Closing Time. Committing to the right home.

May 19, 2016

white open ceilings[Image Source]

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.

committing to the right home

[Image Source]

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!
  5. 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? 


Leave a Comment

  • Thanks for the tips 🙂 My husband and I are saving for a house, but knowing the other pieces of the puzzle helps.

  • So excited for you!!!! I know this has been a long time coming. Can’t wait to see the renovation! As someone who works in the financial field, I LOVE your tips. You guys did it right! 🙂

  • Congratulations!!! I love reading your tips and the process of going about this. My husband and I have been married nearly 3 years, and we’ve done rentals (we got married halfway through college, so it made much more sense) but now that we’re settled into a stable job and housing prices in our area seem good, we’ve been thinking about this more. So, your words of wisdom are very much appreciated and so helpful! Thank you!

    • I am so happy to hear this is helpful for you. Renting was so nice for us since we didn’t have the cash flow for even broken appliances. Wishing you much luck in the process! x

  • This is such an exciting time for you and your family! You must be impatient to start on a new life in your own house.
    Thank you for the tips! x

  • Anna, you are such a breathe of fresh air! Thank you for sharing this! Scofield and I started out In a teeny 350 sq ft studio apartment, and those have been some of the sweetest days. Love your tips – can’t see what you do with your new home!

  • Good for you guys on waiting though. I sometimes think the home owner American Dream does us a disservice. Too many people rush to buy something before they can truly afford it or before evaluating if it is actually the wisest invest for your lifestyle. My husband and I are first time home owners at age 35. It finally made sense to buy for us but some days I miss having a landlord take care of it:) Congrats!

    • Kate, this is so true! It’s easy to live outside your means, and then chase debt for the rest of your life. Encouraging to hear you waited for the right time. I agree though, having a landlord has been really nice when things fall apart!

  • christina

    CANNOT WAIT to come see it! looks lovely and congrats on getting out of debt. we are heading on that track and looking forward to the freedom that comes with that. Know our truck is your truck. will be here to help you load out and about too. congrats!!!

  • Thanks so much for sharing! It’s refreshing to hear someone’s story about waiting and not purchasing right away! My husband and I bought after almost 4 years of marriage which felt later than a lot of our married friends in the midwest/south. We were living in the Bay Area which is anything but affordable. We lost out on 8 houses and lucky number 9 was the one for us. It wasn’t much to look at, but we were fortunate to get in when we did and we were able to make it our own. I wish you so much luck in the move!!

  • Madeleine

    Huge congratulations on your home and on your newest addition! My husband and I will have been married a year in August with a baby due next month, and I feel so much kinship with what you said about family being a priority over being in the “right” place. Can’t wait for the post about paying off debt and saving for this occasion. You inspire me!

    • Oh Madeleine thank you so much and congratulations to you! We were the first of our friends to have children, but it was without a doubt the right time for us. Excited for you to meet your baby!

  • It also took us almost eight years of marriage before we bought a home. I quit a stable job, took a risk to work for myself (and finally started making decent money a few years in ?) and we are in expensive San Diego.

    If we would have stayed in Cincinnati, I could have bought a house on my own years ago but that’s just the way things go. After buying one, I want to do it again! It was easier than I thought and a good loan officer/broker is SO key. I think I could have done the real estate agent’s job on my own but the loan stuff is so confusing!

    So happy for you guys and I can’t wait to see all your projects!!

    • Oh man Cali is far crazier of a market for sure! Miss the midwest market;) And that is truly the american dream isn’t it? Having the freedom to choose a job you love and make a life doing it!

  • Hi Anna! I so agree! We are on our second home – both have been doer uppers. I’m glad we have done it but they’ve been huge sacrifices. We spend all of our extra money and time towards the house and it’s hard putting all your pennies towards brick and mortar. We are effectively in a one bed with our little 15 month old while my husband finishes the rest of the rooms. Many congrats on your first home! I’m sure I would have chosen space over location as well with the size of your growing family (congrats)!! Waiting for the right one and pulling out if the right one comes along is definitely good advice! I’d also add looking at floor plans instead of pictures. Floor plans tell you the potential of a place.
    Have fun with the decorating! My one bit of advice would be to not start painting it all right away, sometimes you have to live in a space to see how you use it before decorating.


  • I’m in the opposite position where we have never rented a house, we’ve always owned. Our next house that we move to though once ours sell will be rented and I’m a little bit nervous about it. Any reassuring advice for a first time renter? I’m afraid it’s not going to feel like home…like we are just living in someone else’s space. So silly I know but it’s how I feel!

  • Oh, we can’t wait for this day!! We have been renters/hello nomads all over the world since getting married, but we wouldn’t trade our adventures together for any house… though we are really looking forward to finally having one some day! I am so happy for you guys! So many blessings on your new home!

  • Oh Anna, this is so good for my heart to read. I need to remind myself that God doesn’t “owe us” a house, and that just because we’ve been married a little while (coming up on 7 years in the fall) doesn’t mean we get automatically upgraded to adulthood/home ownership. I’m so excited for your family, and I can’t wait to see what kind of beauty you create in those 4 walls.

    • Christina

      Hi Jenny!!! I want to say we’re totally in this with you! We put an offer on a house a couple of years ago in our old hometown in Chicago – it seemed perfect – and someone made a cash offer and got it first! Now we look back and see the plan involved…we ended up moving to LA and if we thought Chicago was a stretch, homes here are completely out of reach for a (many?) more years. We feel like we’re starting over and we’ve been married 8 years! Sometimes we look at each other and wonder if we will rent forever! But then we recall that we have literally started over, and so to look at it as year 1. And not to fret the years away even if everyone else seems to own their homes by the time they have this many kids, we at least have each other to cling to in whatever home we rent.
      Just wanted you to know you’re not the only one!

      • Oh girls! I just love your perspectives! And more and more I think this is becoming more common. College tuition is astronomical and it is so hard to get ahead with the cost of living growing. We actually loved renting in many ways because we didn’t feel like all of our cash flow was having to go to fixing something. Last week alone our washer, stove, and toilet broke, and luckily we only have to worry about paying for one of them! You can make a house feel like a home even if you are renting. We came to love the space we are in, just outgrew it. When I look at many other countries around us, it easily puts things into perspective. As Americans we so easily forget that even having one room to call our own is more than many third world families could hope for. A home will come for you one day, and yes, know you are not alone!

  • Congratulations!!! My husband and I will be moving into our “dream” home in 2weeks. I still cant believe that its happening either, “I dont think I’ll believe till I see it”

  • It’s so important to find the right house for your family. We are going on 22 years in our first house and we still love it. We’ve done some renovations and added on a little, but it was the right choice all those years ago!

  • Chelsea Wagenaar

    I loved reading this! It is so encouraging to me. My husband and I have been married almost five years, and we have been in grad school the entire time (just graduated!). So, that means poor and renting an old small quirky house! We have a ten month old, and since our house is so small, she only has a corner of the second bedroom, while the rest of her room is office and guest bed! I had to really struggle when putting together her corner, trying to make it as sweet as possible, not to feel discontent with our situation. But I agree so much with you that these modest days are such a strong foundation and have taught my husband and I to be content and not to love things. Two summers ago we were the poorest we’d ever been, but I was so deeply in love with him. We’re moving in August for a postdoc — renting again — but i am looking forward to one day being in a position to buy, and saving up good advice like yours! Thanks for sharing your story Anna!

    • Chelsea, thanks for your comment! I know its gotta be tough some days, but what a gift to have a strong marriage! Things that are much more valuable than any piece of property. Wishing you a happy few years during this time that will hopefully will lead to a home one day too;)

  • Great post. I wrote similar posts last year when we moved – one on selling your home and one on looking for a new home. In the looking for a new home, the key thing was that you have to know when to walk away. It’s so easy to be swayed by brightly lit, beautifully furnished homes but once you look further than the surface you start to realise that it might not be worth compromising for, especially if it’s going to be your forever home.

    We were the same, we walked through our home, got in the car and drove away and within five minutes we knew we had to put an offer in.

    Good luck with the move!

    • Julia, such a good point! I had to learn not to be swept away by my emotional reaction to a place. Gabe was good at reminding me to go through the practical list…and gently bring me back to earth sometimes. ha! Thanks for the comment!

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