Buying your first house can be a stressful experience. There are many components and moving pieces, so many different things to consider. And even moving past the literal stresses of buying your first house, there are plenty of more metaphysical and emotional things to consider. You have to think clearly about it. You need to make informed decisions. You will have to live with your choice for a long time. And the process has more steps than you may realize.
First, you need to know what you’re looking for. And you need to know why you’re looking for it, and why you want to buy it. There are both good and bad reasons to buy a house. You need to know what problems a house can have. You need to make a checklist. You need to check it twice. Maybe three times. Maybe make a second list. Decide what you want in a house, why you’re buying a house, what you will want in a house in 10 years. It’s a big process, and everything is important.
Don’t Fall in Love at First Sight
Falling in love at first sight with a house is easy, particularly if it’s a step up from your current home. But buying a house is more like buying a used car than renting an apartment. You need to leave your heart at the entrance, at least initially, so that you can focus on the practical aspects of the house.
You need to explore the house from bottom to top, check the electricity, the plumbing, check for cracks, etc. This can be hard if you’re too busy just being head over heels in love with the place. It’s a hard reality, but buying a house is a big deal, and you have to cross all of the little boxes in your checklist. Sometimes love at first sight can be deceiving.
Use All Five Senses
When crossing all of the little boxes on your checklist, you need to use all five senses. You can’t just look around. You need to smell for odd scents in the carpets, listen for creaks in the stairs and run your hands along the walls. Signs of a problem in the house can be small, and there may be problems that even the owner isn’t aware of.
These problems can range from minor water damage to significant insect or rodent infestations or worse. Do your homework, look around, shine a light under beds, knock on walls to see if they sound hollow, smell the basement floor for signs of flooding. You have the right to do a full, five senses inspection, and you should.
Decide on Any Must-haves & Deal-breakers
It’s possible that you will find your dream house right off the bat, but honestly, it’s not super likely. You will probably weed through a fair number of properties before getting to one that crosses all the boxes on your list. And a strong basis for your list should be a series of ‘must-haves’ and ‘deal-breakers.’
If there’s something you really can’t do without (for instance, a kitchen big enough for dinner parties, etc.) put it in your ‘must-have’ list. If there’s something that you really can’t handle (for instance, too far from public transport, etc.) put it in your ‘deal-breakers’ list. It’s easy, and the best place to start when looking at new properties.
Use Skilled Professionals
And use a lot of them, because there are a lot of different specializations when it comes to a house. You want a roof guy to look at the roof; you want a plumber to look at the pipes, an electrician to look at the wiring, etc. And of course, a lawyer and realtor to look over the paperwork and the process as a whole. Forest Hill Real Estate has an article that says “Some repairs and amendments will need to be made so that the home will fetch the biggest price, but some amendments will not fetch a good return on your investment, so it may be best to save your money for things like moving expenses.”
And when in doubt, hire a second opinion. If you’re still not sure about the roof after you have had it looked at, ask a second roof guy. Have the whole place go through a housing inspection. Even if it’s been done recently, and no matter what the seller or realtor says. Just do it. It is necessary.
Know What You Can Afford, Now & in the Future
You will be putting a lot of money into this place, both now and in the future. Chances are, you will be paying through a mortgage, so make sure it’s a mortgage that you can maintain. But thinking about what you can afford in the future is not only about making sure you can keep up payments on the mortgage. It’s also about realizing when the roof will need to be replaced, or the driveway. It’s about understanding how much heating will cost in the winter.
And sometimes it’s really about looking into the future. Maybe you don’t have kids yet, but when you do, will you need to put in another bedroom? Are there good schools around? What happens if you or your partner wind up between jobs? Or you need to get a new car? Think about how much it will cost to commute to work, both with your current job and the one you expect to have in five years. These are all things to be aware of.
Both when picking the house and when picking professionals to help you through the process. You deserve the house that you’ve been dreaming about, and the most skilled people to help you through the difficult process of finding and buying that house. It’s not something to be taken lightly, by you or the people around you. Build the best team to find the best property. Set the right timeline for your purchase. Understand what you are getting into. And, once you have everything together, then you can fall head over heels in love with your house.