Our two year “Home-iversary” just passed and I’ve been thinking about how much has changed in just two short years. Other than the obvious of having our first child, our home has transformed so much in such a short time frame. I remember moving in to brown walls and a big, empty space thinking, “Where do we even start!?”
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You’ve seen a lot of the progress and changes in our home from past posts:
- Our Giant Furniture Haul – Mirror
- Laundry Room Makeover and Laundry Room Reveal
- How to Make No-Sew Curtains
- DIY Storage Bench
- Backyard Makeover
- DIY Coffee Table
One topic I haven’t touched upon is the home buying experience. I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you – it is not a fun experience. The only exciting part about it is knowing you get your own place to do all these DIY projects in. The downside… a mortgage.
As you know from our fairy tale story, Shane is from Vermont and I am from New Jersey. Soon after we graduated from college Shane came to live with me… and my parents. I can’t imagine that is easy for anyone to do so I give Shane a big high five for that (okay, and a wedding, a house and a baby). I knew he was itching to get out just the same as I was so we started searching for homes in the area in the summer of 2013.
Northern New Jersey is an expensive place to live! As two young college graduates who just started their careers we quickly learned buying a decent home in this area would be difficult. I wanted to stay local as my entire family lived nearby and my job was in the next town over. Shane didn’t care where we went as long as it was a place to call home.
Most of the homes we looked at in our price range needed A LOT of work (aka more money) or Shane, at 6′ 4″, couldn’t even stand in the basements or second floors of many of the capes that we looked at. We decided to put purchasing a home on hold and rent an apartment to save a little money. As much as that pained me, it was our best option:
Pros of renting:
- we had our own space
- we were close to family and work
- we were saving money
- maintenance, heat and hot water were free
Cons of renting:
- we were throwing away our money instead of investing in something that was ours
- shared common areas (laundry, parking, yard)
- there were a lot of stairs!
Fast forward two years – we got a puppy, I started an Etsy shop, and we got married. We were able to save in those two years and were finally ready to start our search again in May 2015. This was my to-do list:
- get a realtor
- research mortgage rates and get a mortgage
- research homes in the area
Finding a realtor was easy. We used the same person (a family friend) from Round One. She had our wishlist and set out finding homes for us in the area. I can’t even tell you how many homes we looked at before finding “the one”. The hardest part about finding a home is coordinating work schedules with open houses and visiting the homes. It is very time consuming.
Finding a bank to give us a mortgage was harder for several reasons. The first reason is that this part is also very time consuming. Many banks only meet during certain hours on certain days and Shane and I had to work. The second reason is learning the lingo. As first time home buyers, we didn’t know most of the process or terms that went along with getting a mortgage. A lot of research was involved. Sometimes it took several trips back and forth to the same bank to get a clear understanding.
Researching homes in the area was easy. We would get on our laptops after dinner every night and look at the different websites to see what was available in the area. Some nights it got a little out of hand when we upped the budget to homes we could only dream about living in 🙂
Finding “The One”
After searching in several towns and at looking many, many houses we finally found “the one”. The layout was similar to the house I grew up in, it was in a good neighborhood one town over from my family and we didn’t see any glaring red flags. It was time to start a binder…
I kept everything when it came to buying a home. Every pamphlet, business card and document regarding our house is in that binder. I used dividers to organize my information into
- House – all pamphlets and realtor information including the MLS, seller disclosure, lawyer documentation, and a survey.
- Bank – all disclosure statements, approvals, appraisals, etc.
- Inspection – contact information, inspection report, lawyer documentation
- Research – contact information for inspectors, banks, and realtors
- Other – all signed documentation regarding the home including the mortgage loan commitment and transfers into our name
This binder went everywhere with me. In addition to the binder, I also had folders on my laptop for bank information, inspection information and contracts. A lot of the paperwork was electronic so it was easy to organize that way.
Bumps in the Road
Oh, where to start? I told you buying a home is no fun…
In the middle of our home buying process our realtor accepted a job with another company. She assured us she would stick with us until the end of the process (and she did) but it added to our stress. We were now dealing with another realtor from the company in addition to our original realtor. As first time home buyers, we needed someone to guide us every step of the way and this made it a little more difficult.
The back and forth phone calls and emails and trying to get information made it nearly impossible to get anything done in a timely manner. The bank kept promising us dates and then passing their own deadlines. In addition to that, I was reviewing numbers on a few bank statements and found a big mistake on their part! I wasn’t always 100% sure what I was looking at or reading but I knew something didn’t look right. Always review your documentation and get a second pair of eyes on it, too. Tip: Compare estimates to real numbers as well. Ours were off by a significant amount.
More likely than not, something will come up during your home inspection. It is the inspectors job to note every little thing s/he finds. Then, it is up to you to decide if it’s an issue or not… most of the time. Our insurance company decided there were two items on the list that had to be resolved before we purchased the home. This meant more back and forth with the homeowners and lawyers which also meant more time. It felt like we were never going to move into this house.
In addition to the items the insurance company demanded be resolved before we moved in, they hit us with a list of things we had to fix after we moved in (like the driveway). I felt like it was a never ending battle with the insurance company and they would always be finding things to add to our to-do list. Knock on wood – we haven’t heard from them in a while.
On top of everything it was now summertime which meant Shane and I were going on our honeymoon, the homeowners were going on vacation, and all the businessmen and women (realtor, bank, inspector…) were taking a vacation too. Deadlines meant nothing. Our move in date kept getting pushed back… and back… and back… Meanwhile, I had to deal with the lease for our apartment. Do I renew month to month? Do I cancel and hope we have somewhere to live at the end of the summer?
I can’t remember our original move in date, but as that date came closer I realized it just wasn’t going to happen. We took a last minute trip to Boston and finally closed on the home and moved in the week after in August 2015.
Moving is always stressful, but a good stressful. We finally had a home to call our own! We hired a moving company to take all our furniture and boxes to the new home. I remember being overwhelmed by all the space and trying to figure out where to put everything. Our kitchen looked like this for a while…
…and we sat in beach chairs for a few weeks without a couch…
…but it was home! We made it through the grueling home buying process. Unfortunately, all the bumps in the road were necessary and there was nothing I could have done differently. If we ever do this again I will go into it knowing the risks and keeping my expectations low. You can’t control other’s agendas and therefore just have to wait it out. In the end, Shane and I are happy in our home and it all worked out.