Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reflections on Home Buying and Homeownership (3 Months In)

Meet Me in Philadelphia meetmeinphiladelphia.blogspot.com
(a beautiful sight from January 30th)

Three months ago today, Adam and I became homeowners. It was a blustery January day that represented a threshold we were crossing as adults and would mark the beginning of a thirty-year journey in our home.

While I am by no means an expert after only one home purchase and three months of homeownership in my past, I’m a reflective person who attempts to learn something from every life experience and have already committed a lot of time thinking about what I wish I had known before diving into this next phase in our lives. Home buying is uniquely stressful and uncertain, filled with second guesses, emotion, and a lot of money. I hope that a few of the thoughts I’ll share today will help readers contemplating buying a home or relatable to those more experienced home owners out there.

So, here's what I've learned...

...as a home buyer:

Consult those you trust
The best place to start when buying a home is close to home—start by consulting with those you know who have been through the process. Adam and I sought the advice of both sets of parents, an uncle and cousin, with each consultation serving a different purpose. 

We consulted Adam’s cousin, who recommended the real estate agent he and his wife had used. We consulted our parents when we felt particularly emotional. We consulted Adam’s uncle on financial aspects of the process. Each party contributed their own expertise and, as a result, we felt like we had good council throughout the experience.
Meet Me in Philadelphia meetmeinphiladelphia.blogspot.com
(thankfully, we avoided accidents and problems in the house-buying process with help from family)

Know your numbers
Financially-prudent people may not be the sexiest or most fun at the party, but they're our kind of people.  Sure, we like to splurge on certain things but we had the goal of saving for a house for several years now. That is why, when the time came, we were able to put down the recommended 20%.

Going into this process, we knew how much we could afford to put down, in a monthly mortgage payment and in all of the ways our expenses would change as homeowners (buying a lawn mower for the first time, for example). We had spent some very unsexy time developing a budget in Excel. No, it’s not glamorous but that budget and its numbers were the reason we made the permanent transition from renters to owners. 
Meet Me in Philadelphia meetmeinphiladelphia.blogspot.com
(emotion + a pretty house can lead to a dangerous financial situation...unless you stick to your budget!)

Don't forget to investigate flood insurance
This is one reality we learned the hard way: always check what type of flood zone your potential home is in before you make an offer and (ideally) before you fall madly in love with it. Our home, despite all of its charms, is in a high-risk flood zone thanks to a teensy-weensy little creek that runs next to our neighbor's house. This categorization added a few hundred dollars a month (yup) to our insurance premiums and we had to weigh that cost (as well as the possibility of a flood) in with our decision to purchase the house.

Lesson learned: Check FloodSmart.gov for the risk profile of a property before placing your bid.
(the origin of that flood insurance)

...and as a home owner:

It's a marathon, not a sprint
My first piece of advice is one I need to repeat back to myself in the mirror regularly:  keep expectations realistic when it comes to renovations and decorating.  This is a challenge when I seek out inspiring homes and spaces in blog land on a daily basis. 

One of my shortcomings is my terrible impatience, but I've had to temper my expectations for what we can do when to our house. I’d love to bring a big crew and interior designer in tomorrow to help me realize my vision for this home, but we opted to buy our “forever” home at 28 so we are doing smaller improvements before taking on more extensive renovations down the road. So, don’t expect to see a fully decorated home shared on this blog next week or six months from now…but when we get there, I promise I won’t be able to stop blogging about it!
(call us young and naive, but we're always excited to work on our home)

Remember to live outside of your home
When Adam and I decided to purchase a home we had a series of conversations that all circled back to the same point: we didn't want to stretch our finances so thin that we were depriving ourselves to live in a house we couldn't actually afford. No one sets out to become ‘house poor’, but too often it happens when eyes are bigger than bank accounts. 

Thankfully, my husband is both gifted mathematically and financially conservative, so he put his skills to work sifting through our budget. We made sure to continue to allocate funds for annual vacations, season tickets for the Phillies and Sixers, and other non-essentials that greatly improve the quality of our lives. We are more than just homeowners and, thanks to a lot of planning and saving, our life together can continue to happily exist inside and—now—outside of our home. 
Meet Me in Philadelphia meetmeinphiladelphia.blogspot.com
(we can still enjoy this view at a Phillies game)

Celebrate the little victories and small changes
We are novices at just about everything that comes with homeownership; but instead of letting those feelings overwhelm us, we've decided to embrace the small changes we take on and the new skills we are gaining in this process. Sure, I’d never taken a ceiling down before or ever really spent much time tackling yard work, but we are embracing these new tasks and the progress we've achieved with our own hands. 

At the end of a long day of working around the house, Adam and I can often be heard patting ourselves on the back. And you know what? There ain't nothing wrong with that. 
(a small but hard-fought victory: new hardware for the living room built-ins)

There you have it: my perspective of home buying and homeownership as we pass the 3-month mark. Will my opinions change over time? Will we get tired of all the DIY over time? Sure, to both of those questions; but hopefully, Adam and I can always remember these first few months and just how special and new they feel.

How did your home buying experience differ from ours? 
Do you have any tips or advice to offer new home buyers or homeowners? 
I'd love to hear them!


  1. Agree with everything! We are just 1 year ahead of you in our "forever" home. My advice...take it slow with home improvements so you do things that will last and are not temporary just to make you feel better for the moment! We make a list of 3-4 things that we want to do each year (with a budget) and work to get them done! Take care, Caroline

  2. Congratulations on the purchase! You are spot on with these. We bought our home 3 years ago, and I wish someone other than our parents advised us, only because buying a home in today's market is completely different than when they bought their first home. I think the most important thing is to know and discuss the ugly financial part. Talk to a lender and really understand what you can afford, and what you can't.

  3. Ah, the joys and pitfalls of home ownership. You did a fabulous job of covering it all (of course). We've lived in our home 6 years now (and had two before this one). While we love a lot about our house, there are headaches all the time (our fence is falling down and there's a crack in our basement wall - fun)! There's always something and you are much more fiscally responsible sounding than I am. I need to take a page out of your budget book!

  4. Great post! I love your perspective, and it matches what I learned when we bought our first home four years ago...or was it five? Anyway, I was so impatient to remodel and decorate too, it was consuming! I am glad to see that you guys are doing so well, and on top of that you have a stunner of a home. Just think when all of your visions come true how beautiful it will be!! Have fun :)

  5. Loving this post, Ashley, and certainly wishing I had your wisdom, patience and fiscal smarts when I bought my home 6 years ago! Thanks for sharing what you've learned, and let me add that I am SO happy for you! There's nothing like putting the time and hard work into making your home truly your own. I know it's going to be gorgeous.

  6. These are such good pieces of advice - especially as I find myself in the throws of searching!

  7. Hi, Ashley - As always, you are very generous to share what you have learned. I know this post will be very helpful to many readers, including 'experienced' home owners/buyers. Never knew about floodsmart.gov

  8. My husband and I are in the process of talking about making that switch from renters to homeowners and its quite stressful. Did you and your husband get the excel sheet from somewhere, or did you make your own? My husband is more of the big picture person, but I'm more of the details, details and more details kind of person. So it leaves me the job of creating the spreadsheet and working it out and its driving me mad? Any advice on where to start?

  9. Great advice!

    We have been in our home 17 years and still dream of big changes and get excited about working on the tiniest of projects. It is great that both share that excitement together. I agree, celebrate small victories.

  10. Always nice to read good stories about successful home ownership stories. For more helpful housing info, check out HouseLogic.com - great place for DIY tutorials and FAQs.

  11. Thanks for your insight, Ashley! Consulting friends and family on how to go about the process definitely proved to be beneficial to you. Not only were you financially prepared, but you also had a better idea on what to expect before diving in. -Calvin @ City Block Team


I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...