As a copy editor at Quicken Loans, I read, write and edit content about the home-buying process all day, every day, so I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about all things mortgage. Until now, however, I hadn’t been through the mortgage process myself. But on October 28, I officially became a homeowner.
If you’re about to go through the mortgage process for the first time, you probably have some questions. And there are probably some aspects of the buying process that you haven’t even thought to ask questions about. That’s why I’m sharing my experience with you. Here are some things I learned from my very first home-buying experience.
Getting a Mortgage Is Actually Pretty Easy
Seriously. My Home Loan Expert and purchase specialist walked me through the mortgage process. All I had to do was upload some paperwork, sign some docs, and BOOM, I had a mortgage.
That said, there were some things I didn’t expect. For one, I didn’t realize that the mailing address and the street address of my house could be different. This really threw me for a loop when the purchase agreement had the name of a city I didn’t expect.
Another surprise I encountered was that, for mortgage purposes, my home is considered a condo. I discovered this when the title company called me to confirm the details of my home. Because of how the land is deeded, the title company considers my house a condo even though I purchased what many would consider to be a single-family home.
Despite these minor surprises, my mortgage process was all smooth sailing. When we got to the closing, my realtor mentioned that she couldn’t believe how easy it was. I’m just lucky, I guess!
Real Estate Agents Are Everything
Don’t try to go it alone. Your real estate agent’s commission will likely come out of the seller’s proceeds and not your own pocket, so it’s basically free to work with an agent.
I guess I didn’t realize exactly how much real estate agents do. They set up showings. They give you advice. They write the offer letter. They do research on the home, and they handle all communications with the seller’s agent. In my case, my agent even set up my home warranty and handled some issues with we had with utilities after closing!
Through all of this, I learned exactly how invaluable a real estate agent’s help can be. Don’t go it alone – there’s no reason to!
Disclosures Can Be Sort of Terrifying
When we found the home we wanted, our agent had the seller’s agent send us the disclosures. Truthfully, I didn’t know what the disclosures were, or what to expect. As I read through the document – which wasn’t terribly exciting – I learned that the home was in pretty good condition. However, the disclosures mentioned that the buyer still owed taxes from 2013.
Having fallen in love with the home, this turned me into an emotional mess. “We can’t buy the home because we’re going to have to pay the seller’s taxes,” I cried to/shouted at my husband. This wasn’t actually the case, as the taxes simply came out of the seller’s proceeds at closing. But sometimes, when you don’t know what the disclosure forms mean, they can be kind of scary!
Getting Insurance Isn’t Fun
Buying homeowners insurance was more difficult than getting a mortgage. And trust me, I’m not just saying that because I work for a mortgage company!
I was determined to shop around for homeowners insurance because I wanted to get the very best rate. I got quotes from at least 10 companies. Each quote took about half an hour of my time because the insurance agents had a lot of questions.
When I finally figured out which company I wanted to go with, I called to purchase my policy. The agent kept me on the phone for over an hour, asking me questions about everything from the square footage of our deck and attic to the quality of the cabinets in the kitchen. Having spent a grand total of one hour in the house, I could only guess at the answers to most of the questions. At the end of the phone call, they upped my annual premium by about $600! Needless to say, I didn’t end up purchasing a homeowners insurance policy from that company.
Compromise Is Everything
I had my heart set on buying a house in Trenton, MI. It has some of the best schools in the area, and it’s relatively close to work. However, when we looked at houses there, we discovered that most of the homes in our budget were A) super old, B) super small, and C) in need of some serious TLC.
However, in a neighboring city, our budget bought us about twice the square footage and a much newer home. We also found that we could still send our son to Trenton schools through the school-of-choice program. By compromising, we got both the type of home we were looking for and the option of sending our son to a great school district.
Contractors Will Try to Take Advantage of You
Prior to moving in, we hired a contractor to paint the interior of our home. We signed a contract stating which rooms would be painted and what the cost would be. However, as the painter worked, he kept trying to upcharge me for rooms that were already included in the contract.
Since I’d read the contract, I was skeptical of everything the painter was telling me about the charges. His partner admitted to me that the painter had messed up the contract, so he felt he was being underpaid and was trying to squeeze more money out of me. Thus, I learned to be skeptical of contractors no matter what. This guy probably thought I’d blindly pay more because I’m a young, new homeowner, but I’m glad I stuck to my guns and refused to veer from the contract.
Cleaning Someone Else’s Home Is Gross
We were able to pay less than the asking price on our home, and I think it’s partially because the condition of the home scared other buyers away. While the home was free from any major defects, there were definitely some cosmetic issues. The seller didn’t bother to clean the home before showings (ew!), and the lawn looked horrid.
If you think cleaning your own kitchen is gross, try cleaning someone else’s. I was lucky to have a lot of help from my in-laws, but it took hours of cleaning, setting mousetraps and tearing out carpets to make the house livable. And here’s what I learned from this experience: If you can afford it, you should totally hire some professionals to sanitize everything before you move in.
You Need Time to Settle In
Prior to moving in, I had so many projects I was going to do. I was going to paint my kitchen cabinets. I was going to install my own tile backsplash. I also had big plans to go thrift shopping and refinish a bunch of old furniture.
In reality, we’ve spent the first week in our new home taking care of what I would consider “boring” stuff. We got our air ducts cleaned and hired someone to repair the garage door. We paid a locksmith to come swap out all the locks. And I spent countless hours on the phone yelling at the flooring company for not showing up when they said they would.
So the lesson here is this: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Your first few weeks or months in your new home will be spent taking care of the necessities, but you have a lifetime to beautify your home and follow up on all those Pinterest projects you mentally committed to.
Closing Costs Will Terrify You
I put 20% down on my home to avoid paying PMI, so I knew I’d be bringing a lot of dough to the closing table. However, I didn’t fully understand what would be included in the closing costs. For instance, I didn’t realize that the first year’s homeowners insurance premium is paid up front. Therefore, I had to bring a bit more money to the closing table than I had anticipated.
When I wrote the big check the night before our closing, I felt nauseous. It was scary to think that the big savings cushion I’d grown so accustomed to seeing in my bank account would be disappearing. However, the minute we were able to move into our beautiful new house, I realize that the big check was money well spent.
You Will Be Pretty Darn Proud of Yourself
Owning a home is the best thing ever. During our first night in our new place, my 3-year-old was lying in bed shrieking because he liked the echo of his new bedroom. I didn’t even have to tell him to be quiet because we no longer share walls with neighbors, and weirdly, that was the best feeling.
It’s great to know that we’re no longer under control of landlords. I don’t have to let maintenance people in my house unless I want to. I can decorate and remodel to my heart’s content. And I don’t have to hide my cats from anybody. I can be the loud, proud, crazy cat lady I was always meant to be. In other words, owning a home is a pretty great feeling.
The whirlwind adventure of buying my first home is coming to a close, and my family and I couldn’t be happier. What was your first-time buying experience like? Share it with us in the comments!
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