We close on our house one week from today. ONE WEEK! It feels so surreal to even type those words because for a long time, we never thought buying a home seemed within reach. We still wait with bated breath to truly celebrate with keys in hand, but as it’s looking, we are in good shape for closing date. This process of buying a home and waiting for closing has not been without it’s stressful days and sleepless nights, as we are about to commit our life’s savings to a piece of property. Although we have perpetual butterflies of anticipation of seeing this reality on the horizon; to grow some roots in a little place with our children and call it home is exciting! As we currently drown in packing tape and boxes, I thought it would be good to share a little back story and some factors that help us in committing to the right home…
Let’s circa back to the year of Chris Brown’s Forever, and Iron Man topping the box office charts. And let’s not forget the gas crisis that had us waiting in line for $4.59 a gallon. (Name that year!) Gabe and I started our marriage with a one bedroom apartment, zero savings, and stacks of school loans. We were young, but we knew we wanted to start a family pretty close to right away. We didn’t feel the pressure to have a decorated nursery or dream home before we started a family, because we knew time is never guaranteed, and a family was a priority we didn’t want to put on hold. We brought our first son Gabriel home to that one bedroom apartment, and his baby items had one shelf in our small closet. He slept in a bassinet next to our bed. There were months we were hoping we would have enough to make ends meet, and months where checks would bounce. Our families lived in different states, and we were completely on our own. We would creatively plan dates that cost under $20, and we brought Gabriel everywhere with us. We never ate out, and drove our college cars. Some may cringe at the thought of not having things perfectly planned and weighed, but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. Our relationship was fortified because of them, and we learned that even if the world offered us peanuts, we could still be deeply happy. We leaned into each other, and a strong foundation was formed that still holds us in our marriage.
Fast forward to today, a few rentals, many hard working years, creative jobs, and entrepreneurial endeavors later, we payed off medical debt, credit card debt, most of our student loans, and saved for a downpayment for our first home. This is much later than the average married couple, since we are celebrating 8 years together in June, but to us, we feel so very grateful that this is happening at all. I’ll write about ways we saved and knocked down debt soon, but for now, I wanted to share a few things that helped us pull the trigger on committing to the right house. Because let’s be honest, it feels like you are entering into a betrothal.
- Get on the same page with your significant other. This sounds familiar, eh? Whether it is just you purchasing the home or as a couple, it helps heaps to be on the same page before you even begin looking. We had multiple discussions before we started the process about what we were hoping to find, and the features that were a priority for us. Gabe tended to be more concerned about structure, time of build, and house history, while I was all about the layout. Since we have little ones we got on the same page pretty quickly with most factors. This is what laid the groundwork for being able to make an on demand decision to put an offer on the house.
- Know your uncompromisables and red-flags. Hmm, sounds like a dating relationship yes? Our realtor gave us the great advice to take time to write down the aspects of a home that are a must and the red flags you would walk away from (ie: mold or water damage). There were many times I was close to giving up our must haves: a basement, a good sized yard, and open kitchen. I started to lose hope we could find these in the area we needed. When it came down to purchase time we had to decide if we wanted more yard and house space or the ideal location. We chose the space.
- Find a good realtor, and communicate with them often. We were lucky to have a realtor who is extremely knowledgable of the market in our area. She also knew the right questions to ask, what to look out for, and how to get the house you really want. She fought for our must haves to, and often was the one to remind me to hold out and wait for the house that was meant to be. I’m so thankful to her for that, because there were times I was ready to give in and settle for mediocre. (Highly recommend Cindy Young from Keller Williams if you are in the Atlanta area!) Once you find the right realtor, be very clear with what you are looking for and communicate often as you go to make sure you are always on the same page. Hopefully, you will have one that is actively fighting for you. Cindy was the one who found our house an hour after it was listed, got us in as the first viewers, which allowed us to be the first one to put in an offer on the home!
- Find a good loan officer, and become familiar with all expenses. In order to be ready to buy a home, you have to be pre-qualified for a loan, and understand what your budget is. So many factors go in to this such as down payment principle interest, home insurance prices, real estate tax, etc. Our loan officer (Damian Cook of Assurance Financial – another great option for Atlanta area!) helped us to calculate what we could handle as a monthly mortgage, and wrote down what our max budget would be. There were many homes that were just above that range that were very tempting to consider, but we knew putting too much of our monthly income into our home could easily lead to financial stress down the road. It wasn’t worth the extra space or any amount of bells and whistles to give up the peace of financial security. A good loan officer can make the closing process so much smoother for you as well. It has been pretty painless for us!
- It’s worth the wait. It’s worth the hours of research, the angst and anxiety, and even getting your hopes up and dashed a few times (or more!). Wait for the home you will love walking into for years to come. When Gabe and I walked into our new place, it took one walk around the house to know it was the one we had been holding out for. Peace of mind is always a good sign. We both were confident when we put in the offer within an hour of walking into the front door, with no hesitations or doubts. This is something that I now realize the importance of. We can’t wait to walk through the door next weekend and call it home.
For privacy reasons I won’t be posting the front of our house, but we look forward to sharing our home renovation with you! I have got ideas coming out of my ears, and Gabe is at least pretending to be enthused about them…I can’t quite decipher.
If you own a home, what was the selling factor for you? If you are waiting to buy, what are those selling points you are holding out for?