When looking to buy my first home, I was very particular: it must be in a certain area of Lexington, it must be an older home with plenty of charm (think Mad Men era), it must be at least a semi-open concept, and it must have a fenced-in backyard for my dog. Some people thought I was being too picky; I saw it more as having standards. You see, much like dating, you have to have some idea of what you’re looking for when buying a house, considering price, location, and aesthetics. Otherwise you’ll end up looking at an endless number of houses, all willy-nilly and never satisfied. To help narrow your search, this is what I would advise you do first:
· Figure out how much you can afford and speak with a financial institution. Before you ever start looking at homes online or touring open houses, you have to know what kind of budget you are working with. Find a mortgage calculator online and start punching some numbers in. Get an idea of what you can afford monthly (considering your other financial obligations) and you’ll have a better idea of what kind of home you can purchase. After this, make appointments with a few different financial institutions to discuss what kind of loan and interest rate you qualify for. I say to contact more than one financial institution because different places offer different kinds of loans and rates (and believe me, you want to make sure you get the best loan for your needs—a 1% difference in interest could be the difference of $100 on your monthly mortgage). Also, don’t forget to include taxes and insurance in your calculations.
· Decide on location and type of home. Once you have a better idea of what you can afford, you can begin to look around for locations you would like to live in and the type of home you would like to have. My advice here? Decide on a location and do not give up until your dream home in that location comes on the market. You can always change the house, but you cannot change where it sits. Also, being that we are in our twenties, it would be wise to consider resale. We probably will not live in our first home forever, so it is important to make a smart investment. Stray away from areas with houses that seem to sit on the market for months (or even years).
· Get a realtor. This was probably the smartest decision I could have made. It was no cost to me because the realtor split the commission of the sale with the selling realtor. When looking for a realtor, make sure it is someone willing to listen to your wants and needs. If you find a realtor who will only show you their listings, it’s time to find another realtor.
· Make a move. When you find the house that is truly perfect for you, make the offer. The same weekend my house went up for sale, I made an offer along with a few others. I had to move quickly, but I did not question my decision because I knew it was perfect. Much like meeting the right man (as they say), when you know, you know. But do not make your first offer your best offer—allow some wiggle room for negotiations.
The search is probably the most fun part of buying a first home. It is important to be patient during this process and take your time—the last thing you want to do is rush into a mediocre home and then be stuck with it for years. Approach your home search much like you would dating: set your standards high and never settle for less.