Over the last year or so, we have spent hours discussing what we want in a home, afternoons walking neighborhoods in Birmingham, and weekends going to countless open houses. This pattern falls in line with the how we've always made big decisions as a couple; we tend to take our time being methodical and thorough as we do research and consider the options. As we come upon what we believe to be the end of the home-buying process (those updates coming soon!), the time and thoughtfulness we invested is paying off for us.
As we dreamed, planned and saved for our home over the past couple years, I was so excited for when we would "officially" begin the search. I anticipated it being SO much fun, but I can't say it completely met my expectations. While there certainly have been fun, exciting moments, this home-buying thing is a lot harder than it looks! I have been more emotional than I would have expected, and the constant learning in this process is good, but very hard and time intensive.
We still have a lot to learn, but I thought it'd be helpful to share with you a few tips I've gained along the journey. I found great help and comfort in reading through my friend Emily's home search, and I hope this will be helpful to you in a similar way!
1. Where you make your home is less important than who you make your home with.
In all the excitement of the journey of buying a home, it's easy to become consumed with it. Much like wedding planning, if I'm not careful, I find it's all I think about and all we talk about. Don't get me wrong, buying a home (especially the first time around) is a BIG deal, and it does require a lot of thought, work and communication, but, at the end of the day, it is not the most important thing. I can get so lost in dreaming about marble countertops, that I fail to focus on the person I'll prepare meals with and share conversations with over those very counters.
So, the encouragement is this: during your home search, make room for intentional daily moments where you are not talking about it and make sure your spouse feels the most valuable. After all, when buying a home, it is with the hope to create an environment for love, community and family, so it's vital to keep building those things most of all throughout the process.
2. Have a few, trusted people you share EVERYTHING with, including numbers.
I got this advice from a coworker who recently bought a home, and it has been so helpful! Finances are something people often keep private, and understandably so. I know for me, money definitely falls into my Southern upbringing category of an "impolite" topic to discuss. Needless to say, this philosophy carried into our home search nearly to our detriment. By keeping this completely private, we were missing the opportunity for valuable guidance and perspective from people who love us and could share great wisdom and advice.
In our process, we chose to share numbers most specifically with our parents. Then, we have close friends who recently bought a house in the same neighborhood we hope to live in, and who share similar financial values as us. Finally, we have opened up to a friend who goes to our church and has experience in the real estate business and can give a good outside perspective as well as connect with how faith plays a role in our decision.
This small but mighty group has made a big impact on our process and decision-making. Ultimately, Woody and I make the final call as a couple, but the perspective and feedback we have gathered from these few trusted people have been invaluable. And, a happy by-product is these people have become our biggest cheerleaders and encouragers throughout the journey.
Being first-time home-buyers, we discovered it wasn't healthy or wise to keep all of the details to ourselves, but on the same token, it is not healthy or wise to share all the details with everyone. Ultimately, the consistency and trust of a few will go much father than the opinions of the many.
3. Do your homework.
Everyone likes recess, but few enjoy homework. Home-buying is very much like this. The dreaming and initial searching is fun, but the number-crunching, inspections, more inspections, waiting and negotiating are not so fun, yet they are totally worth it.
We have chosen a neighborhood with very old homes, and the one we like was built in 1925. You can do the math, but I'll do it for you—that's 90 years old—an entire lifetime. As you can imagine, while it's full of lovely character, charm and good bones, after 90 years, there are a few areas where this home needs some love.
The importance of doing your homework when buying a home (no matter it's age), is that it allows you to be an informed buyer. It will help minimize surprises once you move in (notice I said minimize, not eliminate!) Understanding the condition of the home and what it would cost to update or upkeep it from the point you buy it is so valuable to your decision. Then, as you're negotiating and figuring numbers, you have as much of the full story on the home as possible without living there, which of course will ultimately give you the full story.
For the home we are pursuing, we did the standard home inspection, and after what we learned through that, we had two electricians, a general contractor, and a sewer inspector come out to the property to give us more details and quotes on what needed to be done. We are well under $1,000 invested at this point, and it's been some of the smartest money we've ever spent. Doing this research and seeking professional help has allowed us to be as informed as possible about what to expect in this home, and that gives us great peace of mind moving forward.
4. Pray your heart out.
This point should probably be first, as it's the most important, but we'll count it as saving the best for last. No matter how much homework you do, how much money you've saved, or how many people you seek advice from, there is still risk involved in buying a home. There is uncertainty, emotional highs and lows, and challenges throughout the journey (and this is coming from a girl who doesn't even own a home yet!). So, the best thing you can do in this journey is pray your heart out before, during and after you buy.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
You may wonder if God cares about your home-buying journey, and let me assure you He does. The home you buy is about so much more than an amazing front porch, high ceilings, and yes, even more than idyllic marble countertops. Where you choose to buy a home is a highly spiritual matter. It impacts your neighbors, where you spend your time, the environment in which your children are raised, and where you build your life. There is no doubt that God cares about this tremendously.
"From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live."
I encourage you to start praying for your future home now or at least as soon as you know you want to buy a home. We have been praying in general for our home since last year, but in January, right before we would dive fully into the search, Woody and I spent a focused time of prayer for our home during 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting at our church. Here are some of the things we asked God for:
-Guide us to the right lender and realtor.
-Give us wisdom and direction.
-Go before us and direct our path.
-Give us peace and unity as we make decisions.
-Give us a good price for our home.
-Let us live in Crestwood (the neighborhood we loved and felt drawn to.)
-Give our home a strong physical and spiritual foundation.
-Bless the community where we will live, let it be protected, and a place of peace.
-I also prayed specifically for one of the "must haves" on my list-- a place out of the general living spaces to put the cat litter!
Y'all, I cannot tell you how many of these prayers have already been answered. And I know that when we move in, we will continue to see God's plan unfold and His love and purpose enrich our home and our lives. God wants to be part of your journey, and He will guide you if you'll just invite Him and allow Him to do so.
I'm amazed and grateful for all Woody and I have learned in this process, and I know there is so much yet to come! I would love to hear from you! What advice or ideas do you have for a first time home-buyer?