I’m a simple man – I don’t expect much from my first home. I look forward to a project that I can work on and transform with my own two hands. My father taught me how to perform basic handiwork and construction around the house from a young age. I was always curious and restless, and this was his way of giving me something to focus my energy on. It’s something that I enjoy and consider to be a hobby of mine. For many people, however, a fixer-upper may be their worst nightmare. Finding a dream home is a unique experience for each person. We all have our own criteria and expectations. One thing I’ve learned though, is that the reality of house hunting is much different than I thought it would be.
According to the real estate agent I spoke to at an open house I attended, this is a common problem for first time homebuyers. They are so excited about the idea of owning their own home that they get carried away by their imaginations and find themselves disappointed with the actual experience. Even with what I thought were low expectations (a roof over my head that preferably doesn’t leak), I still found myself falling into that same trap. As I said, I was looking for a starter home that I could put some work into. In part, I expected that this would help me save a lot of money on a nice piece of property. While I wasn’t entirely incorrect, I also wasn’t going to save nearly as much as I had hoped. Prime real estate in “hot” locations, no matter how dilapidated, still commanded a price well above what I was willing to pay for a home that I would have to put an extensive amount of repairs into.
That brings me to my list of tips for managing your expectations when buying a house:
- Get pre-approved by a lender before commencing your search. My mom was the one who gave me this valuable advice. She told me that before I started falling in love with houses, I should find out how much I can afford to spend on one. There’s nothing that will crush your dreams as quickly as setting your eyes on a home in the $400,000 range only to find out you’re only approved for a $200,000 loan. Now you will have to compare apples to oranges, and the homes within your budget are always going to feel like they fall short.
- No home is “perfect”. The main thing you want to steer clear of is major structural issues or costly repairs. Minor imperfections can always be corrected later on, and any small detail you don’t like can likewise be changed when you move in. Unless you are custom building a new home, you are unlikely to find a house that is exactly what you want.
The very first real estate agent I spoke to did not inspire a tremendous amount of confidence. He seemed more like a pushy salesman than someone who would give me honest advice and guidance. I didn’t put much thought into selecting a realtor beforehand, but this experience has made me realize that my real estate agent is someone that I will have to talk to and work with over the course of the next few months, if not longer. At the very least, I should feel comfortable speaking with them on all matters related to my real estate transaction.
To be honest, I had considered buying a home without assistance from an agent. The idea of saving some money off of commissions was appealing. But after speaking to several friends and family members, they strongly urged me to reconsider. After mulling over the decision for a night, I decided it would be in my best interest to work with an experienced real estate professional for the purchase of my first home. It is a massive investment, and not something I am willing to gamble on. The people I spoke to all had great experiences working with local real estate agents, and despite the fact that a few of them now choose to buy and sell property without enlisting the services of a broker, they still spoke highly of the benefits of working with an experienced realtor.
Today I am going to begin my search for a real estate agent. From my research, I’ve picked up a few tips on how to find the right realtor for you.
- Ask around for recommendations. This was the first thing that I did, even before a quick Google search told me to do so. It is natural to turn to friends, family, and co-workers for advice. They have nothing to gain by giving you their honest opinion. You should keep in mind, however, that this may not yield any helpful answers. Their real estate agent may be retired or no longer working in the area. There is also the possibility that your needs are distinctively different from theirs, and the agent they’ve recommended will not be the best one for you. Don’t stop your search here, and continue doing your homework.
- Browse around online. In this day and age, a good real estate agent will have a firm grasp on technology and can utilize it to better help their clients. A strong online presence may indicate that they are tech savvy and well-adapted. Often you can find reviews or further information online.
- Interview your real estate agent. Don’t be afraid to ask a few questions to learn more about a real estate agent and his/her experience and qualifications. You can request references or a list of homes they have recently sold.
- Establish your expectations. Each real estate agent will have their own way of doing things. If you prefer more frequent communication or minimal contact, let them know this.
Sometimes to unravel the spool, you need to find the start of the thread. This is where I am in my life right now. After travelling abroad for the past year, I am ready to settle down and begin a stable life and a normal career. It was thrilling to live on the road and work freelance from anywhere I could plug in a laptop and find a Wi-Fi connection, but in many ways it was exhausting and lonely as well. I missed my friends and family back home, and the feeling of familiarity. When everything is new all the time, it somehow grows old very quickly. Sometimes all you want is a watering hole where they recognize you, and a burger joint that you know like the back of your hand.
The life of a nomad isn’t for everyone, and – as I’ve discovered – it is not for me. I don’t regret my decision to take time off to travel the world one little bit. It was an amazing experience, and I’ve come home with countless stories to tell from now until the end of eternity. But I enjoy my comfort zone, and when you’re backpacking through foreign countries, there’s very little of that.
I dissolved all my assets before setting off on my travels, so my worldly possessions are still limited to a backpack’s worth of stuff, as well as a few things my family and friends were kind enough to store for me. It’s time for me to rebuild my life here in Northwest Arkansas, and I plan to start by buying my first home.
Over the past year, I was lucky enough to find myself with a steady stream of freelance work while travelling, which helped me avoid dipping into my savings. I had saved up enough to make sure that I could continue travelling even if I couldn’t find work during that time. Instead, this money is going to become my down payment on a house. It couldn’t have worked out better. I was able to do something I enjoyed without having to sacrifice financial stability upon my return.
This blog will chronicle my new journey here at home. For now, I am living with my parents again. It has only been a month since I moved back, and I’m still trying to get myself situated to a less nomadic lifestyle. It’s a big change, and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t boring at times, but I feel more relaxed and at ease here in the place where I grew up. This is only a temporary arrangement, however. My parents emptied their nest years ago, and while they miss seeing me, I’m sure they’ve grown used to having their space and freedom as well. So I’m going to begin my house hunt as soon as I can, and begin my transition into the next chapter of my life.