8 Things to Remember When Buying Your First Home

Everything in life comes with a learning curve. Maybe you’re starting a business, starting a new job, purchasing a car, or learning to play the piano. Unless you’re a prodigy, you likely won’t be able to sit down at the piano and play Mozart on day one. Normal people have learning curves, and that’s completely, well... normal.

Today, we’re talking about purchasing your first home – and from our extensive experience, there’s a learning curve involved in this massive undertaking. There are a number of things to remember before crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s for your mortgage. From finding the right location to considering any renovations – taking these eight points into consideration prior to purchasing your first home will help keep you better informed and a more confident buyer when you ultimately pull the trigger on your new residence.

1. Don't commit before you're ready.

Committing to purchase a home is a big responsibility and it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into before agreeing to purchase the property. Taking the time to know all the costs will help you decide if you’re ready for a commitment of this size.
In addition to your monthly mortgage payment, calculate how much you’ll be paying for property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, homeowner's association fees and other monthly costs of owning a home. Factor in costs for planned and unexpected maintenance repairs too. These are all things that can easily be overlooked when you’re trying to decide on a property.

2. Location is important

Before looking at specific properties, start with deciding on an area in town. From the proximity to major roads and highways to grocery stores and entertainment, location plays a big role in the value of a home.
Even if you don’t have kids, it's important to check out a neighborhood’s school district – living in an area with a great school or school system will help keep the value of your property, even if you're not a parent, the people looking to buy your house down the road might be.

3. Know the building plans for your neighborhood

Another thing to keep in mind when looking for the area to purchase in is the area’s future construction plans. Completing due diligence on future development projects in the area is key, as development projects can change the value and living experience of your home significantly.

Development projects can change the enjoyment of living in a home too. For example – an empty lot next to a home that the city plans to build a parking garage on could potentially drive away future buyers when you eventually sell your home in the future. You’ll want to be aware of those development plans to make an informed decision prior to purchasing.

4. Remember that sweat equity can save you thousands

You’ll probably find a house or two in your search that you love everything about... except for that one bathroom or bedroom. Or maybe it’s the garage or the basement that’s going to need work. If you have the skills, time, and patience needed to live with a torn apart bathroom or bedroom for a while, do-it-yourself home improvement projects can save you big.
Even a minor DIY home improvement like new lighting or vanity in a bathroom can make a large difference in the home’s total value. While the total cost to complete and install new vanity and lighting would only be a few thousand dollars, the value it can add could be upwards of $10,000.

5. Make sure those "new renovations" were professionally done

While you know you’ll do renovations the right way, never assume that the owner before you took the project as seriously as you will. If you find a home that was newly renovated, make sure you find out who did the renovations. Newly renovated doesn’t always mean better. It’s not uncommon for DIY remodelers or builders to remodel a home with cheap and low quality materials that look nice and new but don’t fare well over time. This can lead to you shelling out even more cash later on to repair those “new renovations”.
Speaking to a trusted friend or contractor to inspect the home about it’s recent renovations can never hurt and could potentially save you on repair costs down the road.

6. Bigger isn't always better

As a first time home buyer, you probably won’t be buying the biggest house on the street – and that’s A - O.K. Even if you can afford that biggest house on the street, bigger simply isn’t always better.
Larger homes generally come with higher property taxes, higher heating and air-conditioning bills, and ultimately take longer to clean. Regardless of budget, we recommend purchasing a home that makes sense for the size of your family – a moderate sized home will typically keep your costs lower.

7. Don't get married to the first house you see

When you're shopping around, don’t fall in love too quickly with the first house you see. We’d recommend that you see between 5-10 houses before even beginning to consider making a decision.
Because it’s very easy to blur together two houses after a weekend spent looking at house-hunting, a pro-tip we use is to write down the pros and cons of each home immediately after you’ve viewing it. Then you’ll be able to make a clear comparison of the homes you saw and easily identify which one checked the most boxes for what you’re looking for.

8. Talk to your potential neighbors!

When you eventually find a great area and a great home, go around and talk to some of your potential new neighbors. As outsiders to your buying process, neighbors may provide invaluable insights into the neighborhood and the house itself.
You’d want to find out about that weird neighbor down the street or the ghost in the home's basement prior to your decision to move in, right?
Long story short, learn as much as you can about the area and the home prior to your decision to purchase. There’s no such thing as over-informed when making one of the biggest decisions of your life, so be thorough and remember - your partners here at Starion Bank are always available to answer any questions you might have about what to look for, getting a mortgage, or anything else related to this stressful, but exciting, process!
Feel free to reach out to us here with any questions about your first time home buying journey.