I admit it. Since moving to New Orleans, I've been fantasizing about finally buying a house. It's the fun stuff that gets my blood pumping—I'd love to knock down some walls or paint a ceiling green—all the things you can't do when you rent.
But it's when I think about the non-fun, grown-up, scary stuff—fixing a roof, dealing with termites, understanding what a mortgage is—that I begin to feel unsure whether I'm ready to take the home-buying plunge yet.
If you can relate, read what Tiffany and Alan Goldstein have to say. They're first-time home buyers of a cute Austin bungalow they've decorated lovingly, and they've shared a lot of the details about the mystifying home-buying process. Below, see if you might be ready to buy your first home. You might be ready to buy your first home if...
You know what's most important to you, are willing to make some sacrifices, and understand it may take a long time and a lot of searching:
Apartment Therapy: Were your expectations on what you could find or afford right on?
Alan Goldstein: Coming from New York, we were a little overconfident about what we would be able to afford, which became clear after we started looking around. We wanted to be somewhere within walking distance to restaurants, grocery stores, etc. This meant sacrificing square-footage, but we still wanted good bones to build on. Finding that balance took months of going to open houses and scouring MLS listings.
"In the end, most of the things we were less enamored with put the house in a price range that allowed us to do renovation work, which we were hoping for anyways."
You're not going to let the reality of buying what you can afford scare you away:
AT: How many homes did you look at until you found "the one"?
AG: In the digital age, looking at homes is easy. We couldn't tell you how many houses we looked at through all of the real estate websites and open houses we went to, but it was far more than we would be able to count on our fingers.
We were probably more sold on this house being the "one" the moment we drove by it. Great curb appeal, an abundance of windows, and a great location. When we actually walked through it, the realities of buying an older home set in. In the end, most of the things we were less enamored with put the house in a price range that allowed us to do renovation work, which we were hoping for anyways.
You're willing to adjust your idea of a "Dream Home":
AT: What was the image of a "dream home" before you started the home buying process?
Tiffany Goldstein: I loved the character and history of our apartment in Brooklyn and I knew it would be something I would continue to look for in homes to come. I also liked the idea of getting something that we could make our own. Something with good bones and a lot of opportunity.
AG: Walkability was key for me. When you live in a state as sprawled out as Texas, there's nothing like getting to the end of a Saturday and realizing that you left your house but never got into a car.
In New York, a home with character is often charming (i.e. brownstone). In Austin, as its titular slogan of "Keep Austin Weird" would suggest, a home with character is often more quirky (i.e. bungalow). We were more than thrilled with the character, curb appeal, walkability, and budget it left us to renovate.
You're mentally prepared for an emotional roller coaster:
AT: When did you decide you were ready to buy a home?
AG: When we lived in New York, owning a home never felt like a realistic prospect. Part of our decision to move back to Texas came from thinking about what we wanted long-term, and one of those things was a home. We spent our first two years renting as we continued to get a better feel for what living in Austin would look like. One of the most important mindsets we came to was that buying a house didn't mean that we would never be able to leave it. We already knew we wanted a home at some point, so confirming that we loved living in Austin and felt comfortable enough with the long-term prospects of the housing market here gave us confidence to take the plunge.
"Taking a step back, we'd be remiss if we undersold how many times we felt discouraged, overwhelmed, nervous, and convinced that we were being irresponsible."
Taking a step back, we'd be remiss if we undersold how many times we felt discouraged, overwhelmed, nervous, and convinced that we were being irresponsible. People will tell you that buying a house is one of the biggest financial investments you'll ever make, but it's also a major emotional investment and you can expect to grow a lot just by planning out the steps. If it feels like you're on an emotional roller coaster, you're not alone. You're actually probably doing it right. Just make sure you don't forget to lean on the people around you for wisdom, perspective and the occasional distraction.
Thanks Tiffany and Alan!
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