How to Be a First-Time Homeowner With No Regrets
Wandering into the great unknown that is first-time home ownership takes guts, money and guidance. You have to have the guts to take the leap, so that one’s on you. To help you foresee some of the financial pitfalls, there are great resources available, like this one and this one. You can also turn to an experienced lender such as Marty Mates (Caliber Home Loans) or Misi Johnson (Access National Mortgage), or a real estate agent you trust. And you probably won’t be wanting for advice — whether you asked for it or not — from family, friends or coworkers.
Despite all the well-meaning resources available, I meet buyers and sellers everyday who tell me stories of first-time home-buying regret. I hate regret, so to help you act like a pro, even if it’s your maiden buying experience, here are four common regrets I’ve heard about and how to avoid them.
Regret No. 1. “When we bought our first home, we paid attention mainly just to the price.”
Only seeing the value of a home in terms of price and not paying close enough attention to other details can lead to regret. Before making an offer, think about how long you plan to live there. You aren’t likely to stay in your first home forever, so even though it may seem far away, factor in the home’s potential resale value.
When you judge a house by its reasonable price, you might be tempted to focus on the amenities — walk-in-closet, garden tub, big laundry room, etc. — and fail to notice the power lines in the back, lack of a coat closet or “eccentric” orientation of a room with windows. (How are you going to fit a sofa in there?) A “good deal” might not seem like such a good deal after all.
When a number drives your buying decisions, you can also lose sight of your goals. Why are you buying a home? How do you want your home to accommodate your lifestyle? Often, buyers are scared to pull the trigger on the first few houses they see because they are fearful that they are acting too soon. Your real estate agent should help you uncover your goals and priorities and select houses that are the “best fit,” pre-qualifying your options so that you see the best of the best.
Regret No. 2. “We didn’t think through our move very well, and it turned into a real nightmare.”
Whether you’re a typical DIYer or a hire-it-out kind of person, take into account all of your options before committing to a moving strategy.
If you are considering moving yourself, and you have a team of very tolerant, strong, patient friends and family, go for it! Otherwise, I would almost always recommend hiring a professional moving company.
These companies do moves daily and know how to take tricky turns and bends without damaging your walls and belongings. Movers also carry insurance that will cover your items should they break during the move. I’m guessing Uncle Mike isn’t going to re-patch your drywall or replace the Target dresser that loses a leg on your DIY moving day.
Hiring pros can also save time and stress. Before the big day, they will come in and evaluate your move, taking into account everything to be transported, especially items requiring additional security or care, and then provide you with an estimate for your move.
If you are like me, you would rather pack yourself so that you have an opportunity to purge some things (silver lining). Other people would rather stand in rain for a week rather than pack their own things. If this is you, hiring a mover to pack and move is a good idea. However you pack, be sure to label everything to save time when you unpack at the new place.
Regret No. 3. “I fell in love with a rug/color/pattern/style, dropped a lot of money on it, and it never really worked in our house.”
Do not spend money on new décor before you move into your house! Live in the space, friends. Far too often people get sucked into the weekend “Big Bang Sale” or “Door Buster Savings” and walk away with a sectional for the basement that won’t make it down the stairs. I know moving into a new house is exciting, and decorating is even more exciting, but taking the time to know scale and orientation of how you want to live in a house will save you big bucks down the road. I’ve personally made this mistake several times and I wish I were more patient. When in doubt, consult someone who has a keen sense of style (I love sharing my “decorator” two cents) or an interior designer for feedback.
A lot of people get hung up on defining their personal style and decorate accordingly, which can make your home feel dated fast. Instead of going all out Arts and Crafts, Victorian or modern, consider first what you want from your space. For example, is your family room meant for formal gatherings or do you want it to be your everyday TV-watching-kids-playing room? Let your lifestyle guide your decorating decisions.
Knowing your budget will help you avoid regrets, too. Decorating is not cheap, but it also doesn’t need to break the bank. Look at photos of rooms and décor that catch your eye. Create a look-book on Pinterest or Houzz. Browse issues of Architectural Digest and House Beautiful. The Indiana Design Center in Carmel is open to the public and offers fabulous resources, from flooring, to fixtures, to countertops. Showing someone an example of what you like will help her or him understand you and assist you with buying decisions.
Be cautious with trends. I love chevron, but if I put it all over my house, it will look crazy in, say, five years. It is better to select your staples (couch, rug, etc.) in timeless fabrics and prints, and then use your accessories to “pop” your room. It is much less expensive to buy a new lampshade or pillows every few years than it is to recover a couch and buy new rugs. I love adding drapery to rooms to warm things up. This could be a great way to bring in your own style.
My budget go-to shop for those “pop” items is TJ Maxx HomeGoods. Browse their accessories, rugs and lamps. Of course Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma Home have great products and ideas. I also think Target has come a long way in the home décor game, often featuring designers such as Nate Berkus who create seasonal pieces.
Regret No. 4. “We never made friends in our first neighborhood.”
When you are buying a home, you are also buying into all those homes around it. Once you buy, adapting to the neighborhood is a lot easier and more fulfilling when you are proactive about making friends and meeting new people.
Find out if your neighborhood has a homeowners’ association. If it does, check with the folks there regarding the “happenings” of the neighborhood and get involved. An HOA can share with you the ins and outs, and dos and don’ts of your new home base. Even better, being on your HOA board will help you get to know people and be aware and involved regarding changes or issues that may affect homeowners.
To learn the lay of the land of your new neighborhood, don’t wait for neighbors to come to you. If you see someone out and about, introduce yourself! If there is a parade, pool party, block party, euchre night … attend! You will likely never regret it.
Whether you’re a first-time owner or a seasoned pro, the Kelly Todd Group can help you have the best experience possible. Contact us to meet.