If, like me, you’re out looking for your first home, I feel your pain. It truly is an emotional rollercoaster. And, if you’re like me and you wear your heart on your sleeve, it doesn’t make things any easier. I have already written some pointers on getting together your first home deposit. So, I thought it might help to jot down some of what I have learned through the house-hunting process, in the hope that it can provide some comfort and practical advice during this stressful time.
Coming to terms with losing the house that got away
At some point during your house search, it is highly probable you will come across that first home that makes your heart flutter and to start picturing your furniture in the lounge. For my partner and I, this happened a few months into the house search. The house ticked all the boxes; it had the right number of bedrooms, a deck for entertaining, a great lounge, decent kitchen, great area, uncomplicated layout and a lawn. Admittedly, it had more land than we need, but we already own a lawnmower, so who cares, right…? Well, as you probably already guessed, we didn’t get that property. The owners not only wanted higher than our pre-approved budget, but they also wanted more than the market was prepared to pay – it has since been pulled from the market.
What did I learn? Don’t get emotionally attached to a property, you are setting yourself up for a fall. But also, turn the “loss” into something practical you can use on your house hunt. After we looked at the place, my boyfriend and I talked about what features we loved. But we also talked about what we would be prepared to compromise on. It is unrealistic to think you can get absolutely everything on your list for your first home. But you might be able to come close if you can establish what your deal breakers are.
“After we looked at the place, my boyfriend and I talked about what features we loved. But we also talked about what we would be prepared to compromise on.”
Think with your wallet – not just your heart
Another really key aspect I have learned about buying a home is, always remember where you came from. By that, I mean remember how hard you worked to get that deposit together. While buying a house is an emotional decision, as it will undoubtedly change your lifestyle, when it comes down to it, it is a huge financial decision. Always, always look at a house with a critical eye. Think about whether you have the budget to do any required alterations, or whether it is worth that extra investment.
Lately, I have been thinking about a trick a friend taught me to get through horror movies. Hear me out, it is relevant. As film and media students, we were taught to critically analyse every piece of media we saw. So, one day she came up with the theory that if, when watching a horror movie it gets a bit much, try thinking about how they have used camera angles, lighting, costuming etc. You are reminded it’s a movie. And it does work. So, I thought, what if I started to look at houses this way. Instead of getting caught in the romance of buying a home, what if I started to think about every element that went into a home. Has the agent styled a home in a particular way to distract from peeling paint and scuffed-up carpets? It might seem like a great deck for entertaining, but in the end it is just some wood put together in a particular way – so is that wooden frame sturdy? A home is really walls and floors – so be extremely sure those floors and walls won’t fall apart around you.
“It might seem like a great deck for entertaining, but in the end it is just some wood put together in a partcular way – so is that wooden frame sturdy?”
And just to add to that, I have come away from many a home confused about how a home looked so different from the pictures. Apart from thinking I should get the photographer’s number for future *cough* wedding purposes, I was also reminding myself that there is no use falling in love with a home on paper. The reality can be very different.
Surround yourself by cheerleaders
Looking for a first home requires a lot of emotional strength. I am very lucky in that I have a supportive partner who understands how important finding a home is to me, and who also understands I do get caught up in the emotion. Whether it is a partner, friend or parent, have a support system to help you through the process. I can’t stress that enough. Without plugging any particular bank, I can also say we have had fantastic support from our bank manager. I highly recommend you think carefully about any practical support that a lender offers. Finding the right home loan is extremely important, but so too is a bank manager that is aware of how much the house-hunting process can impact on you mentally.
Lastly, don’t forget to be realistic in terms of your budget. While you don’t have to get pre-approval, I would highly recommend it so that you know how much you’ll likely get approval for, as well as to get an idea of future mortage repayments.
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