Daydream time, dear Pandas: one of our deepest desires is to own a quaint little house somewhere on the outskirts of town, surrounded by the woods. Preferably with a long and mysterious history, a couple of friendly ghosts in the attic, and a verdigris greenhouse (or an orangery, we’re not too picky) where we can drink tea, read books, and watch the pouring rain in peace. That’s the dream!
And though home prices are finally dropping in the United States, owning a house is still beyond reach for many young adults who are watching inflation eat into their wages and savings. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, many of us will be unlocking the door to our very first property! Though there are some major things to consider before taking out a multi-decade bank loan and dumping a ton of money into any property.
The homeowners of Reddit shared their experiences in an incredibly educational thread on r/AskReddit. They revealed all the things that they wish they would’ve known before they bought and moved into their first house.
Honestly, it’s a great primer for any prospective buyer, and it really gets you thinking about all the dozens of things you have to consider during and after your viewing. Check out their advice below, Pandas, and let us know what other pearls of wisdom you’d add. Do you have any regrets that you’d love to warn others about? What would you tell your past self if you had a time machine? Be sure to drop by the comments.
Meanwhile, read on for Bored Panda’s interview with Sam Dogen, from Financial Samurai, about some of the biggest red flags to look out for when viewing a property, as well as the perfect moment to buy a house. Sam is the author of the bestseller, ‘Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Freedom.’
Thankfully we did know this. The bank will approve you for way more than you will be able to comfortably afford. For example (using made up numbers) we were approved for $250k. We knew realistically that we could not afford the monthly mortgage on a house that expensive without eating ramen for 30 years. So we bought a house at $180k and living very comfortably.
As a 24 year old newlyweds, the thought of having a nice $250k house sounds nice, but you have to think realistically. What fun is it to have alllll your money go to your mortgage and you can’t enjoy a night out or pay for you car to be fixed?
That’s the advice I give to anyone looking to buy
“The major warning signs before buying a house include cracks in the foundation, high ownership turnover, water damage, a lack of permits, and air freshener!” Sam, the author of ‘Buy This, Not That,’ told Bored Panda.
“Foundation work is the most expensive to fix, so please inspect the foundation thoroughly. High ownership turnover may mean there is something wrong with the house the disclosures don’t reveal. Finally, water damage is one of the most insidious red flags because it could mean a leaking pipe in the walls that results in black mold.”
According to the creator of Financial Samurai, before buying a house, you should “put on your inspector’s hat” each time that you visit the property.
“Bring friends and family to look for anything that could be wrong with the house. You could waive your home inspection contingency, but I would recommend it. The home inspection contingency is there to give you an out if you no longer want to buy.”
That the 9 year old next door liked heavy metal. And that he was going to get a guitar for his 10th birthday. And that 14 he’d be in a band that practices in his garage. But his dad drives a snowplow and I havent touched a shovel in 5 years. “Sounds great Tyler! You guys are really coming together!”
Do not engage a building inspector recommended by the agent trying to sell the house. Go with someone independent that will be honest about all the problems. Attend the property inspection and physically view everything the inspector brings up as an issue.
Bored Panda also asked Sam if there’s ever a ‘perfect’ moment to buy a house. “The best time to own the nicest house you can afford is when you have kids. The more heartbeats, the more your house can shelter. A house’s utility goes up when you have kids. Meanwhile, the cost to own and maintain a house gets amortized across more people, which feels great,” he explained.
“Once your kids are gone, you are unlikely to upgrade to a larger house. Instead, you will likely just keep your house and downsize as empty nesters. Therefore, if you want a nice house, work hard and generate solid cash flow while you have young children. You will feel a great sense of purpose if you do.”
He added: “Here are the various income and net worths required to buy a house at different price points.”
The cost of furnishing a house can get out of control. Close the doors to the rooms you don’t use, get stuff used and in phases. You don’t need to fill every room upon move in.
Vintage furniture is often of a MUCH higher quality than new.
Curtains/drapes/blinds are expensive.
Pay attention to the grade of the yard. Where is the water going to flow or pool if it rains. Water issues are the worst.
Bought my first house at 23 and my dad told me check for a good roof, water heater, and furnace since they are all expensive to replace. The house I was looking at had a furnace that was original from 84 (this was on 09) so I put in the REPC that I wouldn’t buy the home unless the seller paid for an inspection of and any necessary repairs to the furnace. Inspection came back saying the furnace just needed to be replaced all together. Seller had furnace replaced before I bought the house. Thanks dad.
CNN reports that the economists at Goldman Sachs expect home prices to decline between 5% and 10% from their peak in June, 2022. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo forecasts that the national median single-family home prices will drop by 5.5% year-over-year by the end of 2023, as mortgage rates rise. Economists also anticipate that prices will rebound and rise again in 2024.
In short, if you’re looking to buy your first home, you might want to wait a bit for prices to drop, without putting the purchase off for years and years. However, nobody can be sure where exactly the bottom will be and what the future holds for the property market. Obviously, this isn’t financial advice, as we don’t have a working crystal ball (alas!).
During an earlier in-depth interview, Bored Panda spoke about home-buying with Ariane Sherine, the editor at These Three Rooms. We had a chat about why some builders make completely non-sensical decisions and major mistakes while working on the property, as well as how to embrace the fact that no home will ever ‘perfect.’
“Certain materials might be unavailable so they decide to use an unsuitable substitute, or they might have a surplus of the substitute that they want to use up. They might be misinformed and not very good at their job and think they’re doing the right thing. Or they might be trying to save money and end up cutting corners as a result,” Ariane explained to Bored Panda the motivations behind some builders’ less-than-stellar results.
I would say, don’t buy a home that was re-done by a “fixer upper” or DIY person. They all suck and none of them know what they’re doing.
Make sure to specify in your offer that the home be in move in condition and what the penalities are if it’s not.
We were relocating to a new city hundreds of miles away and didn’t get to do a final walk-thru until the day before closing. The previous owners had left all kinds of junk behind that we had to deal with. (Not to mention the place was filthy). Since everything we owned was on the moving truck, which was arriving the next day we felt like we had no options but to proceed to the closing and deal with it ourselves.
I’ve since learned that if you’ve got a good realtor (get a good realtor) you can protect yourself from this situation. The contract can specify that if the house is NOT in move in condition to seller is responsible for 1) Temporary housing 2) Storage fees for your furniture, etc. and 3) The cost of removing their c**p and professionally cleaning the home.
We were young(er) and dumb(er) but our realtor should have known enough to protect us from this situation. (Did I mention find a good realtor?)
According to the editor at These Three Rooms, a major red flag is when you notice that corners have been cut when builders use materials that aren’t fit for the purpose. For instance, using wood like oak, ash, and pine—which aren’t weather-resistant—for outdoor construction.
Something else that can go wrong is “not following the correct process during an installation, such as not tanking a wetroom to ensure it’s waterproof. I also had a builder who fitted decking on top of my garden but didn’t put down a thick heavy-duty membrane over the original garden, so to this day weeds still grow through the decking. I learned from that mistake and now advise that you should always use licensed and vetted trades for this reason,” she explained why it’s so important to hire people you can fully trust to do the job well.
Before buying a property, visit it on a weekday/weekend and also daytime/nighttime.
What can seem idyllic on a Wednesday morning can be quite different on a Saturday night.
How much everything costs.
Just general maintenance. Bills and mortgage are known and predictable, but then there’s broken boilers, washing machines, fridges, paint, random tools, and all sorts of other stuff that just adds up really quickly.
Ariane noted that no house is ever truly ‘finished’ or ‘perfect’: they will always be works in progress. What matters is that you embrace quirks while fixing real problems.
“There’s always some problem, something to fix or replace that would make it better. Realistically, as long as there’s nothing major such as a faulty boiler or leaking roof, it’s up to the homeowner what they’re willing to live with,” she told us.
“I personally want to make my house as beautiful and well-functioning as possible because I’m obsessed with interiors and architecture, but other people may have zero interest in decor. Only you can decide what’s right for you.”
Here’s a list because just picking out one thing is silly:
1. How amortization works and why banks love 30 yr term loans.
2. How PMI works and why down payments are important.
3. Have a cushion in your savings account to take care of unexpected expenses.
4. Know what the property looks like after several rainy days.
5. In a subdivision, a dead end road that leads to an empty field means it’s possible you’ll have 100 more neighbors living downstream from you in a few years.
6. Know how old the roof is.
7. Know how old the HVAC system is.
8. Know if there an HOA fee.
9. Hire your own independent inspector.
After you move in:
1. Know how to turn the utilities (water, electric, gas) off and on.
That my fiancee was having second thoughts and that buying the home together would speed up our relationships demise. . . If you’re gonna buy a home with someone else, make sure you guys are in a good place emotionally. Let me tell ya, it sure sucks being forced to live with your ex until you can afford to sell your home. That was NOT a fun year.
Neighbors. A single bad neighbor can wreck one’s life.
I would have spent some time hanging out in the neighborhood to see what traffic, neighbors, and noise is like. We had some issues with the family across the street for a few years. Thought they were contractors working on that house when we bought ours but turned out they lived there and they were bonkers.
I wish I’d known how shi**y HOAs are. Sometimes there’s no avoiding them, but in our case we thought we were doing well cause the HOA was working on land grading when we originally viewed the house. Little did we know it would be an uphill battle to get necessary improvements to our house like replacing the 13 year old roof that we already had leaking problems with. We could have replaced it 3 years ago and had it paid for and not have to worry every time it rains.
The Realtor isn’t on your team.
They get 6% of the sale cost in their pocket. They are on their team. Some of them are liars, some of them have “their guy” inspect the house.
I bought a $140k house where a toilet wasn’t bolted down, doors had water POUR in under them when it rained. These were things that were “inspected” and yet in our phone call she had “never before in all her years seen a house inspected and come out so well!”
Don’t think I’ve found anything I regret that I did when buying the house so far. But there’s one handy tip I can offer: drive to and from your workplace to your potential home during rush hour traffic. Both morning and evening. Don’t depend on Google for that information.
Don’t be afraid to back out of a sale at any point. Yes it’s kind of shi**y to the sellers and a little awkward. Loosing the $1000 or so you spent on the inspection or appraisal can sting. None of that is as bad as being upside down on a house or feeling trapped in a house.
If something feels off it’s ok to walk away.
ETA: Be sure to check local laws, looks like repercussions vary from state to state 🙂
Be very wary of staged properties. Specifically, if they look extra amazing. Move a picture off the wall (there could be a hole it’s covering up), actually turn on the oven…
In addition to the home inspection I had done, I should have had a plumber come do a camera inspection on the sewer main to check for roots.
I will have this done on any prospective houses in the future.
Never, NEVER EVER buy the best house in a bad or rundown neighborhood…..
After my mom bought her townhome, I ventured into the crawlspace to discover leaking hot water pipe had rusted thru both top and bottom of underlying heater duct, the resulting moisture and heat making it desirable for the termite colony that had moved into the subfloor.
This was just inside the crawlspace access door in the garage, glaringly visible, but checked off on Real Estate inspection report.
Always get a second inspection prior to closing.
I live in a big city, but grew up in the Greek community, nobody lives more than 10 minutes away from each other.
Because a newer house in that neighborhood is upward of 800k my fiance and I couldn’t afford to buy one and we didn’t feel like spending 500k on half a duplex that was built in the 1960s.
We bought a house in a nice new neighborhood with a big Lake about 25 minutes away.
I wish I knew how f*****g unsupportive everyone would be, getting people, even my parents and siblings to come visit is like fighting a war. It’s probably been one of the most disappointing experiences in my life. It’s just 25 damn minutes. More like 22.
That the down payment and mortgage is the cheap part, not the end goal. In an apartment, you generally never spend more than rent, utilities, etc. When owning a house, mortgage is the bare minimum and the sky is the limit.
Any house built before 1990 has a good chance that it has asbestos somewhere in it. Make sure you test things before you renovate. Every f*****g time every f*****g house regardless of your local building ordinances.
Source: guy who has a much higher chance of getting lung cancer.
We had been in the house so many times that when it came to the final walkthrough we didn’t feel it was necessary. Unfortunately the previous owners bought a chihuahua sometime between after we made our offer and when they moved out. The entire first floor is hardwood, but the finished basement is fully carpeted and that’s where they kept their puppy while packing and moving. We called our realtor and he talked with theirs, but in the end there was nothing we could do. We have to recarpet the entire basement.
That I wouldn’t be working for the same company 5 years later.
One of the reasons we bought our first home was because it was close to work. but was a long drive to the other jobs I had later.
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