We bought a fixer upper and we are equal parts excited and nervous. Throughout the process (which was smooth for us) there were a few things I thought may be helpful to pass along to anyone looking to buy their first home.
1. Get an Agent You trust
Thankfully, my brother is a real estate agent…and not just any agent, a good one, who owns his own real estate company called Joseph Carter Realty.
I can honestly say, I had no idea how many questions I would have for him and how much faith I would need to put into him giving us the correct answers. We trusted him on how much it will cost to fix, buy, and potentially sell (the verdict is still out on the accuracy-ha). But needless to say, you will definitely need to trust your agent so you don’t spend all of your time second guessing your every move.
2. Will it Cost More Than You Think?
Probably. I did learn that the actual numbers are not calculated until practically the day before closing. Sometimes numbers and estimates are sent to you for you to sign, but they’ll change before you actually sign. This was hard for JT and me as we are number crunching duos and cautious of where we promise our funds (learned that lesson in college).
However, I would budget in an extra 2-3 thousand dollars just in case. Then, you’ll be excited and think you saved money when the number drops. Going in with the attitude of you’ll probably spend more than you think will help keep you calm if the number climbs.
3. Split the Closing Costs
We offered to pay all of closing costs when the seller wanted to walk away with a certain amount. Turns out, they are more expensive than we thought- see above… so offering to split them is definitely a great idea!
4. A lot of People Are Involved
A banker will help set up the mortgage and you’ll need a lot of paperwork for that. Our agent sent our name to the banker to start the process, but you could also use your own bank and get started. The pre-approval lasts for around 3 months (not 100% sure of the timeline) so just don’t go around trying to get pre-approved too soon!
Another person you’ll be in contact with is an insurance agent. I requested a quote from someone, then JT realized we should probably just combine it with our car insurance to get better rates. That’s the route we took!
Finally, your real estate agent, insurance agent, and mortgage loan originator combined with a lawyer are all working on it, which really explains closing costs. Lots of people and hands make the process super easy and relatively stress free.
5. Get an Inspection and Go to the Inspection
I followed the home inspector around to better understand the house and he was patient in explaining 4 x 10 vs 4 x 8 and then 4 x 6 boards. I let him alone on the roof for obvious reasons. It costs us $350 and saved us $10,000 because there was more work to be done than we originally thought.
I would add to that on a personal note, try not to get to know the seller too much. I knew she needed the money and that her husband had worked hard around the house, so when we started negotiating, I started feeling even worse about money. Overall though, we focused on what we would really need to invest while still having financial room for renovation costs.
We really enjoyed the process overall and are excited to get started. I hope you’ll follow along and share any tips you have!