Hi! Anastasia here, contributing editor for The SSS Edit. If you missed Sarah’s introduction to me last month, check it out here.
I am very excited to introduce our new column about my first house! I will be sharing DIY projects and other updates we make to make it HOME.
Somehow my husband and I decided to buy our first house in the craziest market. We jumped in with homes selling days after going on the market and people paying more to win bids. I don’t think we realized how bad it was until we were invested in it. We previously had been renting, living with my parents, and sister to pay off debts. I guess you can say we were anxious to have our own place!
We actually didn’t look at a lot of houses in person. Mainly because our price range brought mostly fixer-uppers, and we knew we wanted a move-in-ready home. Then, this popped up; we looked at it the same day and made an offer a few days later. We beat out 16 bids!
The significant renovations are done. Now we get to make it special to us!
We are still paying our student loans, so we don’t plan on doing anything significant to the house for a while. But, we have some budget-friendly DIY projects planned. Spoiler: this is the first time I have ever used a drill or spent more than $20 at the hardware store. All new territory for me! Very lucky I have the DIY queen, Sarah, by my side 🙂
For now, I will leave you with some tips for first home buyers:
- Pay off debts. We both have a lot of student debt. It was hard to imagine paying our student debt AND a mortgage. You can cut so many little expenses once you sit down and really look at how you spend. We gave up a lot of eating out, having drinks with dinner, new clothes, etc., to pay off what we needed to feel comfortable taking on a mortgage.
- Find a realtor you can trust. I highly suggest using someone that someone else already trusts. Don’t get the random relator that shows up on Zillow. But, if you can’t rely on word of mouth, ask for references. You want someone who you can depend on to guide you through the process. If you are in the Grand Rapids, MI area, we loved working with Anna Alvarez as our realtor! I also know Dustin Anderson is pretty great too! 🙂
- Determine your budget before you start looking at homes. We decided to focus on the monthly mortgage payment we could afford to determine our budget. Keep room for hidden costs, emergencies, and maintenance. Don’t forget to think about adding things like utilities and insurance. Also: you probably will get approved for an amount that is super high and actually not affordable.
- Be flexible with priorities but know your non-negotiables. It helped us to drive around neighborhoods to get a feel for them. Think about things like how many bedrooms, bathrooms you want, or if a fenced-in yard and garage are essential. Would you consider less square footage for a house that was move-in ready? We bought in an “up and coming” area of town, and it was worth it to have a turn-key home.
- Go into the process, realizing you probably will fall in love with a house and not get it. And remember, there is always another house! The right one will happen.
- When making an offer, ask your realtor about an escalation clause. An escalation clause is written into your offer that lets you say: “I will pay x price for this home, but if the seller receives another offer that’s higher than mine, I’m willing to increase my offer to y price.” It’s how we got our house. It’s how Sarah lost the first house they bid on in Michigan because the other buyer did an escalation clause against them!