We are officially homeowners now! My husband and I just closed on our first home and we are beaming with boundless excitement, hope, and possibilities that come with buying a home that we hope to grow into for years to come.
Our home buying story began last spring. My husband and I had been talking about “one day when we buy a house” for a few years, especially since we moved to Baton Rouge from Washington, DC two years ago because home prices here are a quarter of what they are in DC (for serious, a quarter of the cost, we checked). Home prices were low and the market was recovering. We kept hearing about historically low interest rates on mortgages and started thinking that maybe that now was the right time. We knew we were settled into Baton Rouge, had friends, knew the town, and planned to stay even after my husband finished his degree.
I knew that I did not know anything about the home buying process and I wanted to become as informed as possible, so I started researching it. I went to the library and read Ilyce Glink’s 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask: With Answers from Top Brokers from Around the Country cover to cover. It is a bit dated, but has solid advice and information so I would recommend it to any newbie home buyer. I read other books, blogs, and articles on the current housing market, changes in mortgage rates, and other bloggers’ home buying stories. I spoke with my friends and family about their experiences and rounded out my education so that I felt comfortable with my understanding of the process. I wanted to make sure that we knew what we were doing and felt comfortable with the purchase process.
Almost 20 years ago, my parents had bought me and both of my sisters stock with $800 that my grandparents’ had given to each of us. My parents being the money savvy people they are, they bought stock in a natural resources company which had historically seen a good return from rising stock prices. Thank god they did not put it in a savings account earning less than 1% interest or took us on vacation with the money. My parents told us about the money and told us that they bought stock with it. As a kid, that is a lame Christmas gift. But my parents are known for fiscally responsible albeit lame gifts, like the year that we all got envelopes with IRA paperwork we needed to sign because my folks were opening IRAs for us in minor trust accounts.
I forgot about the stock until last spring when I did our taxes and was entering in the taxable amount of the dividends earned on the stock (we reinvested the dividends so they just kept buying more shares). I do that every year but this year I realized that the stock value had grown to over $5,000, enough to use for a down payment!
My husband and I had many discussions about what we wanted in a home, mostly a backyard and comfortable space to live in and grow into. We also took a look at our budget to figure out how much we could afford to spend monthly on a mortgage note and used online mortgage calculators to roughly determine our price range. We agreed that we wanted to be able to comfortably afford our mortgage on my income alone so that when my husband graduated from school in a couple years we would be able to pay off his debts and our mortgage without stress. That would also leave breathing room for future costs like children.
We got a referral for a great Realtor from friends of ours who had recently bought a new house near us. We had a few calls and emails with him discussing what we were looking for in a home before we went out looking at homes. We are easy to please, no demand for granite countertops and we like dated kitchens and bathrooms. We don’t care if it’s pink tile, as long as we can move in and comfortably live without having to knock down structurally deficient walls and in a safe part of town, we are happy.
More on our house hunt in the next installment…