You know that old adage, “you never forget the first?” – first kiss, first job, first big financial purchase. You’ll also never forget buying your first home; I know I won’t forget mine. I’ve documented my home ownership story on my blog quite a bit, (here, here, and here) and it’s definitely been a roller coaster. But there have also been lots of amazing lessons.
Here’s what you should know if you're buying your first home:
You have to have your financial act together
Before you even start talking to real estate agents you should be double and triple checking aspects of your finances that lenders are going to scrutinize. These items might include you credit report, employment and rental history, and pulling financial docs like W2’s and tax returns.
You and your lender are going to become BFFs during this process so you want to make sure they are seeing the best you that you can be. If that means taking some time to raise your credit score or save up for the down payment, do it!
Related: Are you ready to buy? Check out this Allstate checklist to see how you stack up!
Doing Your Research Pays Off (Big Time)
When you’re a first time homebuyer you won’t have a ton of real estate experience.
And unfortunately, the process of actually buying a home isn’t as slick and painless as Sitcoms or Reality TV shows (looking at you, HGTV!) make it out to be. Educating yourself will make such a difference on all aspects of the process, so be sure to ask lots of questions! This includes your real estate agent, contractors, mortgage brokers…pretty much anyone involved.
Trust me, it is way better to ask and maybe feel a little dumb than to miss out on opportunities or offers because you didn’t.
Besides, these people should be making your life easier and be willing to help (and if they aren’t then you shouldn’t be using them.)
Beyond education, researching different ways to save money on buying a home can be as simple as googling “[city name here] down payment assistance”. I was able to buy a house for less than $2000 by using down payment assistance programs and finding a home in an area that qualified for other forms of assistance. So instead of paying $20k upfront I was able to keep some cash in my pocket – all it cost me was the time needed to fill out the paperwork.
Don't Take on a Big Project (the First Time Around)
Every house with “good bones” doesn’t come with a hunky man in flannel to install new cabinets or redo the bathrooms, you’ve either got to do it yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. Not saying you should purchase a fixer upper if you want one, just think about what kind of commitment you are willing to make when buying your first home.
I wouldn’t typically recommend a “project house” for first timers unless you’re looking to flip the home for a profit or it’s going to be your forever home. Just think – a cheap fixer upper can quickly become an expensive money pit if you’re not careful!
Despite the Learning Curve, Buying a Home Can Be a Beautiful Thing
Aside from these important financial lessons, buying a home has been an incredible experience for me. I’ve been able to make rental income from the home, which allowed me to pay down debt and save up money so I could leave my full time job! It’s also provided me with a sense of stability and financial empowerment you just can’t buy.
Home is a happy place, and even though rentals have their advantages….you don’t get to customize them as much as you can with a home. I’ve loved being able to put my stamp on a place so it truly feels like “my house.” I’ve spent three very happy years here in my first home and I wouldn’t change it for it the world.
This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to help protect your firsts and the moments in between. Share your firsts with #HeresToFirsts