The day has finally arrived: you survived the recession by heading to grad school, you’ve been steadily working for a few years at XYZ Consulting Art History PR and Travel Blogging Firm (a nonprofit) to balance out your debt ratio, you’re in a committed relationship with your cat (so you think), and you’ve been roommate-free for two years and counting. Whew. It’s time to embrace that final mantle of adulthood by saying goodbye to your tiny rental/room in mom’s basement. Now, now, calm down—you know you’re ready! Let’s take a look at the number of factors to consider now that you’ve decided to adult.
First, the scary stuff: Consider your finances.
Buying a home is a great option if (1) your job is stable, (2) you don’t plan on moving soon (it’s the worst, anyway), and (3) rents are increasing. Take a look at your credit history and score, and figure out what available resources you can dedicate to a down payment and a monthly payment. The total amount you’ll need for a conventional loan is 20% of the home value plus closing costs. While this number may seem scary, there are multiple government programs and options for lower down payments. Typically, first-time homebuyers can put down 0-5%. Next, you’ll need to find a lender to pre-qualify you for a home loan at an affordable rate. Getting pre-approved for a loan will help expedite the closing process
Now the fun stuff: Finding the best fit. Looking for that perfect, two-bedroom downtown loft accessible to hiking trails, Trader Joe’s, and your favorite pub crawl will be a majorly fun timesuck. There are multiple online sites and apps to browse while commuting to work, being at work, coming home from work, and lying in bed before tucking your phone under the pillow. But before you jump online and start searching willy-nilly, decide what’s important to you. How far is your commute? How walkable is the community? How accessible are you to main roads and retail amenities? How many hipsters per square mile? How easy is it to find a bar? Are there Uber drivers always at ready? Is the neighborhood mostly families, older couples, young professionals, or a mixture? Narrow down your search to a specific geographic region in order to find what will fit you the best, as well as influence the outcome of your first major investment. It’s also important to remember that different kinds of homes have different expenses. For example, single-family homes don’t the same expenses for landscaping, HOA fees, and community amenities as townhomes and condos.
The dealmakers: Can I do this by myself? The short answer is no. I know, I know. You were raised on the internet, and therefore you can lifehack your way through any process. While this may be true when changing your timing belt or getting the best deal on a flatscreen TV, you’ll receive invaluable guidance and information by working with a licensed real estate agent. While the vast majority of inventory is accessible online with photos, video tours, and detailed information, agents specialize in specific market areas and have access to information about the homes and communities that you can’t find anywhere else. Additionally, their expertise is invaluable when touring a home. Licensed, experienced agents (read: not your friend’s friend’s brother or your goddaughter’s uncle) can look for potential issues and problems on house walkthroughs. While major issues are usually uncovered during inspections, an agent can save you a lot of heartache by offering their experienced-backed opinions before you make it to the inspection stage. If only Grey’s Anatomy had come with some kind of initial walkthrough…
So. Now you’ve found the house, you’ve selected an agent, and it’s time to submit your offer. An agent will be very useful—especially in competitive markets—in negotiating an appropriate price. The offer is put in writing (again, an agent will navigate you through this maze of paperwork), you’ll submit a “good faith” deposit, and you’ll finalize your purchase contract. Don’t panic! This is just the housing version of “You want to like, date seriously, like only me?” Yes, I want to date, like, only you.” It basically means that you’re committed, they’re committed.
Last steps: Closing. This is an entirely other blog post by itself, but never fear. With the right agent, it’s only a waiting game.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully become the kind of person who can read an entire article (with no GIFs or videos, mind you) about adulting without falling into a full-blown panic attack! While buying your first home may seem like a daunting task, with the right mindset and preparation, you’ll soon be moving your childhood paraphernalia from Mom and Dad’s into your new home and taking daily trips to IKEA—and don’t forget to bring the cat!