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A First Time Home Buyer On What She Wishes She Knew Going In

Ashlyn Jackson  |  December 27, 2021

There’s a lot no one tells you about when you’re first buying a home. You’ve just gotta figure it out. Here’s what I wish I’d known.

There are a few “wow” moments in a woman’s life — times that you just have to take a step back and ask yourself, “Did I really just do that!?” Days that may initially come to mind include your wedding day, the birth of a child, your first day launching a business, or the day your book hits bookstore shelves, but I have to say that buying a home now sits at the top of my list of “wow” moments — and I would not have predicted that until I went through it.

It was just a few months ago that my boyfriend and I were standing in our tiny apartment watching as a steady stream of water cascaded all over our floor, thanks to yet another leak in our roof. The repairs seemed to be endless, we’d had enough of feeding money to a landlord every month, and frankly we were tired of walking up two flights of stairs every night. In other words, we were ready to take the leap into home ownership.

If you’ve been considering the move yourself, first of all, congratulations! Let yourself get excited. Yes, it’s a big investment. Yes, you have questions. And yes, it can all seem intimidating — but you’ve got this. To help inspire others to feel a little more confident about making the leap, here are a few nuggets of wisdom from my own home-buying experience. (I hope your journey can be as smooth and as joyous as possible!)

Don’t Be Shy About Asking For “Special Deals,” or Quick Move-In Options

We got lucky when it came to our home. We’d been looking at new builds (new construction) and that entire process from start to finish takes at least 10 months to complete, if not more, given the pandemic and supply chain issues. First, you have to pick your colors and flooring, then you need to consider any optional add ons, etc., and that’s all before the building process even begins, which happens in several stages.

READ MORE: 5 Most Profitable Home Improvements to Make Before Selling Your Home

In our situation, the home builder we were working with had a buyer back out of a purchase when their home was just 45 days from completion. This meant that there was a brand new home almost completely built and ready, and the builders were looking for someone to take it, ASAP. The only catch was the buyer needed to be satisfied with the colors, flooring and other specifics that the previous prospective owner had chosen. Thankfully, we’re generally pretty flexible, and we ended up really loving the floor plan and add-ons that were included. Such a score for us! But what I didn’t know going in was that this was something I should have inquired about up front, as soon as we met our builder. Many home builders often have inventory that they refer to as “quick move-ins,” and these homes may have served as a show home for a suburb (also called a demo home) or they may be a property that a previous owner has backed out of. It’s actually not uncommon for people to back out of their agreement even when construction is in the final stages, and leave a brand new home waiting to be sold. And, because we were flexible and ready, willing and able to move in ASAP, the builder covered most of our closing costs and all of the optional add ons that were included in the home such as upgraded lighting, gutters and a sprinkler system. We saved over $10,000 with this alone!

When You Make Your Offer, Try To Get Some Extras

Homes are a huge investment — perhaps the most substantial investment you’ll ever make in your life. As such, you really want to get the biggest bang for your buck. With most homes, the appliances are not included. And while this may be obvious to someone who has owned a home before, when you’ve been renting your entire life, this can come as a rude awakening! For years, the landlords of my various apartment buildings were in charge of supplying a working refrigerator, a washer/dryer, a stove, and a dishwasher. Which means I didn’t have these items to bring with me — and they do not come cheap. When you’re already putting your life savings into the home itself, there’s not always money left over for appliances.

READ MORE: Five Rules To Break To Win A Home-Buying Bidding War

When we put in the offer on our home, we asked if the offer could include all new appliances, and our offer was accepted! We added up the cost for the appliances once we moved in, and we estimate that we received over $6,000 in new home appliances, a definite win.

And for buyers who aren’t considering new construction, very often the owners of a home will be willing to leave their appliances behind, particularly if they are built-ins that match the rest of a kitchen. But don’t forget to ask about this before you sign on the dotted line — just because you saw a refrigerator in the kitchen when you viewed the home doesn’t mean it will be there when they hand you your keys, unless you’ve specified it in the contract.

Use Any Realtor You Like

I feel like most people I know have a friend or have a family member with their real estate license. We had several trusted friends we could have called, but we didn’t realize that when we signed the initial paperwork with our home’s builder that they’d stipulated we needed to use their realty team. By the time we realized we could’ve named an agent of our choosing, and given our business to someone we know and love, we’d already signed the paperwork. So, after we finalized the purchase, the builder’s realty team was the one who earned our 4% commission — and they did absolutely nothing during the entire process. This was very disappointing to us, but it just wasn’t something we considered before signing on the dotted line. The point is: Don’t be bullied into using a suggested realtor, and if you don’t see one listed, make sure to ask. It could be buried in the fine print. Remember that you can choose whomever you want to help you close your home.

When Writing The Check, Check it Twice

Before you roll your eyes at this one, let me just say — it happened to me. On the day you go to close on your home, you’ll need to bring the final payment to the attorney’s office, or to the realtor’s office, depending on the arrangements you’ve made. At this juncture, it’s incredibly important that you have a buttoned-up check with the correct name on the check, and the correct amount. Mistakes can happen easily — for example, many company names can be complicated and have unusual spellings. And if you owe an odd amount (ending in, say, 73 cents) then that has to be accurate, to the penny.

READ MORE: The Smartest Places To Put Your Home’s Down Payment

I ended up having to run (literally) to get my bank to reprint a cashier’s check because I failed to double-check that I had issued it correctly. We did end up making it to the bank just in time AND back to the office before everyone went home for the weekend, but it was a close call. Too close for me! The last thing you want is added stress on closing day, do your due diligence, and check the details ahead of time.

Enjoy The Win!

You did it. Take some time and breathe in your “wow” moment because you deserve it. Buying a home is an amazing investment, and if you’re anything like me, it took you time to become financially capable of taking such a step. Once you’re in the position to purchase a home, it’s likely because you’ve stayed on track financially and committed to building your savings, your credit, and eliminating your debt. It deserves celebrating.

After we got the keys we went to our new home, took pictures with our family, and popped a bottle of champagne in the backyard. It was a day to remember. Take the pictures, stand in the front yard, and breathe it all in — because it’s all yours.


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