Buying your first house is a huge and exciting landmark in your life. You can finally afford to own a house instead of just renting and you are ready to put some roots down and start a life somewhere.
At first, buying a house seems full of hopes and dreams—you picture the way you will decorate, what you will do to your lawn, teaching your kid how to throw a ball in your front yard. However, that enchanted fantasy bubble can quickly be popped by all of the stress that actually goes into finding that perfect dream house.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic house fairy that finds the house you have been looking for your whole life in one day. You have to do some work! You need to make decisions about finances, locations, and many other things that you have never needed to consider before.
But don’t get discouraged! Although there are a lot of things to think about when looking for a house, there are some tips that will at least get you started.
Hopefully, you will be able to narrow down the immense “to-do” list by following some of these tips. You should be able to at least have a better idea of where to start—and maybe even what not to do!
- Set Priorities. One of the first things you need to do when you decide to purchase a house is write down what you need to prioritize—let’s call these non-negotiables. For example, having a stone-front house with a tower and a fireplace in every room might be something you can negotiate on. However, having a bedroom for all of your children is not necessarily something you can negotiate on. Be sure to list out everything that you want, and then go back through and, from that list, determine the things you need. That way, when you are looking at a hundred different houses, you can quickly eliminate some. Also, when it gets down to the wire and you have to actually make a decision, go back to your list so that you can remember the things that you decided were the most important to you.
- Compare and Contrast. Charts might haunt you during your home-finding experience. Once you start your hunt, you will definitely start to get confused over which houses had which qualities. One way to avoid this confusion is by evaluating every house right after you leave it. Write down the positives and negatives, and then when you start making decisions about which houses to eliminate, you can compare and contrast your lists. This will be helpful in making a confident final decision about which house best suits you.
- Create a Budget. Ah, budgets. They’re the worst. Yet they are so necessary for life. You definitely need to create a budget before you start daydreaming about your oak floors and marble counter tops. Remember that a house payment should not put you into debt; you are trying to enhance your life, not further burden it. This is probably the first thing you should do when you decide you want to invest in a house. You need to have a price range that is realistic for your income. You also need to determine your flexibility within that budget—is it hundreds of dollars or thousands? This is one of the most important steps in the process so be sure not to skip it! (Even though it is definitely the least fun!)
- Be Realistic. One of the most difficult things about some big event in your life is expectations. We have expectations for everything, and most of the time, those expectations are not met and we are left disappointed and disenchanted. When you are beginning to look for a house, be realistic. You might have an idea of what you want your dream house to look like but you need to come to terms that you might not find it—or might not be able to afford it. When you are beginning your house hunting process, set realistic expectations so that you aren’t disappointed. Because this honestly is an exciting time in your life and you don’t want to be robbed of sweet memories just because you weren’t realistic!
- Take Pictures. After you start your journey of house hunting, you will quickly forget which house had those beautiful cabinets but the terrible dining room. In order to avoid confusion, take pictures, and if possible, take videos! That way you can quickly look through the photos in order to spark your memory when you are back at home trying to remember the differences between the ten houses you saw earlier. If you add your notes to your photos, you will be in good shape when it comes time to make your final decision!
- Be Open-Minded. Although you probably had a pretty concrete idea of what you wanted in a house, go into the searching process with an open mind. Sometimes, you may think that you want something, but then you see it in real life and realize that it isn’t for you at all. Or, you might be looking at a house that has qualities you had never even thought about but that you are quickly realizing are perfect for you. Let the journey take you somewhere and be sure not to miss out on a great house just because it wasn’t what you were initially expecting (Read: House Shopping by Location Can Save You Time and Money).
- Be Confident in your Decision. As crazy as the process of looking for a house is, nothing compares to the moment when you actually decide to buy a house! However, you have done so much good work that you need to be confident in your decision making. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, go with it. Don’t buy that house. If you have narrowed it down to a couple and there is one that just keeps pulling you back for no apparent reason, go for it! There must be something about it that you love. No matter what your decision looks like, be confident in it and be excited about it! You are about to be a home owner and that is something to celebrate!