I have been dreaming about my first home for years. Decades, really. As a child, I would scribble out floor plans with built-in movie theaters and the classic 90’s-kid dream, the water slide from the master bedroom to the pool outside. As I got older, I started wishing for a backyard with a fire pit where all my friends could sit for hours and chat, a big kitchen for hosting dinner parties, and a Notebook-esque wrap-around porch perfect for sweet tea sipping and book reading.
Two months ago, the time came for me to actually buy my first home, and though my mind was chock full of ideas, I had no clue where to start. Loans, realtors, and neighborhoods upon neighborhoods – it was easy to feel overwhelmed. Despite the challenge, my husband and I ended up in a beautiful home that we feel so blessed to have. Though there is no water slide or swimming pool, the home is a wonderful reflection of who we are.
Here are a few things I learned along the way that I hope will help the first time homebuyer navigate this process and find a home that you love:
1. What are your values?
When you start looking to buy your first home, sit down and make a list of your personal and family values. Do you value community? Nature? Urban renewal? Do you like to walk or bike everywhere? Do you have specific needs for your children (or future children)? Your values are essential when considering where and what to buy.
When you first speak with a realtor, they will ask you questions like what neighborhoods you’re interested in, how many rooms you’d like, and what your have-to-have list is. These sorts of answers best come from reflecting on what is important to you, how you like to live your daily life, and what kinds of memories you’d like to make in your new home. Knowing your values will also help you best choose a realtor who supports your interests and desires for a home. Interview a few realtors before choosing one, and be honest with them from the beginning about what is important to you. It’s their job to help you find a property that best matches your desires, and a great realtor will be eager to know what it is that you value in a home.
If you value community, look for a neighborhood with a lot of people out and about on a Saturday afternoon. You might not enjoy living in a sleepy neighborhood where there aren’t a lot of opportunities to socialize and meet new people. If you like to walk or bike everywhere, make sure to look in a neighborhood that is easily accessible by bike paths or sidewalks. If energy efficiency and the environment are important to you, make sure you research what elements in the neighborhood and the home are essential to supporting that value, like windows, insulation and appliances, so you can be aware of them (or their absence) when you’re out shopping.
Price and location is very important in the process, but being keenly aware of your values will help you and your realtor find a home that you not only love, but trust to support the things that matter most to you in life.
2. See wisdom from mentors.
Buying your first home is a life-changing event. You’re taking on a huge amount of responsibility, investing in a community, and laying the foundation for an intentional life. You will undoubtedly have a million questions, and though there are tons of articles and books you can read about how to effectively manage the process, having wisdom from someone you trust who has already gone through this experience is invaluable.
Purposefully choose someone who will not only be a great resource for your questions, but who will make time to listen to your thoughts and concerns, and help you reflect on your values, hopes, and fears. This time is not only exciting but stressful, and a supportive mentor will make navigating this process smoother and more enjoyable.
If you’re married, make sure that you both agree on who this person will be. It is easy to slip into the familiar habit of debriefing all of your thoughts with your parents or friends before consulting your spouse. Choose someone you are both comfortable with, and consider an individual outside of your family. My husband and I consulted our parents on certain subjects, but also valued the candid and unbiased conversations we had with individuals outside of our family.
3. It’s okay to make mistakes.
I am a notorious list maker and overachiever. From the loans to the realtor relationship to the moving coordination, it seemed like we had everything figured out as homebuyers. And then, we bought the wrong fridge. It stuck out 5 or 6 inches from the counter, and seriously obstructed the walkway into the kitchen. It looked terrible, and I immediately took the blame. I hadn’t paid much attention to the measurements of the space, and we did very little research before we bought it.
There will be countless experiences like these over the course of your time as a homeowner. Paint will be spilled onto the carpet, the fresh sod will be accidentally run over when you’re pulling into the driveway, and much, much more (I have done all of these things). It’s okay to make mistakes. See them all as learning opportunities, and try to remember that the rewarding feeling of owning your own home is far greater than the annoyance of having to walk around the wrong size fridge for a few days.
4. Reflect and enjoy the process!
Buying your first home is a big deal! Let’s stop, and give you a round of applause! This time deserves a lot of reflection, ceremony and celebration. You’re not only investing in a home, you’re investing in yourself and in making your life the best it can be.
Make sure to take the time to journal, take pictures, make a few videos, paint – whatever you like to do to reflect on this important time. There will be hard days and mistakes will be made, but these are all stepping stones to the beautiful memories you’ll make in your new home.
When we first moved into our new house, I felt displaced and overwhelmed by the responsibility we had taken on. I felt a lot of pressure to do everything perfectly at first—everything had to be unpacked into the perfect drawer or cabinet, the art could only be hung once in the perfect spot on the wall. Every wall, every inch of our floor represented opportunity that scared me instead of making me feel blessed and excited.
Once I took some time to write about leaving our old apartment, going through the process of buying, and dreaming about the memories we’ll make here, I felt so much better. Now, I am overflowing with thankfulness. This house is such a wonderful representation of who we are as a couple, and our goals for the future. If I hadn’t taken time to sit and reflect over my thoughts and emotions, I’d likely still be festering with worry and anxiety.
Treasure this time and hold it close to your heart. You’re becoming the fullest version of yourself, and that is worth celebrating.
Good luck and congratulations!
Image via Pinterest