibly frustrating. Her choices had several details that we did not like and were immediate “No’s” for us, which proved to be a waste of time.
Since we were able to shut down so many of her selections right away it gave us time to again go online and find homes nearby to hopefully see. At this point it was already past dinner time and finding homes that were for sale AND unoccupied proved difficult. We did manage to view about 7-8 more & one of them was the one we fell in love with.
Do not waste your time viewing homes that don’t fit your needs. If traveling a long distance, double-check with your realtor that she plans on showing you exactly what YOU want to see. If they can show you extras that’s great, but definitely make sure you’re getting the opportunity to view any and all you want to.
8. When purchasing from a different state, know that you don’t need to travel every time something needs signed.
You can sign almost everything via e-sign these days. There is also an option for mail-away for closing if you can’t make that.
Don’t want to or can’t do the mail-away option? You can get a Power of Attorney to sign the documents for you. There is usually cost associated with both mail-away and POA’s.
For us, this was extremely convenient since we were 800 miles away. Mail-away actually didn’t even mean the contract was mailed to us. Instead, it was signed by everyone else on our closing day, then scanned to us securely via email. We then had a notary witness all of our signatures and we sent it back. SO EASY!
However, the excitement of closing and getting that adorable picture in front of your new home doesn’t happen. Gotta pick your battles I guess.
9. Don’t dismiss a new build.
It may seem more expensive, but so are unexpected repairs on an older home.
We searched and viewed SO MANY homes both online and in person. In our situation, we moved to an area SO new that the oldest house in the area was a 2011. Now that we’re here, it is so bizarre to see how much more they still plan on building in our area!
After going back and forth with sellers of a home we fell in love with, we pulled out of our SECOND offer and started our search over. What we found was that a new build in the same area would cost us no more and it came with additional amenities, had a warranty, and we were able to pick out exact items that we wanted instead of settling.
Be optimistic during your search. While one day there may not be any perfect houses for sale, tomorrow their might be 10!
Do your research and enjoy the process! Buying a home (especially your first) is SO very exciting!