Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of us moving into our home. It was a roller coaster of a move, but this day one year ago, it was all finally over. After going through the buying and selling process of a house (specifically a house in Alberta), we definitely learned some things. And being as I’m no longer a first time home buyer, I thought I’d impart some wisdom.
- Find a Good Realtor
I see lots of people in my town trying to sell their homes without a realtor. This I do not recommend. Realtors are experts in the field of homes. The rest of us are amateurs. They will come into your home and give you tips on what will help sell it. For example, when Brian and I were trying to sell our old house, the realtor recommended that we buy a mirror to go above our dresser in the master bedroom because it would make the space look bigger. Now, the master bedroom was pretty big already, but if you are going to put “Spacious master bedroom” on your listing, you’d better be sure it looks spacious. He also told us to switch out some of the light bulbs so that the light was better.
Another great thing about a realtor is that they will tell you things about the house that maybe you didn’t notice yourself. For example, our last house faced a street (like it was on a “T” intersection), which meant that any time that cars drove down that street towards our house, the lights would shine directly into our master bedroom. We were told that and then we had to decide if that was a deal breaker for us or not. They can also help you decide on a fair price to offer or if an offer is worth taking.
- Figure Out What is Non-Negotiable
When you look at houses, decide what you can’t live without. For us, we needed a garage. There is no way we are dealing with another prairie winter where we have to brush off our car every day or plug it in. We also needed enough rooms for our family of 4.
There are things you can’t live without and things you’d like, but can compromise on. I really love baths and I wanted an ensuite with a bathtub, but the house that we fell in love with didn’t have that. So I had to decide if I could live without it (obviously, yes). Sometimes I wish I had that tub in the ensuite so that I would have 2 doors between me and small children, but it’s not the end of the world. Though if we were ever to buy again, I would try to prioritize this a little more. Same with a fenced yard. It’s SO expensive to landscape and you have to wait a year if your house is brand new so that it settles.
This step is a little more difficult if you’re buying with someone else. Brian and I were doing this together and we had different priorities. Like in everything in a marriage, we had to compromise.
- Don’t Rush & Don’t Wait
House buying is all about timing. You are looking for the perfect home at the perfect price, but that “perfect” home doesn’t ever come. There will always be compromises. So do you just buy the first house that you kind of like? Yeah, no. If you can, don’t rush to settle. Wait until you find that one house that you compare all the others to. If you’ve ever been a bride, you already have practice with this. It’s like finding your wedding gown. If you can’t stop thinking about one, that’s probably the one.
The problem is that houses sell fast. Like really fast. For example, our last house was on the market for a total of three weeks. We had twenty showings and three offers. Then we went to buy a house and there was an offer already on it. Then we went to buy another and it sold out from under us. Finally, the third house we put an offer on was accepted.
As our last realtor said, “If this house was to be sold tomorrow, would you be disappointed? If so, then you should seriously consider putting an offer down.”
- Know Your Budget
This is really important. Do not look at houses above what you can afford. Don’t do it. All it will do is make you dissatisfied with the houses you can afford. Or you might buy something out of your price range and then you are on the hook for that mortgage. And when you’re figuring out what you can afford, keep in mind that life throws you curveballs. You might have a great job, but what if you have a baby or lose your job or get seriously injured? Keep it in mind. Our province is having quite the downturn right now and there are a lot of houses on the market that were owned by people who lost their oil jobs. Don’t let yourself get caught in that trap.
- Houses Always Cost More Than The Asking Price
There is a lot more to pay for than just the asking price. There are legal fees, property taxes (I think it’s about 1% of the house’s worth), upkeep, condo fees, utilities, and any costs to do landscaping/buy appliances/get window coverings. We bought a brand new house and had all those fees. Just the landscaping/appliances/window coverings cost us about $20k. And that’s being conservative (because we get a quote on Wednesday for landscaping).
Buying a house is a great thing, but it’s also a bit of a minefield. You learn a lot of expensive lessons. It’s not for everyone. Many of my cohorts aren’t buying houses and choosing to rent instead. You decide what works for you.
Do you have any tips for new home buyers? Or are you someone who would rather rent? Let me know!