reflections on home buying, & not having anything to do on weekend mornings

Every weekend morning for the last year or so Mike and I have trolled online looking at houses. What started out as last year’s goal to figure out what we wanted (envision that list of deal-breakers that Sandra reads at the beginning of each episode of Property Virgins) turned into an obsession. Armed with coffee (on the couch, of course) we’d sift through online databases and get into productive arguments that helped winnow down what we wanted  (me: “curb appeal matters; finished basements don’t!”; him: “That kitchen is way too small.”). It’s something that I enjoyed. For the last several weekends we’ve fought the urge to log into; we actually miss the process. That said, there’s no point in checking over the next few months to see what comes on the market. That would feel like cheating.

As you most surely already know, this part of the journey has ended (as of New Year’s Eve our offer on a home was accepted and for the last few weeks we’ve been knee-deep in paperwork).

I’ll likely be posting before-after photos once we move in (sometime in February) and talking about it incessantly on this blog. Nothing dramatic (no major renovations, so really – after-after photos) but when you’re a first timer changing the paint color or putting in a rug feels monumental.

I have a hundred or so people to thank for great advice on the home-buying process (thanks if you were one of them!). In the meantime, here are a handful of things that I think were really important to know during the process:

Do your research! Possibly the most useful part of doing research is knowing what questions to ask, even if you don’t quite understand the questions themselves. It’ll make you sound smarter to your realtor, home inspector, etc. (“tell me about the sewer pipe cap? How old is it?”) and you’ll likely stumble on good information in the process, which you can then go home and google to interpret since you probably didn’t understand the original question. 🙂

Go with your gut. Everyone says home-buying elicits strong emotional feelings, and that you “just know it when you see it.” It’s true. Our house was the very first one we saw. After we saw four more, it further confirmed it was the right one. Our realtor told us that if you wake up thinking about it and rearranging furniture in your head, it’s probably the right one.

Live below your means. It is SHOCKING to me how much banks will approve you for. Sickening, actually. We are spending less than half of what we were approved for, and even this feels like a stretch. Bigger, more expensive houses mean more space to heat and cool, higher property taxes, and less money to pay for everything else in life that comes up (new car payments, kids, vacations, etc.). I’m really stating the obvious here. Make sure your realtor knows up front how strict you are about this.  🙂

Practice non-attachment. I had a really hard time with this. Philosophically I believe in non-attachment and preach it a lot. But it’s hard when you find the home you love and that you think should be yours. I picked out paint colors and designs in my head before we even put an offer in. I had mapped out distances from the home to everywhere I go, and even considered introducing myself to the neighbors (kidding). And I drove by the home enough times to possibly freak out the sellers. I don’t recommend any of this. Had something fallen through in the inspection I’d have been devastated.

There’s a bunch more pieces of advice that I found valuable, but these were the top ones for me. Fingers crossed as the paperwork gets finalized and we’re one step closer to having our own four walls.