buying a house for the first time

Buying a House for the First Time: What You Need to Know

I want to buy a house, and come hell or high water, this is the year I’m going to do it.

Buying a house for the first time is the single most intimidating thing about personal finance to me. Especially because I’m planning to buy it alone; no Tbone, no parents, no one else involved in the finances of this purchase.

Y’all know me: I’m a planner and a researcher. I have an plan for my money if sh*t hits the fan, I budget every single month, and Tbone and I have money dates every single month to review our joint expenses even though we don’t share bank accounts.

So now I’m making a plan to buy a house all by myself as a financially single lady.

buying a house for the first time

Why I Want to Buy a House At All

I’ve been a very happy renter for my entire adult life, and I have no problem with renting. I know that some people are dying on the hill of “renting is throwing away money” but I’m not.

I’ve lived in Austin for the past 10 years and never paid more than $600 in rent. That in turn has allowed me to save upwards of 70% of my income for years, helping me build a solid nest egg of caving and investments.

The only reason I want to buy a house now is because of how Covid has changed the world and my personal life. I want a house strictly for emotional reasons: a place that is my own, where I can harbor friends in tough seasons of their lives, and where I can have the outdoor space that I want. Several close friends have had particularly rough times in the last few years, and I’d like to be able to *literally* offer housing to anyone who needs it.

I also want to decorate the way I want to decorate and know that I don’t have to change it back when my lease is up. Sue me: I want some freaking wallpaper!

How to Buy a House for the First Time

Buying a house for the fist time is a big financial and lifestyle commitment. I hate when people sell the idea of homeownership and only talk about the mortgage. Um, what about repairs and taxes and closing costs??? Buying a house requires a deep knowledge of your own finances and the market you want to buy in.

The first thing you need to know is where you want to buy a home and any zoning restrictions in that area. Say you want to buy a house and add a tiny house in the back; you need to know if that’s allowed in your town. Look up zoning laws on your town and city website.

The second thing is your numbers. How much cash are you bringing to the process? What kind of a mortgage payment can you comfortably afford? Use mortgage calculators like this one to get an idea of your own cash needs.

And finally, look into first time homebuyer programs in your area. There are a lot of programs that help at a city or state level with things like down payment assistance.

Steps Towards Buying a House

I’m approaching my home buying experience the way I approach anything else financial:

Research

Spreadsheets

Calculations

First up: research. Like I mentioned before, buying a home is an intimidating process to me. There are SO MANY STEPS! There are so many people involved! A realtor, a mortgage lender, the title company, the sellers, possibly a real estate lawyer??? Real estate is truly doing the most.

I took a first time home buyer online course called HomeSchool and it was really helpful with two things.

1) lessening my anxiety about the whole process

2) educating me about what steps I need to follow to be in the best position to buy a house.

HomeSchool was created by two women real estate agents and investors, which y’all know is my jam. It walks you through absolutely EVERYTHING you need to know about buying a house, from how the overall process works, to how to increase your credit score to get a better mortgage, to the different types of home loans, to how to find the perfect house to buy.

For someone as anxious as me about buying a house for the first time, the course really helped me break it down into bite sized steps. I feel way more confident about finding and buying my first home. You can check out HomeSchool for yourself right here.

Second: spreadsheets. Y’all better believe I have a home buying spreadsheet. I’m tracking my cash savings, home prices in the area I want to buy, property taxes in the price range I want to buy in, expected repairs I plan to make, and a bunch of other nerdy things.

Spreadsheets are life. Now each month I do my budget and I update my homebuying spreadsheet. It’s just 30 minutes of spreadsheet time for Kara, and I love it. Having all this information in one place helps me see what is realistic for my budget.

Third: calculations. I am not buying my dream house. I am not buying the most expensive house I can afford. The plan is to buy the cheapest house I can in the area I want.

This means calculations. I’m more focused on a lower monthly mortgage payment than a lot of other things. That means I’m willing to trade things like hardwood floors for a lower payment.

I’m running numbers on a variety of houses in the area I want to be in to get an understanding of what the property taxes, repairs, and mortgage could be. This again makes me feel in control and gives me hard numbers to work with. I won’t be making any offers until I have the appropriate amount of cash for all my needs.

So that’s my plan for 2022! Buying a house for the first time this year, and don’t drown in a monthly mortgage payment. Are you on the hunt for a house this year?

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6 thoughts on “Buying a House for the First Time: What You Need to Know”

  1. I am here to celebrate your journey towards homeownership with you! Thank you for sharing your story, your plans and those resources!

    Please stay awesome 😎

  2. Love this! Buying a home has been a life goal of mine for a while, but as a student (with all the loans) and a low-wage earner, it doesn’t feel like I’ll be there any time soon. Thank you for breaking this down in a thorough and easy to follow fashion!!

    1. You’re welcome! And as someone who was low income until I was late 20’s, I want to say that you have so much time to make it happen. There’s a lot of possibility in front of you!

  3. I AM WITH YOU ALL! Thanks for the post, Kara, and mention of HomeSchool — loved their program, though I need to follow through and go for the purchase this year as well!

    Looking forward to following your journey and learning along the way! <3

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