My house is adorable. It sits atop a tiny incline, around a tiny corner, in a tiny-but-adorable neighborhood. It has been lived in, loved on, neglected, and changed. It has been both my proudest accomplishment and my biggest regret.
I purchased the house when I was young — almost too young — and full of hopes and dreams for my future. Buying a house, it seemed, was the first step in solidifying my aspirations — so it was always a goal of mine. While I would like to say I did my research, in all honesty, my house was pretty much an impulse buy. It was affordable, big enough for a family if I wanted one, but small enough to live comfortably on my own. It had great bones and hadn’t been renovated, which allowed me to put my own stamp on it. I put an offer in, it was accepted, and then the fun truly began.
In light of what I learned from the experience that followed, here are a few things I wish I had known before buying my very own home.
The Mortgage Process Is Stressful
To put this in perspective: planning a wedding for 250 people is far easier than buying a house. I’m not sure if my experience is an isolated one, but I found it insanely difficult and nearly lost my mind at several key stages during the process. There were hours spent at the bank, countless phone calls to verify information that was already given countless times, and about several hundred calls back and forth to my loan officer. The amount of information, too, was lacking, even though I asked about a million questions. While I was preapproved, I wasn’t even sure that I was actually going to get the house until my lawyer sent me an email with a closing date and the amount that was due in certified funds. I swear, I must have asked at least 27 times if I was good to go.
People Aren’t Easy to Deal With
Usually, in the state that I live in, you do a final walk-through before you proceed to closing. Well, there was no final walk-through — and the residents cut the power to the house. So, after I signed all this paperwork, I walked into a home that was filthy, smelly, damaged, and had some extra furniture in it that needed to be discarded. But when I called my real estate lawyer, he basically said that while he would try to get some money back, I had signed the paperwork — meaning, I bought my house as is even though I didn’t see it first and had nothing to come to the negotiating table with.
When you purchase a home, you realize that no one is easy to deal with, and everyone is out for themselves. The sellers, the lawyers, the mortgage brokers, and the painters and plumbers. It’s really rare that you find someone willing to work with you, or for you. Ultimately, I found that your best advocate is yourself.
It’s a Lot of Work
The sheer number of things that need to be done on a daily basis is staggering. You may think that you’ve been cleaning your house for the past few months, but all of a sudden you notice there is dust on the walls. THE WALLS. Or your burner decides to call it quits after you get back from a trip to Mexico where you spent a boatload of money on margaritas. Or your toilet starts leaking out of nowhere. There is no super to call, and no one is tasked with managing the project. It’s all you, and it’s not always easy.
Taking the day off or working from home because your toilet needs some attention (or your refrigerator is leaking again) isn’t always feasible and can only happen so many times before your employer starts getting irritated. And forget whole-home renovations if you’re doing it alone — good luck trying to take that amount of time off.
Ultimately, everything needs attention — and your work is truly never done. You have to remember to wash the curtains. Your couch cushions lose their shape, or mold to yours. Expensive things get stained or ruined, and sometimes there is no way to get those things replaced except to shell out money and do it all over again. Not a big deal for a lamp, but it’s a very big deal for a floor installation.
You May Be Able to Afford It, but . . .
There are definitely trade-offs. If I didn’t own a home, I could be living like the Queen of England. Well, not really, but I would be able to travel more, eat out more frequently, get my roots done more often, and definitely spend more time at the spa.
Just because you can afford to buy home doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. In addition to a monthly mortgage payment, there are a plethora of other expenses that come along with it. And some of these expenses may carry price tags that are much higher than you can afford. Even with a rainy day fund, things tend to break at the worst possible times. Or you’ll realize you really should have skipped that ridiculously expensive bottle of Champagne you indulged in the second you walk back in the house from a long weekend away.
And don’t forget the fact that the house also needs to be furnished and filled with cookware, kitchen gadgets, cutlery — basic things that you take for granted or don’t factor in when you’re signing your life away.
I wish someone had sat down with me and said, “Hey, kid, a new roof costs this and a hot water heater is this much,” because while I’m not sure it would have changed my mind, I would have felt a bit more financially savvy when making such a huge decision.
How Lucky You Are to Have It
I know, I just made the American Dream sound like a gigantic pain in the ass. Well, it is. But it’s yourpain in the ass. Yours. No one (but the bank after four missed payments) can take it away from you. No one can match the amount of work you did to purchase it and the love you put into making it a home.
At the end of the day, I curl up with my husky on our couch (with sagging cushions from sitting on them every night), look at our scratched hardwood floor from too many games of tug of war, get slightly annoyed at the chew marks on the molding from when she was a mischievous puppy, and sigh loudly over the dirt that has bunched up in the corners of the wall or on the ceiling fan because I swear I just cleaned that. But all the while, no matter what happens or how much work it may be, I’m thinking, “Wow. I love my home.”