One Year In Our House + Tips for First Time Buyers

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I can't believe it's been one year since we closed on our house! 

Actually, I can believe it -- because, honestly, so much has changed in a year's time. We went from having a newborn to a one year old. A toddler in a crib to a full-fledged preschooler in a twin bed. A house that felt like somebody else's to a home that feels like ours. Closing day last year was a proud and exciting day for us, but also a total blur. Hadley was a month old and our couple of hours away that afternoon were by far the longest we'd spent away from the kids since she was born. You know you're in the thick of parenting when closing day is the closest thing you're getting to a date. ;) 

Here's a bit of the back story: 

Owning a home was actually never on either of our immediate "must-do" lists. I know it feels like a right of passage for many adults, and that's great. But we were pretty ok with being renters. I liked the flexibility, the feeling of not being "stuck" should we want to move, and being able to just send a text to our landlord when something went wrong (admittedly, we had a wonderful landlord). Pretty low-stress!

But we were quickly outgrowing our two bedroom rented townhouse and had realized over three years of living there that we really loved the town we lived in -- actually, we really loved the very neighborhood we lived in. We started keeping an eye out for single family houses going up for sale in and around our neighborhood, but it didn't happen often. I began touring houses for sale when I was pregnant with Hadley, and we probably toured 10 or so all together before finding ours. I would do the initial tour with Carrie as my sidekick, and if we liked the house, we'd bring Steve back. It's funny, though, because when we found "the" house -- we moved fast. We all went to look together, then went back for another private showing before making an offer that day. Steve and I were away for the night in Philly for our anniversary when we received a counter offer, countered ourselves, and then received word that our counter had been accepted! Talk about reason to celebrate! 

As resistant as we were at first to the idea of buying, we have been so very happy with our decision. We love our fenced yard (so nice to let the pup and the kids run around safely to their heart's content), cozy front porch, family-friendly floor plan, natural light from lots of large windows, big basement for storage, and our great neighbors. There are lots of kids in our neighborhood, the ice cream truck comes by almost daily, and it always smells like clean laundry on my evening walks with Layla. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up, which I'm sure doesn't hurt in making it feel extra homey. 

We learned a few things throughout the process that I thought might be helpful for anyone else who's considering going from renter to buyer:

1. Pick your agent well. Our real estate agent (hi Kristin!) helped us find our townhouse that we loved and rented for years -- even though our criteria at the time was 3 bedrooms, she sent us a 2 bedroom + a loft option, and it ended up being perfect. So she was our first call when we were ready to buy. Find someone who thinks a bit outside the box but also respects your non-negotiables and, of course, your budget. They should be very knowledgable about the area you're interested in (a longtime local, preferably), and responsive/communicative. Buying a house can be a confusing, complicated process and you need an agent who welcomes and answers your questions quickly and honestly.

2. Prioritize what you can't change. The most important things to consider when searching for a house are the things that can't be changed: the location and the floor plan (unless you have the budget to overhaul that). Paint colors, outdated fixtures, landscaping, etc., can all be changed over time. The plot of land your house sits on and overall layout can't be.

3. Look, and look again. If you find a house you like, don't be afraid to go back for a couple more showings to be sure before making an offer. It's hard to take it all in during one visit, and there very well could be things you missed. I always felt bad inconveniencing the owners and my agent to return, but if it means a potential sale, I'm sure neither will mind. ;)

4. Bring an attorney to closing. I know not everyone does this, but we found it so helpful. I found it was comforting to have our attorney there on closing day to review all of the documents/terms/jargon alongside us. They are hired solely to keep your best interests in mind, which isn't such a bad thing when making the biggest purchase of your life.

5. Go with your gut. In the end, you kind of just have to have that "feeling" about a house. You may look several houses and nothing really feels right -- don't ignore that feeling. If you find yourself making too many pro/con lists or Googling issues that worry you about a home, it probably means you know that it's not the best decision. 

I hope these tips are helpful if you're on the hunt! There really is no place like home.

Top Photo Credit: Almond Photography

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