I was nineteen when my sister, then eighteen, and I bought our first home. Yes. Eighteen and nineteen.
I was a full time college student and worked two jobs. My sister was working, at the time, as well. I had been in a car accident and received a small (I mean really small) settlement, and decided the best way to use it would be to use it as a down payment on a house. So, I talked it over with my sister, and we decided to start looking at Illinois and Missouri homes for sale. We wanted to be close to our parents, who live in Illinois, but we also knew that since I was going into nursing, there would be a lot of jobs available on the Missouri side of the river.
We were driving home (i.e. to my parents home) one day, and passed a for sale sign in front of a house. We turned around and went back, and asked for a tour. Since the house was “for sale by owner” and the owners were home, they gave us a tour. We decided then and there that we wanted it, so we started the home buying process.
It wasn’t easy. We learned quickly that the banks in our area were not interested in lending to two teenagers. After hearing “no” more times than I care to remember, we finally sought help from a mortgage broker. A few months later, we moved in.
I lived in that house for nearly five years, until I was transferred to Chicago. Sis kept the house after that, and even refinanced at one point to get my name off the mortgage. When I moved home from Chicago, I moved back in with Sis for about six months, until my wallet adjusted to the pay cut. Since Sis had several kids and a houseful by that point, I moved out and got my own apartment.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons in buying that house. I’ve composed a list for your reading enjoyment—hoping that you can learn from my mistakes…
Real Estate Lessons Learned—The Hard Way
1. ALWAYS look at more than one house. Since we were just eighteen and nineteen, we didn’t know any better than to buy the first house we looked at. While we loved being homeowners, we learned some hard lessons… fast.
2. ALWAYS have someone else look at the house for you, as well. Preferably someone uninvolved, who knows what they are looking for. They won’t have the rose colored glasses of “first home love” on, and will be able to point out imperfections that could cost you money later—like cracks in the plaster wall or water stains on the basement wall.
3. ALWAYS do a little research and find out how long the house has been on the market. Chances are, there is a REASON no one else bought it in the year it sat for sale.
4. ALWAYS plan for the worst case scenario financially. What IF you are no longer able to work. Will your insurance cover the mortgage payments?
5. ALWAYS be wary of bathrooms that are painted pepto pink.
In retrospect, a lot of headaches could have been avoided if we had listened to the red flags others raised, or if we’d had a real estate agent on our side.
I am participating in a blogger campaign by Bucks2Blog in behalf of a Missouri real estate company and was compensated. However, the views and opinions are my own.