This whole house-hunting thing isn’t quite as easy as I thought. In fact, it is a lot less glamorous than others make it out to be- at least in our case. This past week we made a very tough decision, to walk away from what we thought was our “dream home.” Not only were we disappointed and upset, but we were left feeling discouraged and turned off about the entire home buying experience.
A few months back we started our house search, we found a home that we thought was too perfect to be true. We put an offer in right after seeing it because we were so excited about the property. We were quickly shut down by our offer and were told that we could only get this home if we paid the full asking price – which was far above our affordable price range, lesson learned.
Then came the house on Westgate Drive. The moment we walked onto the property we knew it was just perfect. We wanted it so bad. As we walked through the house, I could literally see us there. I could envision Landon on the floor playing in our family room, see TJ cooking in our gorgeous kitchen, or playing bocce ball with our family in the gigantic backyard. That night we put in our initial offer, which shortly turned into an increased bid to full asking price. The sellers bit and accepted. TJ and I were so excited. Our family and friends couldn’t have been happier for us. This house was the perfect starter home.
We went through the process rather quickly, from attorney review to inspection; we wanted to get the ball rolling. Our inspector told us how great of a home we were purchasing and that he would give it a 9/10 rating! Wow, didn’t we luck out? We were a few weeks away from closing and had our final inspection scheduled for the septic system. Unfortunately, this report did not come back as great as we had hoped. To make a long story short, we found out that the septic tank was 50 years old and needed more repaired than the sellers were willing to admit. They refused allowing us to run a test to check that the system was functioning as it should be, and it was so discouraging. Why won’t they run this test? Don’t they want to sell this house? As time went on and letters went back and forth between lawyers, we quickly realized where this was heading. After lots of prayer, countless conversations and a whole lot of “sitting on it”, we knew what we had to do. Walk away. We couldn’t be left with a house that was going to put us into debt and leave us house poor.
Through these last several months we have learned a lot about what really goes into purchasing a home. We are now much more prepared for when we begin our search again. I wanted to share this helpful advice with you, so that you can be better prepared than we were when purchasing your first home.
Below I share 10 things that I learned from loosing our “dream home”. I hope that as a first-time home buyer, these tips will help you land your “dream home” on your first try.
- Buy within your means
The first house that we put an offer in was far above the range that we could actually afford. We thought, “If we come in with a low ball offer, we can make it work.” If you have to “make it work” it may be out of your manageable price range. Try to be realistic and live within your means. You don’t want this house to be a financial curse, you want it to be a blessing!
- Do your research
Do a drive by. Check out the area before; look at the house, neighborhood, schools, location to local stores, etc.
This is a must. Go through your expenses in detail. Factor in the cost of taxes and do not forget the cost of PMI if you do not put down 20% (this can and will add up fast!)
- Create an Emergency Fund
You will need some ‘touchable’ money set aside in case of emergency. One of the houses we were looking at needed a new roof within 5 years and also a boiler within the year. You need to anticipate these expenses. Also set aside money for closing costs and inspections- they can get pricey.
- Write a letter
When putting in your offer, I suggest that you get personal. We wrote a letter to the seller introducing ourselves and giving them a glimpse into who we were and why we loved their home so much. It worked. We even got a reply letter back a few weeks later, they loved it.
- Find a good realtor
Your realtor places a big part in you finding your dream home. They make appointments for you and follow up with your lawyer to make sure things get done quickly and on time. You want a realtor who is reputable, has been recommended and has sold a handful of houses. You want someone knowledgeable and resourceful.
- Research your professionals
You will need to hire lawyers and inspectors during your house hunt. Check out reviews and see what others are saying about them. Ask friends and family for their recommendations. To be honest, we didn’t do much research ourselves. We chose the first person who was recommended and went with them. Looking back, I wish we paid more attention and did more research before selecting our professionals.
- Be willing to wait
Buying our first home really tested my patience. Things take time. If you know this from the beginning you will be better prepared to wait.
- Don’t get too excited (right away)
From experience, things may or may not work out. Be hopeful but also keep in the back of your mind that things could potentially fall through. I’m routing for you though 😉
- Do not be discouraged
If your first house does not work out, there will be others. Do not settle on a house that leaves you stuck in a rut. Right before we walked away and cancelled our contract, we debated ‘trying to make it work.’ We were settling. We wanted to do anything just to keep the house. We soon realized, it wasn’t worth it. Do what is right and feels right in your gut.
Even though we lost our “dream home” we still feel encouraged that our perfect home is still out there waiting for us! We have gained a lot of knowledge in this process and we now feel better prepared for the next offer that we plan to make! Oh perfect home, where are you?