Monday, 10 October 2016

Home Buying Series: House Hunting

We've spent the last few weeks talking about the process of buying your first home and today we finally get to the fun part. If you want to check out the previous four posts in the series all the links are at the bottom of this page. 

You've made the decision to buy a house and have your down payment saved up and have pre-approval for a mortgage so now it's time to find the house of your dreams...or maybe the more realistic house for the current moment. Remember, very few people buy their dream home right off the bat so be prepared to have to make some compromises when buying your first home.

Location, Location, Location
In my opinion, the first thing you'll want to narrow down on your house hunt is where you actually want to live. When the bf and I bought our first place just over 6 years ago, this was definitely the most important factor. We were willing to sacrifice on square footage so that we could be close to downtown and not have to commute. I have never regretted that decision one bit, I would be a pretty miserable person if I had to sit in traffic for 30+ minutes twice a day instead of my current 10 minute (15 on a bad day) round trip. If you're house hunting as a couple, you hopefully have similar ideas on location as that's a terrible thing to compromise on.

Needs vs. Wants
Once you have an idea of what area you want to live in, it's worth it to check out some available listings on MLS and see what type of homes are in your budget. Doing this first will help you be realistic about what sorts of features you can actually afford. I'm a list person so I would recommend writing down all the things you want in a house and then rank them by importance. The first few things on your list will end up being your needs (think at least two bathrooms and not so much a jacuzzi tub) and the rest will be the little extras that can push one house ahead. If there's two of you, it will be helpful to each make your own list and then see how closely your priorities line-up...maybe you're a perfect match, but most likely you'll need to re-evaluate a few things, so everyone is happy. This master list will be your go-to tool when figuring out which house will be the best fit. You might walk into a home that sways you with its prettiness, but if it doesn't check off the top items on your list, it's best to pass. Once you live in a place for awhile, you'll soon realize that sacrificing those things will make you crazy. 

Use a Professional
Get yourself a good realtor! For first-time home buyer's this is a must because it will give you access to someone who knows the ins and outs of the buying process. They'll also be an excellent resource for when you need to hire an inspector and a lawyer. Our realtor was a family friend and was such a huge help, she thought of so many things we never would have even considered when looking at homes, and I'm certain she's the reason we ended up with our current home.

The Hunt
I hear stories about people who look at a ton of houses before finally finding something, but that was not at all the case for us. We actually ended up buying the first place we saw (I told you our realtor was amazing!) We did look at a few other places (maybe 7 in total) before biting the bullet, but that first one was meant to be I guess. The first time we looked at our current house, it was right at the high-end of our budget, so we passed and kept looking. Just a couple of days later they dropped the price by quite a chunk, and we immediately knew that was the one...as did another buyer but we ended up with the winning bid. You'll want to look at a few places to see what's available but I think it's important to narrow down your search as much as possible, so you don't get burnt out. I actually loved looking at houses but was happy to find something quick. Patience is not my greatest virtue, and I would have become frustrated if we weren't finding anything that was a good fit. Once you've found the perfect place, you will need to get a home inspection to ensure there aren't any big surprises soon after you move in. If the inspection goes smoothly, you are ready to put in an offer and live through the most stressful hours (days) or your life! We were lucky in that we got the whole process done within 24 hours but that last phone call saying the sellers accepted our offer came at 11pm...not much is crazier than waiting to see if you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars that day ;) 

Hello Homeowner
You are now the proud owner of your very first home! How does it feel? If you're anything like me you were probably dealing with a whole lot of excitement mixed in with a little "holy shit, that's a lot of money". Depending on how far out your closing date is you'll now be busy getting the closing finished with your lawyer and start packing up everything. Good luck!

Next week we'll talk about that closing process and what sort of costs you're going to be faced with. If you missed the previous posts in this series or just want a little refresher you can find them all here: 

1. Home Buying Series - Renting vs. Buying
2. Home Buying Series - Saving Your Down Payment
3. Home Buying Series - Home Buyer's Plan (HBP)
4. Home Buying Series - Mortgage Pre-Approval
5. Home Buying Series - House Hunting
6. Home Buying Series - Closing Costs

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