You can find our House Hunting series on YouTube!
Can you believe it!? The Swanson’s are First-Time Homeowners!
We are jumping into this next chapter with our hearts 1000% all-in, and we’re feeling so very blessed to have found our perfect fit during this year’s insanely competitive housing market.
To hear about our experience buying our very first home in New England, keep on reading! This entry is Part 1: We’re Homeowners, stay tuned for:
Part 1: We're Homeowners!
Part 2: How to Find the Perfect Realtor
Part 3: Our House Hunting Checklist: How to Find Your Dream Home
Part 4: Submitting Our First Offer On a House!
Part 5: Offer Accepted! Now We Wait...
I’ll try my best to walk you through the steps that we took during our first homebuying experience! And although there are so many different factors that can go into the homebuying adventure… finances, location, timing... and I’d also like to repeat the fact that this is our first time buying a home (we’re NOT experts), we hope that this blog/video series may be helpful to anyone interested in purchasing a home soon!
Time to Settle Down
Lucas and I have been preparing to purchase a home since we got engaged in 2019 (maybe even a little before!). For the past 7 years, I have moved every year -- whether it was to an apartment, a rental room in a house with roommates, or our big move to Massachusetts last fall, I have needed to pack and unpack to a new space each time.
With that said, you can imagine how ready I’ve been to pick a place to live and stay put for longer than 1 year. We even considered moving to a house right away once we relocated to New England, but wanted a few months to explore the area before purchasing a home.
Because of my preexisting “nesting” mindset, and because we wanted to avoid spending more money on rent when we could work on building equity instead, we decided it was time to look into buying a home!
On March 5th (after living in New England for 6 months), Lucas and I decided to get the house hunting process started. We’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about homebuyers spending months looking for the right home. Because of the pandemic starting in 2020, and its effects carrying over to this year, the Housing Market inventory is at a record low, along with the lower-than-ever interest rates.
We figured that we’d at least get everything ready (pre-approval, deposits set aside, a wants/needs checklist, etc), so once the right house rolled onto the market, we’d be ready to strike with an offer!
Step 1: Preapproval
So on that note, let’s chat about what is typically the first step of the homebuying process: Getting your Preapproval Letter. This is when you connect with a loan officer of your choosing to help you determine your budget.
Lucas and I decided to use the VA loan for the benefit of putting 0% down. With that said, if you’re also interested in using that benefit, just know that it’s still important to have a good amount of money put away and saved before investing into a home.
There are plenty of up-front expenses to consider, even beyond a down payment/deposit, such as home maintenance/repairs, closing costs, attorney fees, moving services, new appliances, etc. I wanted to especially note that because I think sometimes people are quick to think, “Oh wow! 0% down,” but then realize later that there are still other expenses to consider too.
Although we’re open to sharing about our home-buying experience, for privacy reasons, I will not be sharing how much we were preapproved for. But overall, the preapproval process was much easier than I thought it was going to be. We spent about a day submitting 4 weeks of pay stubs, W2s, 1099s, filled out information about previous employment and renter history, and before we knew it, our credits were checked and we were preapproved!
Once we found out what we were preapproved for, we analyzed our monthly expenses to determine how much we were able to spend on our mortgage and utilities. For us, we ended up basing that budget on what we were already spending on monthly rent.
It’s also important to remind yourself that just because you’re preapproved for "XYZ" amount, doesn’t mean it’s the smartest idea to max out your monthly budget. Be sure to stay mindful of your monthly expense habits before looking at the price tags of homes. It’ll definitely save a bit of heartache!
Depending on how competitive your market is at the time that you’re looking, I would also recommend starting to look at houses a good amount below your preapproval amount, because you just might need to negotiate higher than the listed price of a home. Fortunately, we didn’t have to pay too much over the asking price (only about $5,000!), but this can be true for competitive housing markets right now. We heard about homebuyers offering $20,000-$60,000 over asking price, or submitting cash offers, so you might want to have the ability to negotiate higher than the listing price if appropriate.
Purchasing a home during a competitive housing market is no easy feat, but know that it’s also not impossible! It may take a dozen home tours, or a few offers, but when the time is right, it’ll happen!
More House Content to Come!
If there was one thing I had to share from our house hunting experience, it’s that preparing ahead of time, so you’re ready to strike, is the best way to set yourself up for homebuying success!
Stay tuned for more House Hunting/Homebuying content coming up throughout the next few weeks. We are so so excited to create our home in New England, and would love to share our experience with you all!
It’ll be a fun series to look back on later, and if this helps at least one person answer one question about the homebuying experience as first-time homebuyers, then I call that a success!
‘Til Part 2,
Storytelling by Gen
Travel diaries from explorations and adventures.