The wedding day was perfection, the honeymoon was even better, but now you are back at home facing a series of decisions to be made as a couple.  Perhaps the most difficult of those, is the decision to buy a new home. 

  1. Choosing the Right Fit - The first step in the home buying game is very likely the most fun.  That is the choosing the right house to make into a home together.  This is a very emotional game.  While you can look at as many print outs and computer images as you would like, nothing will give the true look and feel of the house without visiting it.  While you should always feel free to walk through open houses, it is a good idea (especially for first time buyers) to use a real estate agent.  These professionals have access to nearly all houses for sale and can narrow results for you based on the criteria that fit your needs.  But, better than that is the fact that they will help you to write an official offer, with the negotiations, and with the buying timeline. Although you haven’t found it yet, in your mind, it’s perfect! Open floor plan, granite countertops, and a walk-in closet … the works!

Not to burst your bubble, but let’s take a step back. You are buying your very first home. It may be great, but chances are it won’t be your dream home. In fact, you may be one or two more home purchases and moves away from your “dream home.” And that‘s okay. The key to finding the right first home purchase for you is striking the right balance of a home that comes as close to your dream home requirements as possible, but still stays within your budget.

Starter Home

The term “starter home” exists for a reason. At the height of the housing market craziness, and right before the bubble burst, many first-time home buyers jumped over the starter home and into a bonafide dream home. Now, we are all painfully aware of how that all turned out. You have to accept that your first house is probably not going to be the one you’ll live in for the rest of your life. That’s okay! And the thought of what lies ahead should be exciting! When you think about the fact that your future holds salary increases and smart savings plans, the opportunity to move up becomes more real. When you’re ready to jump up to a larger, dreamier home, this first home can provide you with the funds for that purchase.

House to Condo

Yes, you are going to need to narrow down your search at some point, but as you begin to play with the choices, keep an open mind. You may be thinking about a house, but there might be a great condo with a cool balcony, a stunning view, and great amenities that could be just as dreamy. For your budget, a condo or even townhouse might get you closer to your dreams than a single family home.

Older vs New Construction

According to a recent Trulia trends report, twice as many people prefer new homes over existing homes. “New” means new construction, or homes purchased in pre-construction while “existing” means a house someone else has lived in. In many parts of the country, especially the East, Northeast and South, many of these “existing” homes are homes built anywhere from the 1920s – 1970s. For the same price, 2 in 5 of Americans (41%) strongly prefer to buy a newly-built home over an existing home. However, most new construction homes could cost you up to 20% more than a comparable older house. Buying an older home could add up to big savings and allow you to get a bigger piece of the “dream” than a brand new one.

The Fixer

I am a huge proponent of buying a home that you can add value to, rather than paying the bigger price tag to someone else who had the work done for you. Offsetting a big price tag with some sweat equity is a very smart move. In addition, you can get much more home for your dollar, and have the option to fix up and improve it as time goes on and as you have the available cash to fund the renovations. Plus, all that original older architectural detail that comes with many fixer-uppers is a dream in the making.

  1. Soothing the Financing Fears - Let’s face it, for the vast majority of buyers, the main fear in buying a home is the assumption of loan payments.  Most mortgages are written for thirty years, and when one stops to consider re-financing in the future and secondary mortgages, those loans can last even longer than that, so it is important to ensure that you stay within a realistic budget.  It is always wise to consult a mortgage broker before looking at houses.  There is no point in getting your hopes up about the “perfect house” before you know if you can afford it.  Mortgage brokers shop around to find you the best lending deal and give you pre-approval for an amount they determine to be the high end of your buying power.  That should also mean to you that the amount you are pre-approved is not necessarily meant to be the price you buy at, as you may want to stay within a safer range.

  1. Getting to the Close - Remember, the majority of house transactions come with minor complications along the way.  So do not assume that you have the house just because you put it under contract.  You will likely have to face other difficult decisions, stressful changes in schedule, and other obstacles before you reach the finish line- closing day.  But, it will all be worth it when you walk through the doors of your very own home for the first time.  Be sure to savor the momentous occasion with photos and maybe a candle lit take-out dinner on the floor of the empty house that is now your home!