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House-Hunting Dreams on a Fixer Upper Budget

August 25, 2017

Hi everyone!

 

Even though it’s technically still the “off-season,” my summer has been crazy busy. My husband and I have done a bit of traveling, sure, but the biggest reason for the packed schedule stems from the fact that we bought a house in June.

 

Yep! We bought a house. Kind of a big deal in that it’s our first home purchase, though probably not our last. When my friends and coworkers found out that we were considering buying a home rather than renting (which we’ve done for the past four years), everyone was so excited for us. They asked our location preferences and what items were on our “wish list” so to speak, but the whole process wasn’t so exciting for my husband and I. In fact, due to our limited budget and our preferred location, the process was downright exhausting.

 

But rather than walk you through the scary part, I’d like to first explain why Matthew and I decided to purchase a home, and how to go about doing so. For us, the point wasn’t to have a bigger place or to have a garage or a yard or whatever reasons other people suggested for us, though those factors are certainly perks. The point, instead, was to save money.

 

In reality, the rental market in Ann Arbor is expensive. Not LA or NYC expensive, but still expensive -- especially when your hometown has a lower cost of living like ours does. To be completely honest, after two years in our apartment rental in Ann Arbor, our savings account was nowhere near where we wanted it to be. As a newly married couple, we had hoped to have more in the bank -- but how could we when we threw almost all of our money at bills? We took a deep dive into our finances and cut costs here and there, but there was no cutting our rent. It was the only bill that we couldn’t do anything about, so we starting looking at other options.

 

Our first option was to move to another rental. But we learned quickly that our one-bedroom apartment was renting for lower than most of the other options in the area, so that idea was passed on pretty quickly. From there, we started to look at the option of buying. At that point, we realized that purchasing a house was a whole new ballgame. Between learning the new language of realty to saving up for a down payment and calculating closing costs, the whole process was crazy. In the end, however, we found the right place for us, and I’m here to share what I learned.

 

  • Be realistic.

    • If you’re looking for a house on a tight budget like we were, then you simply can’t afford to get lost in your home-buying fantasies. I’m an HGTV addict, so I know what it’s like to want granite countertops, hardwood floors, wood beams and a gas fireplace - but if you can’t afford those upgrades, then you can’t afford those upgrades. It’s simple. You have to be realistic about how far your money is going to go because thanks to the internet those “hidden gems” in the downtown area aren’t so “hidden” anymore.

  • Be open-minded.

    • When Matthew and I originally set out to buy a home, we were looking for something with a high resale value. With this being our starter home, we figured we would sell it eventually and wanted to make sure that it would be sellable down the road. For that reason, we started looking at waterfront properties. Once we realized our budget wouldn’t work for that (see bullet point #1), we started looking at homes with access to water. The demand for those properties was also extremely high so we ended up just looking for properties with a decent sized lot -- we were clearly grasping at straws here --  and we settled on a home out in the country with about an acre and a half of land. We don’t even have A/C, which Matt and I were concerned about (we’re from Florida and we’ve always had A/C), but we knew we had to keep an open mind. PS - Not having A/C hasn’t been bad at all. Seriously!

  • Commit.

    • Find your non-negotiable(s) and stick to your guns. Our non-negotiable was our price. We simply WOULD NOT pay over our desired price point, and by sticking with that, we were very happy in the end. I wanted a walk-in closet, a finished basement, A/C, more than one bathroom, etc. But none of those were more important to us than sticking to our budget. If your non-negotiable is location, stick to it; just try not to have too many non-negotiables. You definitely need to be realistic and open-minded, but buying a house that doesn’t mean your non-negotiable - whatever it may be - won’t make you happy.

  • Enjoy the process.

    • Our home-buying process was certainly stressful, but it was also exciting. I mentioned before that this is our first home purchase, and I mean it when I say that once we made the purchase, I was living in a permanent day dream until we actually moved in. Whenever I got a spare moment, I was mentally organizing and decorating our new house in my head. Having a place to call home was a new feeling for Matt and I, and we are really excited for the new memories and experiences to come.

 

If buying a house isn’t on your list of urgent to-dos, I completely understand. The process was often confusing and difficult, but it was the right time for us to make the move, and we’re both glad we did. Now we just have to figure out what to do all this extra land!

 

 

 

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