First-Time Home Buying: A Love Saga with a Bit of Nausea
Buying my first home in D.C. was an emotional roller coaster, no doubt like the abysmal dating scene in the District of Columbia. Aside from New York City or the Bay Area, I can’t think of a more hostile environment to be a first-time homebuyer. My first obstacle was not being a millionaire. That meant many listings in my price range looked like a housing project. Second, the market is extremely competitive, so I didn’t have a long time to mull over a decision. If I hesitated, the house was gone.
Although I watched every episode of Property Virgins and read every blog post about home buying, no one could prepare me for the hair pulling stress induced by entering the Hunger - I mean housing games.
Here are few lessons I learned through the home buying process.
1. Buyer’s remorse is a (bleep).
I’m normally a pretty sure of myself. Once I make a decision, I rarely change my mind. Apparently dropping tens of thousands of dollars overnight changes a girl.
When I was waiting for my offer to be accepted, I was on pins and needles. When I got the great news, I was on cloud nine. Pinterest was my BFF, and I was dreaming of throw pillows and hardwood floors. Then imagine my surprise when I suddenly felt nauseous at work the day after my offer was accepted. As I was driving into the office, I had this sinking feeling. You know, the 'I ruined my entire life' feeling.
My mind was replaying, over and over, every flaw in the condo. The anxiety was so crippling I had to call an adultier adult (my mom) to come down, see the place, and reassure me that I didn’t make the biggest, most expensive mistake of my life. Fortunately, she was able to talk me off of the ledge, and I have never regretted my housing decision since. Fun fact, in D.C. you have 15 days to rescind your accepted offer for any reason for a newly built condo. Read those contracts and know the laws of your state or swamp territory. By the way, I’m not a lawyer so do not consider anything I say legal advice.
2. The home that got away hurts more than any failed romance ever could.
Home buying is a very emotional decision. When you think you find the one, it’s like the whole world fades away and it’s just you and the glorious granite countertops. Mine was the condo that had a beautiful glass door with green trim that opened to the study. Yes, a study.
It was love at first sight.
I immediately became territorial at the open house. All these people needed to get out of my house. Nothing was going to get in the way of my offer. Despite having surgery the day the offer was due, I got all of my ducks in a row so I could claim what was rightfully mine.
Alas, this love story wasn’t meant to be. My offer came third out of eight. I was crushed.
I remember the heartbreak I’ve had in the past, and that was child’s play compared to losing my HGTV dream.
I lost my will to go on... other home searches.
My dad reassured me I would forget about the condo and fall in love with another. I didn’t believe him, but of course, he was right. However, I do occasionally think about the house that got away and wonder if the new owners treat it right.
3. This will be a big life change for you. For everyone else, it’s another day at work.
How do you show up to work after a big fight with your partner, your kid screaming through the night, or a Netflix binge that accidentally goes until 3:00 AM? Sure, you’re awesome at your job, but let’s be honest, some days are better than others.
I say all of this because while buying a house is a monumental moment in your life, it’s just another Tuesday for your real estate agent, the seller’s agent, the mortgage lender, basically all the parties involved. So you need to keep track of dates, read over all paperwork and make sure everyone is on their P's and Q's.
You’d be surprised how many mistakes you’ll catch. In my paperwork, critical numbers were missing, and I was assumed to be Caucasian in my loan documents (wonder how that happened?). I felt like I was correcting errors far too frequently.
Remember, you’re the one who has the most at stake in the home-buying process. That earnest money you put down to show your offer was a serious matter is at risk. While I was sweating bullets, worried about losing my earnest deposit, everyone else in the deal was Netflix and chilling in the comfort of their homes.
4. Closed mouths don’t get fed.
Ask, and you might receive. If you don’t ask, you’ll receive nothing. What, should you ask for? I asked for closing costs, some updates to the house, and a new fridge. Asking saved me thousands of dollars. The D.C. market is competitive, so my requests would have been laughed at in different neighborhoods. But thanks to the more coming than up status of my community, my requests were granted.
This why you need to hire a real estate agent who knows what they’re doing. Unlike the lessons your elementary school teacher taught you, there are stupid questions that could come between your next home.
5. Homeownership changes you.
I’ve never been a particularly neat person. I would have bags of laundry in my closet and clothes everywhere. I cleaned to ensure that bugs wouldn’t invade my apartment, but neatness wasn't a priority.
Well, homeownership changed all of that. This house is my baby. I went from apathetic renter to getting on my hands and knees, investigating how that scratch on my hardwood got there.
Cosmetic appearances aside, I’m that much more involved in my community. Everything from the school across the street to the car break-in matters now. You, your friends and family members might be shocked at the transformation, just embrace the new adultier you.