How Buying a House Is Sort Of Like Clothing Shopping
If you don't follow me on instagram or twitter then let me let you in on a secret: we bought a house! I can now proudly (and nervously) say I am a home owner. It was a looong and arduous process but I will say that it is all worth it in the end, as I snuggled up in blankets in our cozy living room. The story of our hunt to find a home started a few years ago. Nick and I gave ourselves a rough timeline for the process. I am a planner and Nick is organized so we love our plans! We discussed what we wanted in a home, neighborhood, and town. There was a discussion of suburbs and townhomes and walking distance to a town center. We talked about diversity and culture.
Once we knew what we wanted in a town, we needed to figure out what we wanted in a house! We were stuck on at least 3 bedrooms. This may not be our forever home but we didn't want to grow out of it in the first year. And that was pretty the only non-negotiable. Of course we wanted hardwood floors, a nice kitchen, and decent storage space. If you've ever watched HGTV (and I am not ashamed to admit I want it a lot) most things in a house can change. I also knew that when we found out house, we'd know.
Just like when you find the perfect dress on sale, you just know when the right house comes along. Besides getting that I-need-this feeling when you step into your dream home, there are a few other ways house buying is a lot like shopping.
You'll sort through a lot of duds. Not every style is meant for everyone (um, flare overalls, anyone?!?) and everyone will try to sell you the hot style of the moment. We saw tons of plain jane, cookie cutter development homes. Most people want move-in ready and designer perfect. I knew those homes weren't going to work for us. I envisioned a cozy cottage with little special details. After lots and lots of searching, probably 50 or so houses worth of searching, we found the house that fit my criteria.
Beware of holes, rips, and tears. If you ever go thrift shopping, you know that you have to set a limit for yourself. I'll never forget the time I bought a funky wool jacket with a ripped silk lining. I convinced myself that I would repair the lining and it would be great. Four years later and I wore the coat once with the ripped lining pinned up. Going into the home buying process, I knew we could fix some things but big projects were not going to be our thing. Paint a few walls, hang some shelves, refinish floors: okay. Add an addition, renovate a kitchen from top to bottom, knock down walls: nope. It's important to know your limits. Joanna and Chip Gaines may be your fixer upper idols but not everyone is that good.
Sometimes things will look better on than they do on the "hanger". Ever seen something that looks terrible on the hanger, your friend insists that you try it on, then you look absolutely fabulous? That may just be the home buying experience in a nutshell. You can go online and scour Zillow and sift through photos for hours. The thing is you won't know what you're getting yourself into when you get there. We wanted to see an adorable Dutch colonial with a paneled dining room, granite counter topped kitchen, and a claw foot tub. The tub was in what was essentially the front closet, the basement smelled like mold, and the third bedroom was hobbit ready. Other times we were just so-so about seeing a house and it was surprisingly okay. We weren't sure about seeing our house but one look inside and we fell in love.
It's never as easy as it seems. Just like when you shop a sale but the one thing you love isn't included, the home buying process is frustrating and complicated. First there was the bidding war to even get started on the buying our house. The inspection looked clean until a major problem came back later. Don't even get me started on dispute over the appraisal; I don't know how many nights of sleep I lost over that. Just know you're in for a wild ride but everything will work out the way it's supposed to in the end.
Patience is key. Sometimes you see a certain item on Instagram, Pinterest, or a blogger that you just fall in love with but it takes months to find it. While we did find our house fairly quickly (just three months), patience was important. Let's go back to the first comparison: there are a lot of terrible houses on the market. I got discouraged once or twice because houses were so bad (peeling siding, cat poo-filled basements, and wood-burning kitchen stoves). Nick reminded me day after day just to be patient and it would all work out. And it did!
If you're about to start searching for your first home or in the middle of the process, stay strong! It's the most exciting, stressful, and arduous journey you'll ever go through. In the end it's all worth it when you get to open the door to your future.