Tips for Buying Your First Home
Buying your first home is one of the biggest, most exciting, and nerve-racking decisions you’ll ever make in your lifetime. I am always encouraging people to take the leap and just go for it. But obviously I realize it takes a few things to be in place before this can happen. Finances being one of the biggest factors. It seems from talking to a few people that the sheer idea of owning their own home becomes overwhelming before they’ve even dipped their toe in the water. So I am here to squash that fear as best I can by sharing tips for buying your first home!
I purchased my first house back in April. However, this wasn’t the first property I have purchased hence why I believe the process was much less intimidating for me. I had bought a condo 5 years prior so I was familiar with the process. Plus, simultaneously studying for my real estate license made the process all the more interesting and a real-life education course.
Over time I have talked with a few different people who said they were interested in buying a home. However, they made it sound like that dream of their’s was so far into the future thinking they needed more money, or to find that “perfect house.” I can assure you, no matter how many boxes a house ticks, no property will ever be 100% perfect. Here are a few of my tips to help you navigate the house hunting…
It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect
I heard of a couple who waited until they were 45 years old to buy their first home. My theory is, why not start small and grow into something larger? The first property you move into does not need to be your forever home. Nor does the second, third or fourth. Notice how I said property and not house? Sure I would have loved a house 5 years ago. It just wasn’t in my budget. So I purchased a condo, fixed it up, grew my equity over the years, and turned that that money for a house. I’m all about a fixer-upper, but of course, that isn’t for everyone. We are not all Chip and Johanna Gaines over here. You don’t need to buy something and fix it to grow equity. The land you purchase will never lose its value. A property, as long as you maintain it, should increase in value, depending on the location. My dad always used to tell me that the three rules of real estate are: Location, Location, Location.
Real estate, in my opinion, will always be a better and safer option than the stock market or bonds. Of course, your financial advisor may not agree with this. Why would they when they make money investing your money in the stock market?
My point is, start small, grow your equity, then roll that equity over into a property that meets a few more of your checkboxes.
Get to Know the Market
Do as much research as possible. Especially before putting in any offers on a property. I was glued to the app RedFin for 4 straight months. There wasn’t a property in my price range that came on the market for more than a few hours without me knowing about it. I oftentimes got alerts for new properties via Redfin before a MLS listing.
Homes can go very quickly. Before Covid, good homes stayed on the market less than a week before an offer was accepted. More than swooping in on a good house, you want to be able to compare similar properties in your desired area.
Go to Open Houses
Part of understanding the area and properties available is going to open houses. A property can look so different than the photos and there are things you’ll never get from a photo, even hundreds of photos or a virtual tour. The noise from the street outside, the ease of getting to the unit, tight quarters, or beautiful details that photos could not capture.
I went to over 40 open-houses or homes with lock-boxes on them that my agent was able to show me. It helped me get a feel for the neighborhoods, the space of the property and helped me decide on factors I did and did not like to help me weed out future properties that came on the market.
Decide on Your Non-Negotiables vs. Your Negotiables
Negotiables are the items you can live without and non-negotiables are the items you cannot live without. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find a house that checks every single one of your boxes. So come up with a list you can’t live without and other items that are desirable, but not deal-breakers. For example, my non-negotiables for buying a home were:
- The house had to be in a good, safe, quiet and clean neighborhood
- Must have a backyard
- 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms at a minimum. Anything larger than that was just a bonus
- Laundry on site. At first, I thought I had to have the laundry room in the house, but I ended up buying a house with laundry in the garage. All that mattered was it had the space for it in a convenient ara.
Other items that were important to me, but not deal breakers were (aka Negotiables)
- Fixer-upper or move-in ready
-where the laundry room was located (a garage was fine, it did not need to be in the house)
Move-In Ready vs. Fixer Upper
One thing I quickly noticed about a lot of homes on the market is that they had been purchased a year or two before, remodeled, and sold for $50,000-$200,000 more. The Redfin app shows you the previous sales and prices towards the bottom of the listing. (I realize some areas you can get an entire house for that cost, but we are talking about Los Angeles for reference. You can barely get a studio condo for that price in this town.)
The thing about the re-models is that while some of them were nicely done, most of them were not. They used cheap labor and materials and it would have been items I would have wanted to change anyway. I did not want to pay for someone else’s taste in a remodel. I would always rather buy a cheaper home and make my own changes as I did with my condo. (See my master bathroom remodel here and my kitchen remodel here.)
This all depends on the type of buyer you are. Maybe you don’t want to lift a finger when you purchase and have it move-in ready. Or you are the type to get your hands dirty. All up to you.
If you have any questions about my personal experience buying a home, I am more than happy to answer them for you! When I become a licensed Real Estate Agent I will answer any and all questions then!
Get a Real Estate Sales Person You Trust
This part is so important. You have to feel comfortable and trust the person who is helping you in this process. I was very lucky to have a lot of my own knowledge and also rely on my boyfriend, Omeed to help me search for houses. No one likes a pushy salesperson. The one who listens well is patient to answer your question and puts in the effort to find you what you’re looking for will make the house-hunting process so much easier. Of course, be considerate of the salesperson’s time as well. This is a living for them and no one likes to have their time wasted.
Another excellent place to start on your real estate journey is by listening to podcasts. Real Estate Rookie by Bigger Pockets is one of my absolute favorites. They talk a lot about real estate Investing which is something I have gotten very interested in this year. (I am already making plans to buy a third property next year if all goes well.)
Thank you for stopping by and reading!