Being a first time buyer is tough. I mean, you go into it with no experience and have to make one of the biggest decisions you’ve ever made!
When my wife and I were ready to buy our first house, we were clueless. We had a tight budget like most first time buyers. We would look at terrible houses. One backed to a train track. One was in a high crime area. We finally found one in Winchester. We had not thought about what happens once we find one we want. We had no idea what to do with making an offer, the inspection process, or anything else.
We ended up with a pretty worn out house that the seller had only completed 80% of any renovations he had done. The house did not have central air conditioning, the heat was a fireplace and a giant floor furnace in the dining room. Usually those giant floor furnaces are in a central location so the heat can move around the house. Our’s was in the far front corner. It would get about 110 degrees in that room. The next room was 90. The next room was a very nice 70. By the time you got to the opposite rear room, it was 50 degrees unless you started a fire in that room. Also, two of the floor joists were cut when this furnace was added to the house. It was a really old house and probably didn’t have heat when it was built in about 1915.
We picked sort of a terrible location. Turns out there was a shooting two doors down right after we signed a contract. The seller assured me that the shooter only shoots at people he knows. For some reason, that made me feel better and I made a mental note to never introduce myself to him to avoid being on the list of somebody he might shoot.
We moved in and we were happy living in our craptastic first home.
The house seemed huge at first. Then we had two boys. We began thinking about things like school districts and the boys playing outside alone.
So, here are some common things that first time home buyers don’t think about……including one first time buyer who would become “THE LEXpert.”
- Size-Most first timers are coming out of an apartment. All houses seem big. I see a lot of people buy a house barely bigger than their apartment. It becomes too small once a kid comes along. Try to buy something you can grow into a bit.
- Location-Most first timers have to choose between a prettier house in a worse location and an ugly house in a better location. They usually choose the prettier one. Location never goes out of style, but trust me, one day we will be sick of having everything white and of shiplap. When that day comes, you’ve got an outdated house in a bad location.
- Condition-Most first times don’t know how long a furnace lasts, so when they hear that one is 27 years old, they don’t care. They also don’t know the cost to replace one. Same for roofs, windows, etc. I usually tell all buyers that there are 3 biggies in a house, which are the roof, hvac units and windows. I don’t usually see all 3 that have recently been replaced, but shooting for 2 of the 3 is good. You don’t want a house that will have a $5000 expense coming up soon.
- Price-First timers seem to fall into two categories: The ones willing to pay the full asking price and the ones who will want to make an 80% of the list price offer. I always tell all my buyers that the first thing we need to do is figure out what the house is worth. Then we base an offer on the value of the house and not the asking price.
- Maintenance-Houses are money pits. Mother Nature is pretty much trying to ruin your house. She will win the war, but you can win each battle. You’ll have repairs for appliances, the furnace/air conditioner, your roof may spring a leak, the water heater may go out. I’ve got a bunch of rental properties. I usually spend an average of $2k a year for repairs and maintenance.
My goal with all my buyers, especially first timers, is to find a house in a safe location, that won’t need a ton of repairs in the near future, and that will be easy to sell when they want to move up.