Buying a House: 5 Tips for Success

Hello! I recently bought my very first house, which is both exciting and terrifying. I’ve been super busy getting myself organized and starting to get ready for renos!!!

My house is very sweet, but needs some work done. It’s likely going to become the focus of Probably Lia for awhile!

Since I read about 200 articles (I’m not exaggerating) about buying your first home, I figured I should post my top tips for the biggest purchase of my life so far. Buying a house at barely 22 years old is something I’m incredibly proud of, and I would love to help others make that dream a reality as well. I hope these 5 tips help someone who is thinking of starting their homeownership journey soon!

#1: Know Your Budget

This one is HUGE. You need to do the math to figure out what you can comfortably afford before you even start looking at houses. I ended up buying a house for 1/3 of what the bank would loan me. I knew I didn’t want to be stuck with payments for the next 30 years of my life that I couldn’t pay for without sacrificing tons of things I love.

However, I did need to sacrifice a few things while I saved for my down payment. I still lived similarly to the way I did before I planned on buying a house, but I thought more carefully about what I was spending my money on. Luckily, I’ve lived with my parents, rent-free, up until this point, so I haven’t really had many expenses to worry about.

#2: Use Your Friends and Family

My house never officially went “on the market”. My mom is a Health Care Aide, and one of her old clients had moved in with her children because she was 95 years old! My mom heard about it through the grapevine at work and decided to call the lady’s daughter and ask if her house would be going up for sale soon. She said yes and agreed to let me have a look!

Obviously, this is just a lucky situation for me. However, there are tons of ways you can use your family and friends to help you find your first home as well. Just tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a house… Post it on facebook, ask buddies to keep an eye out for “For Sale by Owner” signs in yards around town, mention to coworkers that you’d like to purchase real estate… There are TONS of ways to get the word out. You don’t even have to use a realtor! In a big city, I’d recommend leaving real estate to the professionals, but if you live in a small town like me, don’t be afraid to grab the reigns on this for yourself.

#3: Don’t be Afraid of Renovations

I know, no one WANTS to buy a house with a huge crack in the foundation. But big repairs can mean big savings on the purchase price of your home. Since one basement wall of my house will need major repairs ($16,000 worth), I was able to negotiate a price that was nearly $20,000 below the asking price. And since the original price of the house was well within my budget, that’s some good, cold, hard cash back in my pocket when all is said and done.

Since I was able to negotiate a lower price, I’m also able to afford a brand new custom kitchen renovation. Adding renovations into your mortgage is a great way to get quality work done without shelling out thousands of dollars at once. Sure, my monthly payments will be a few bucks higher, but I’ll have a beautiful kitchen to enjoy.

Make sure to get estimates done for any big repairs before making an offer. If any work you need done will put you way above what you’re willing to pay, just walk away and find a new house. There will be more! As for cosmetic renovations, get in there and get estimates before closing (if possible), so you can factor it into your mortgage.

#4: Just LOOK at the House You Think is Ugly

“No mom, that house is so ugly. I hate the yard and the siding.” – a real quote from yours truly about the house I ended up buying.

Just because you aren’t crazy about the outside, doesn’t mean you won’t like the inside. I wasn’t a big fan of the lack of privacy due to there being no trees in the front yard, or of the hospital green accents on the siding, but the layout of my house is perfect for me. Planting a tree or two is a quick fix, and a can of paint can easily make the outside look exactly the way I want it to. But the layout of a house is not so easily changed.

The first house I looked at, which I thought I loved, was absolutely beautiful from the outside. It had brand new siding, trees on all sides, a paved driveway, and a lovely private backyard. But the only bathroom in the house was only accessible by going through one of the two bedrooms (yes, you’re picturing that right… the two bedrooms were connected by the bathroom). That house was gorgeous from the street, but not really functional in a logical way.

#5: Make a List of Priorities

My #1-absolute-must-have (after my budget) was location. I wanted to be close enough to work that I could walk every day, no matter what the weather was like. I knew that I was limiting my choices by being so strict in this area, but I stuck to it and ended up buying a house directly across the street from my job (it’s also a street away from my parents, which will be nice when I eventually have kids!). Decide on what’s most important to you and don’t compromise on it!

Well, there you have it: my top 5 tips for buying your first house. What tips do you have for someone diving into the world of homeownership for the first time? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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