I saw THIS POST on a blog that I follow and I knew I had to chime in. Be warned this is a wordy post with no pictures. I can't explain these with photos.
I'd always heard that house hunting, and buying a house, were difficult and the process is something you never want to go through twice but I didn't realize how right everyone was. Last year (7/12) my husband and I bought our first house. We had some of the greatest, and worst, experiences of our entire life. I thought I'd share what I learned through the process in the hopes that I can help at least one person in their quest to find their first, or second, or 15th, home.
1. Do your research.
This is something we wish we would have done a little better (in regards to our mortgage broker) before purchasing our house. We didn't research our agent but he came highly recommended from everyone in the county. We didn't research where we wanted to live because I've lived in the area for 30+ years, and we've rented in almost every town possible in the county. We didn't research our inspector but his ratings are through the roof, and he came top recommended from our agent. (He also sends us monthly updates on when it's time to do certain maintenance on our home.) We knew which areas we did and didn't want to live. (Funny story, we ended up buying in the one town we didn't want to live.) We didn't research our mortgage broker either and we regret that more than anything else. Which brings me to #2.
2. Find the right people before you do anything else.
It was easy as pie to keep in contact with our agent. We knew the minute we met him that he was the agent for us. He sent us an email almost everyday with listings he thought we'd like. He always answered his phone and always had the answer we needed. Our broker, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite. There was an entire week in the middle of our buying process that I couldn't get a hold of him. Every time we called he was in a meeting. We could call him 5 times a day to ask a question and each time he was in a meeting. We didn't know until it was too late that he'd switched companies in the middle of working with us. This was huge for us because we'd heard nothing but good things about the company. We weren't sure we'd even got the house until a couple days before closing. It took over a week, and numerous phone calls from us and our agent, to get an appraisal done on the house. He claims that the appraisal dept. thought we were just looking and we weren't serious. WE'D ALREADY MADE AN OFFER! By the time we realized how horrible our broker was it was too late to get a new one. Needless to say our agent will never work with that broker again and I always tell people that the company he's with has made him useless. (Yes, we are that upset with the job he did.)
3. Be as specific as you can and know what you DON'T want.
Our agent was amazing. We told him that the easiest way for us to see houses was on our terms. He did exactly as we asked. He punched our wish list into an automated system that sent him listings everyday. He then sent us the listings by email so that we could look at them, decline them, or pursue a further look with him. When I say be specific, though, I mean in what you want. Know how much square footage you want, how much land you want, the city you want to live in. What a lot of people forget is to tell their agent what they don't want. We didn't want to be in an HOA, we wouldn't accept less than 1/2 acre, and there was no way we were living with a septic tank. I think it's far more important to know what you don't want than what you do. Everything can be modified but if a home is full of "that has to be replaced because I didn't want that" you're not going to like it.
4. Don't ever ever ever ever ever ever settle.
Home buying is hard, looking is hard, but never settle for something you're not happy with. Some time before my husband and I found the house we're in, which is 99.9% our dream home, we found another home that was probably 75% dream 25% what do we do with this? We were so close to making an offer when we sat down and had a chat about settling. We both used the word settle and knew this wasn't the house for us. It took a couple weeks before we found the home we're in but we're so happy that we didn't settle for the other one.
5. Don't get attached to a house.
This is probably the hardest one. The second we saw our house we knew we wanted it. I fell in love with it. My husband is a lot better at controlling his emotions though. I have a feeling that's what made the month it took to close so hard for me. He was ready to pull out at week 3 but I made him stick it out because I wanted this house so badly. Never let your emotions run your process. I did and I regret it.
6. Always get a home inspection/specialty inspection.
Even if the house is sold as is get an inspection done for yourself. If the seller won't accept a contingency clause where an inspection is required I say walk away. When we purchased our home it was only 6 months old. We still had an inspector come in. He did a 4+ hour inspection and found a couple things that we wouldn't have even known mattered. When I talk about a specialty inspection I'm saying electrical, HVAC, etc. The things our inspector found were related to electrical and HVAC. We called in our electrician and our "AC guy" the next day to check things out before we went any further. Thankfully they weren't a big deal and things kept moving.
7. Be prepared for everyone emotion you can think of.
I didn't know buying a house would make me happy, and sad, and angry, and devastated all in one day. If you've never experienced such a wide range of emotions be prepared because they're all coming.
8. Make sure you can explain everything in your past/present/future to everyone involved.
If you don't earn your money in the conventional way, make sure you can explain it. My husband has an annuity from the loss of his leg when he was a child. We had to write a note explaining how he got the money and where it came from. If you don't have all the paperwork you need because of something out of your control, make sure you can explain it. My husband's mother is on our checking account. When it was time to turn in our bank statements we realized we hadn't been getting them. The bank in CA screwed something up and started sending statements to his mother instead of us. That was such a headache and it's still not sorted out. If you haven't worked in a while, make sure you can explain why. I've heard of people having to explain why they, as a married couple, were living with their parents. You're going to find that you have to explain some of the stupidest things you can think of. It seems meaningless to you but apparently it's important to everyone else.
9. Take a break for yourself and your sanity.
I don't mean from the looking process or the buying process, unless it's something you feel you need to do in order to maintain some sense of normalcy, but make sure you take time for yourself through this whole process. If that means staying in bed one day just to read or going on a mini vacation to a town a couple hours away, do it. The stress can kill you or cause other problems, as my husband and I are finding out a year later. Stress is something you can't cure easily. Don't let it get to you.
No matter how hard the process was or how much I hated certain aspects of it I'm so glad we finally have our house. I couldn't be happier. It's always nice to know your money isn't going toward someone else's mortgage payment.