Buying a home for the very first time is meant to be an exciting and life-changing venture. However with all the finances to sort, papers to sign and contractors to call, this part of life can become stressful and overwhelming.
My husband, Dusty, and I recently took the step of becoming first time homebuyers and have lived in our dream home for one month now. Keep reading for our tips on how to make a smooth transition from tenant to owner.
How to know you’re ready
Everyone knows buying a home is a big decision and requires plenty of preparation, but looks different for each person. We knew we were ready to buy when it made sense with our finances and our lifestyle. Renting a 900 sq. ft. house worked out perfectly for us for two years but eventually we started to out grow the space and became eager to invest in a home of our own.
Where to start
If you haven’t already, take a look at those finances. Spending a Friday evening creating a budgeting spreadsheet may not sound like the most exhilarating project in the world, but believe me this step is so important.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself when creating a budget:
What are my expenses? How much do I spend on meals and entertainment? How much can I comfortably save?
This article from LFW’s first time homebuyers series is a great resource that simplifies financial preparation before buying a home.
Once you have an understanding of where you stand financially, it is time to take it to the bank. There are lots of options for mortgage lenders so it may be beneficial to do a little research before you choose. We went with Star Financial and were perfectly happy with the whole process. They even let us do everything online and we never even met with our lender until closing.
Your lender will talk you through the pre-approval process and help you decide how much house you can afford. Remember, this number is different for everyone so refer back to the budget you made to help guide you.
After you are pre-approved comes the fun part… HOUSE HUNTING!
There is no shortage of real estate agents in northeast Indiana, in fact if you have already browsed Zillow or Realtor.com it is likely some agents have reached out to you at this point. Check out this article on finding the perfect home with a realtor.
Our agent, Neal Stangland with Orizon, went completely above and beyond to help us find our dream home. Neal answered all of our questions without making us feel like ignorant first timers and took all of our concerns into consideration when showing us houses.
Diligence is key
You may or may not have heard, but the Fort Wayne housing market is booming right now. If you have been pre-approved and selected your realtor, it’s time to get serious. See a place you like? Tell your boss you’re going to need the afternoon off because it is likely that ten other buyers are looking at that same house. Some houses don’t even last 24 hours on the market! Another piece of bad news, since the market is so competitive there is not a lot of wiggle room for negotiation. Expect to pay the listing price and be prepared to even put in a higher offer. That being said, housing in northeast Indiana is still crazy affordable compared to other metropolitan areas so don’t feel too bad paying full price.
Once an offer is accepted it can take about a month to close on the house. While this is an exciting time it can also be a little nerve racking. Inspection, appraisal and counter offers are all on the agenda. Be prepared to make and take a lot of phone calls. If all goes well until closing date and you officially leave the title company with the keys to your new home you can rest easy and be so so proud of yourself because you are now a first time homeowner, congrats!
Enjoy your new home!
After all of the hype about purchasing your new home, actually moving into it can feel a little alien. On the first night in our house, Dusty and I almost felt like we were at an Airbnb or crashing with some friends. Now, one month later after moving our belongings in, decorating to our taste and acquainting ourselves to the new neighborhood, the place finally feels like ours. Oh and of course we had to get a new puppy to help us share the extra space.
Buying a house for the first time is a different experience for everyone. With all the variables to consider before becoming a homeowner, I would advise anyone looking to take that step to do plenty of research and gather input from friends, family and real estate professionals. And of course, have fun with it. This is a time to be celebrated!