There are many things involved with buying your first home—getting pre-approved for a mortgage, finding the right Realtor, filtering through your wants versus your needs, and just touring what feels like 100 homes. Then, of course, making countless offers until finally getting to unpack all those moving boxes and feeling that sense of accomplishment! But through all this process and all the many steps involved, here are some things I wish I had considered when I bought my first home.
Mistake One: Not researching the area.
I wasn’t new to the city, and I had a pretty decent understanding of the areas. I knew my budget at the time, so my ideal parts of Sarasota were more than off the table. But what I didn’t do when I found the house I loved was take notice of one major issue; living directly outside of the front entrance of an elementary school. My initial thought was, this will be fine! School starts at 8:15 out at 3:30. I’ll probably only be impacted a little bit, if even at all, and on the weekends, it’ll be quiet. Although I was correct about the weekends, I didn’t imagine how difficult the before and after school traffic would be in my wildest dreams. The morning was less of an issue for me as I don’t typically need to leave my house before 8:30, and by then, it’s just a few late parents and passing cars. However, between 2 pm to 4 pm, there is no hope. It is a lawless traffic jam! Getting out of my driveway can take upwards of 10 minutes, and it has taken me 15 minutes to reach the cross street less than a block away. Having to allow an extra 30 minutes to go 5 minutes down the road is something I wish I would’ve considered.
Mistake Two: Storage
You never truly know the number of items you have before moving. One of the worst feelings is being halfway through unpacking and realizing, “dang, I am already out of space.” When you’re looking at a new home, and it’s checking off your boxes, start to think about the closets, and not just the ones in the bedrooms. Is there a linen closet? Entryway closet or pantry? How many kitchen cabinets do you have? Do you have a garage that might be able to double as storage space for those holiday decorations? Because it does matter. If you like to live a minimalist lifestyle or like to declutter often, then maybe this won’t be an issue. Still, it is certainly something to think about.
Mistake Three: Not shopping around for lenders.
Looking back, I was so new to the process that I didn’t think to ask for help when finding a lender, and I also didn’t know to ask for a second opinion. When I bought my first home, I called two lenders, so I guess I did kind of shop around. The first one picked up started talking to me about my pre-approval and my home down in North Port I am under contract on. When I let her know I had never talked to her before, she asked me to fill out the application online and get back to her. Never gave me the website, and I decided that it was probably best to find a different lender. He supported me, walked me through the process, and helped me figure it out when talking to another one. However, the interest rate was higher, some closing costs were added for things I didn’t understand, and I was only encouraged to buy one loan type. Although, in the end, it was a great experience. We were able to close early, and it was smooth; there are so many options out there it might be helpful to get a few before diving in.
Mistake Four: Not professionally cleaning the home
When my fiancé and I moved in, money was tight, and I used to be a housekeeper, so I said, why the heck can’t I clean it myself. I’ll tell you why, because you have no idea how clean or dirty the past owners kept that home. I spent hours bleaching, mopping, scrubbing every inch of the house when we first moved in, and it still took multiple cleaning sessions to get it to a state that felt clean enough to start moving into. So if you can, I highly recommend talking to your Realtor about a cleaner they recommend to do the heavy lifting! Oh, side note, get the air vents cleaned too. Maybe not as crucial, but it does make it feel a lot cleaner overall.
Mistake Five: Ignoring the inspection report
When I bought my first home, I was not in real estate, my friend was my Realtor, and I didn’t ask her all the questions I should’ve. However, I was still smart enough to get the general inspection along with the Four Point and Wind Mitigation, which I will discuss in more detail in a later post. Although I was smart enough to get the inspections, I was not smart enough to negotiate or discuss fixing items. The water heater was working but approaching the end of its “usable” life; there was a small leak in the bathroom sink. Several windows didn’t have screens, and several light switches did not work. A few years in, I still have a light in the carport I just unscrewed because I can’t turn it off. I spent over $1000 on a new water heater two months later, and that leak in the sink was a little bigger of a fix than expected. So if you can, consider what the report says and bring it to the negotiation table. Or budget to fix it when you move in because no one likes to wake up on a Monday morning to get ready for work, and the water comes out so cold, you wonder how it hasn’t turned into ice.
There are many things you want to remember when buying a home. Talk to your Realtor, and let us help you make the best decisions in your home purchase. Please think of us as your real estate advisors and let us make the process as smooth as possible!