Confessions of a First-Time Homebuyer: Lauren Bowling | Redfin
Purchasing my first home was one of the most exciting times in my life. Aside from being able to daydream about my perfect home and find ideas on Pinterest for hours on end, it also officially signaled the end of my childhood and my entrance into adulthood.
In 2013 I purchased a 1940s “starter home” in Southwest Atlanta. It was a foreclosure and needed a lot of work ($60,000 worth to be exact). I was wide-eyed and optimistic and had no idea how stressful purchasing a home and becoming a homeowner would be.
Thankfully, it does get easier as you grow and learn the ins and outs of homeownership. Here are some of my darkest confessions. My hope is that a few of these will help ease the learning curve for others out there looking to own their own home someday.
I Didn’t Do My Homework
From choosing a real estate agent to vetting my contractor, I got lazy and relied on word-of-mouth referrals and my own “intuition” to choose my home-buying team. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was so “hands off” in investigating the individuals who were helping me make one of the biggest financial decisions of my life.
You’ve heard the horror stories out there, and it’s a shame that so few rehabbers are happy with the jobs their contractors do. I recommend that when it comes to choosing a contractor, get three quotes for every project you want done, pick the one that is most competitive, and always check references by calling past clients. If they don’t have references or don’t want to turn them over, move on.
I Bit Off Way More Than I Could Chew
Because of my own experience, I never recommend that first-time owners undertake massive renovation projects. Buying your first home is already a large financial undertaking and it comes with a steep learning curve. Renovating a home is also a large project that often overwhelms even the most experienced rehabbers. I’m not talking minor cosmetic fixes like countertops and backsplashes; I’m talking massive renovations that involve moving walls, re-routing plumbing and electrical or adding square footage to the home.
This is why I suggest first-time owners wait to purchase big gut jobs as their second home. This way you can learn as you go, as opposed to getting a crash course in both owning a home and overseeing a renovation at the same time.
I Learned That DIY is Empowering
Sure, it looks fun on television and on the blogs I love to read, but when I actually sat down to DIY a project for my home, I realized how much patience, love and attention to detail it takes. Learning how to use power tools and replace a light fixture really made me feel like a million dollars, and you’re never too old to learn something new. As an added bonus, doing it yourself also saves a lot of money.
The Holidays Are More Special
There is something special about decorating a home you own and having people over for the holidays. It becomes even more special year after year, when you get to do it all over again and remember the times you had before. Since the holidays are a time for nostalgia, the season goes well with the consistency that having roots and owning a home bring to your life. The holidays have been my most cherished times in my home.
It’s Been More Rewarding than I Could Have Imagined
Financial headaches and construction nightmares aside, owning a home gives you a sense of empowerment that renting doesn’t. Although it is more responsibility, you are the better for it. You learn to deal with the surprises (like when your pipes burst or you realize you have no insulation in your attic). Homeownership teaches you the importance of preparation and considering all sides of the issue.
I feel the biggest lesson I’ve learned being a homeowner is not to sweat the “small things,” stuff beyond your control is going to happen all the time. All you can do is your best! And that lesson has been invaluable.