Tale of a Terrified First-Time Home Buyer

imagesEaster is a time of resurrection. Flowers and trees and the animal world come alive after a winter dormancy. I feel that way in my life right now. I’m entering a new phase, and I’m excited and terrified: home ownership!

I know, I know, millions of people do it. But I’ve been avoiding it. Commitment issues, I guess. I’ve lived my life with one foot out the metaphorical door. And it’s nuts because I’m super stable, a total nester. But still, I need to feel like I have personal freedom. Personal freedom is one of my core values, so I’m most comfortable when I delude myself that I can take off or downsize my life at any time.

Home ownership has always been a symbol of yoke-dom. Mortgage! Yikes!

However, despite my resistance, I can’t not buy anymore. Here in Portland, the vacancy rate is so low that rents are skyrocketing. This is a huge wake up call: Doh, time to buy!

So here I am, going for it despite my terror. My stomach is in knots even though I’m excited too. This internal conflict fascinates me. We are such complicated creatures, aren’t we?

Here are couple of other ways that I’m complicated right now:

Complication #1: Personal Freedom

There are many kinds of personal freedom. My fear of home ownership stems from a fear of financial yoke-dom. But, I keep thinking about the personal freedom I’ll feel living in an environment that’s all mine.

I’m the conscientious type, so I’ve spent years keeping my music low and rarely inviting people over because of the noise factor. There’s also the privacy factor (and I’m a very private person despite this blogging thing I do). I’ve never been able to stomach people knowing what I’m up to through the walls.

I’m sick of being quiet. I want my own place so I can turn up my cheesy 80s dance music and flit around without worrying about sounding like an elephant to my downstairs neighbor. I want to invite friends over to scary movies nights, turn up the volume, and scream at the top of my lungs when something jumps out of the closet.

In other words, it’s gotten to the point that personal home environment freedom outweighs my fear of financial inflexibility.

Complication #2: Female Equality

Obviously, I know that women are different from men AND equal to men. It’s no big deal for women to buy their own homes.

Yet, somehow it is a big deal. It feels harder in some ways than if I were a man. I’ve avoided home ownership in part because I don’t feel equal to men in certain areas that would be very, VERY beneficial as a home owner. Fixing things, being handy, negotiating Home Depot.

I know my feeling of not being equal is BS because I have guy friends who aren’t handy and hire out everything, and I have female friends who are quite the DIYers. It’s just this funny little traditional side of me that would like a man by my side about now. I’d be more comfortable for sure, but life isn’t always comfortable, is it?

Sidenote: From a societal perspective it seems like it’s still kind of a big deal when a single woman buys her own home with only her own money. I’ve received interesting comments including that I should be “proud” of myself for taking this step.

Wish me luck! Do you have any secrets and advice for doing the home ownership well?


20 thoughts on “Tale of a Terrified First-Time Home Buyer

  1. Hey Lisa, I have my own home and if you’re not much of a DIY person I recommend getting a good list of people you can rely on to fix things. I have a list of people I trust to call on if I need things done that are outside my comfort zone. It sounds like you can get recommendations from your friends, so that’s a good thing. I turn my music on and leave it on all night long, don’t have to worry about disturbing people. It’s also nice to be able to go out in the back yard, and just relax with a beverage of choice.

    1. Karen, hi! Thanks for commenting. I definitely have folks I can get referrals from — thankfully! A back yard! I dream of being able to let Fawn out without have to get dressed first. 🙂

  2. Fun! It’s about time. So excited for your new adventure. Here are some thoughts for me somebody who’s built two homes from scratch and purchased for others.

    1: Don’t be afraid to try every single appliance. Turn everything on. Don’t be afraid to sit in a room and just be. Think about how the lighting is falling to the windows and how that might affect your moods because I know how SAD can affect you.

    2: I know it sounds weird but drive through the neighborhood morning, midday, evening, and late at night. You need to understand what kind of noise levels you’re going to deal with. You have stayed at our home more than once, so you know that our home though in a suburban neighborhood, is very quiet and our neighborhood is very quiet. Very important important to us.

    3: Don’t be afraid to ask for whatever it is you think the house still needs that you don’t want to deal with. By that, I mean if the carpets really gross, don’t be afraid to say “Can I get a carpet allowance? Are you planning to replace this carpet?”

    4: do prospecting on Zillow and Trulia, but use a RealEstate Agent when you start really getting serious. They earning every penny and will save you from tons of frustration.

    4: Get pre-approved. This will save you even more tons of frustration and you will be aware of what kind of price range makes sense.

    1. Thanks, Stacy! Pre-approval, check. I’ve got a real estate agent too. Am looking. My god. I can’t afford a fancy, new or remodeled home, so I will need to buy something that needs some fixing up. That’s just a given. Maybe that partially why I’m freaking out.

      Points one and two — I’ll definitely do that!!! Thanks for the tips.

      P.S. No probs about the typos — I read right through them. 🙂

      Oh, and wouldn’t it be fun if I bought a home that was big enough to at least have as sofa-sleeper — you know, for friends who come through town? 🙂

      1. Hee Hee, I knew you had it mostly under control!! I have faith in you. Forgot to mention also to (once you have a choice narrowed down), to use grid paper and sketch out the cabinetry. You can pre-plan where everything goes, so when you move in, you just put it all in the cabinets and it is easy-peasy. You can also figure out if the cabinets (kitchens, bathrooms, etc.,) will hold your things. I know it may be too Stacy-ish, but it is just a suggestion!

        I am very excited you are taking this monumental step!

        Love you,

  3. and BTW I dictated the above comment and didn’t proof very well. yikes. Sorry for the “for” instead of “four” and a few other boo-boos. Poor Siri. She is having a manic Monday, apparently. 😄

  4. Also have the sellers pay for and included in your purchase a home warranty. That way if something fails you have that to go back on for the period of time of the warranty. If you need more info let me know I will send you a link to what we have here. Also Like Stacy said, be sure to go sit near the home you are wanting to buy before you make an offer to observe the neighborhood at all times of day. Good luck

  5. I agree about using a realtor and Stacy’s other suggestions. I suggest visiting city hall and asking about any potential development etc. in the area. I’ve found people in the planning department to be really helpful. Also, get a home inspection (and a separate septic inspection, if that is a factor) before finalizing any sale. It saved us making a very very costly mistake once.

    Good luck finding the perfect house!


    1. The planning department can also tell you if there are any outstanding permits (Building etc. usually for renovations including the installation of gas furnaces that require a permit be taken out but the final inspection hasn’t taken place…or in one case there was a new addition and there was no permit on record. Our insurance told us the addition couldn’t be insured without one.) on the property. Having them closed can be a condition of sale.

    2. Hi Katherine! Oh yes, I’m going to inspect any place every which way possible. 🙂 I like the idea of checking for potential development and outstanding permits. I think they automatically do the last thing to ensure that the property would be mine free and clear. I forget what that’s called though…

  6. Miss Lisa if you need anything you call me. this MY area of expertise!! All I do all day long is facilitate Real Estate Transactions!!
    Also, don’t forget we women do have ways a getting men do things for us. Nothing is more appealing to a man than a “Damsel in distress” 😉

    1. Miss Valeria, thanks so much. Yes, I might need to call on you. At the very least to teach me me how to do that “damsel in distress” thing. 🙂 I’ll definitely ask about rehab loans.

  7. I would also suggest if you are considering a Fixer, talk to your lender about Rehab loans, they are a little bit of a pain but they are a HUGE help in financing a lesser cost home and renovating it.

  8. No worries, Lisa. I’m a sucker for a damsel in distress and will be available to come change a light bulb whenever you need.

  9. Great advice above. You also MUST have the purchase be contingent on passing a full home inspection (not just termites and environmental inspections, which are often mandatory), with the inspector paid for and chosen by you. Use a certified independent inspector, not someone from a chain/franchise. Trust me, it’s worth the money. Even if the seller has had their own home inspection, get your own. We found a foundation crack in our home inspection that their inspector missed, and got a ~$6,000 credit as a result.

    As an add-on to Stacy’s comment about getting to know the neighborhood, pay special attention to the busyness of the street the house is on, the proximity to noise/traffic sources like highways, main roads, transit, apartment complexes, business districts, schools, etc…. Often, just a few blocks buffer between you and a noise-source will be sufficient, but you want to experience it a few times during the busy periods.

    In addition to noise, make sure your neighbor’s houses are reasonably well kept, and that they don’t have junkers on the street or driveways. You may be living next to these folks for a long time. Have your realtor check the neighborhood to see how many renters there are on the block (rental houses often aren’t cared for that well, and are noisier and/or more trouble-prone than average).

    I also highly recommend living on a court or cul-de-sac if the option presents itself. They’re generally quieter and less-favored by would-be thieves, because there’s only one in or out.

    1. Andy! Thanks so much for commenting. Funny, you read my mind too, because I’d just realized that I’d better find my own inspector rather than rely on the one recommended by my real estate agent. I had never thought about this before, but even my agent is ultimately on the side of the seller.

      A lot to think about!

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