It’s a weird age we live in right now when it comes to millennials growing up and becoming adults. We are those inbetweeners, who still think the ‘90s were just a few years ago, but now we are well into our twenties and early thirties.
As we continue to grow up, we are doing things that "real adults" do: holding jobs, getting married, having kids, and buying homes. We’re around that perfect median age for first-time home buyers. Holden Lewis says on rate comparison site Bank Rate that “a typical first-time homebuyer this year is 32 years old. The median ages of first-time homebuyers has varied little in the last 15 years, fluctuating from 30 to 32 years old.”
And apparently, we are also increasing the average first-time homeowner rate; according to the National Association of Realtors, “At 31 percent, the primary reason for purchasing a home was the desire to own a home of their own. First-time buyers made up 35 percent of all home buyers, an increase over last year’s near all-time low of 32 percent.”
So there it is: three out of 10 people want to own their own home because they want something of their own, and more than three out of 10 are buying a home for their first time. That’s a lot of homes being bought, especially since the NAR states there were around 1.25 million homes bought in 2015.
If you own a home already, then congratulations! But if you’re not there yet, then we have some information you might want to read before making that first official purchase. And if you live in Los Angeles or New York, where you’ll probably be renting for the rest of your life, well, at least you can offer this as advice to your friends back home.
Check Your Expenses
This may sound too obvious, but you’d be surprised how rarely people do this. Sure you can look at credit cards and get an idea, but what about the cash spending, or any accounts linked to your checking account that might be on autopay?
Annalisa Burgos interviewed Property Virgin's Sandra Rinomato for HGTV, and her advice for first-time home buyers was to watch your spending: “To really understand the financial impact of owning a home, start by tracking exactly how much you spend each month on everything from groceries to entertainment. Write the numbers down in a journal or a spreadsheet."
"A good way to track your expenses is to pay for everything with cash," Rinomato says. "It will open your eyes and you'll be shocked at how much you spend each month."’
You’d be surprised how much we spend on different accounts or apps that are linked to different cards—everything from Uber and Postmates to cash tips for the guy making our burrito at 2 a.m. on our way home from a night out.
Test The Commute
For this one we don’t suggest you just type into Google Maps and get the estimated drive time; we want you to go Daniel Day Lewis with it, the method actor way. If you leave for work at 7 a.m, then one day, wake up earlier, and get to the house you’re thinking about buying by 7 a.m, and leave from there. This way you’ll get to know the distance, traffic, and route for the new home.
Realtor and writer David Desantis agrees: “We’ve all been stuck in traffic, so we all know how important commuting is. But for some reason we often forget to take into account commute times when it comes to house hunting. According the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 11 million people at least drive an hour to work each way.”
Ask yourself: is this commute going to keep you away from your new home longer by making the commute worse, or better, and how important of a factor is that? If you want help looking for a new home based on the commute, Somewhere Ideal is a site that will let you do just that.
Check the Nightlife
Another thing to consider since we are no longer the fresh-faced college freshmen we once were is the nightlife. Some people don’t like being out late; they enjoy their Netflix and popcorn and being in bed on a weekend by midnight. Others of us enjoy those early morning nights and close proximity to our favorite establishments.
If you take a drive at night and walk around you’ll be able to get a sense of your neighbors' lifestyles and the crowds hanging around at night so you can really tell who you’ll possibly be living next to.
Will it be the Netflix-watching popcorn eaters or those hard-partying 2-a.m.-burrito buyers. You wouldn’t want to live out the storyline from the movie Neighbors, right?
Let it Rain
Of course on a walk-through you’ll be checking for any type of damage and maybe even see the housing history report for repairs, but to be extra cautious, check out the house after a storm.
This way you’ll get to see if there are any spots that get flooded, any leaks throughout the walls or ceiling. It's also key to check the yard and if there is any standing water or if it drains okay.
Home Advisor quotes the average repair cost for water damage is $2,349—and that's just for interior problems, nothing about the yard or draining. Don't forget about mold, which can increase repair costs and the health risks of your new abode.
Don’t Fall In Love
The reason we say this is because if we asked you, “Have you ever done anything stupid because you were in love?” something tells us you’d say yes. It could be a number of things but this tip is to help you not act out of emotion.
Sure the backyard may be perfect, or the bathrooms are just how you dreamed, but it’s time to think rationally and ask questions that deal with grown-up situations like cost, mortgage, monthly fees, and repairs.
Drew Scott, of Property Brothers fame, explains to HGTV that “Buying a house based on emotions is just going to break your heart. If you fall in love with something, you might end up making some pretty bad financial decisions. There’s a big difference between your emotions and your instincts.”
Just remember to stay calm, no matter how much you like the house. It’s always a good idea to ask for an outsider's opinion to help level you out, just like you’d do in a relationship asking your friend if it’s crazy for you to send that third unanswered text.
Get Physical, Physical
Depending on the realtor, this could be standard, but if not, then it’s best to be safe. Give your house a physical. If you get really serious about buying, call the doctor and have them make a home visit. By this, we mean call a housing inspector and pay them to come out to the house and do some serious inspections.
It will probably cost a couple hundred dollars (HGTV estimates around $200) but could end up saving you more than $250,000 if he or she finds something particularly egregious.
Consider it a hedge on your bet: If the inspector finds nothing then you’ll have peace of mind, and if they find something, you’ll know before buying and can use that to lower the price or skip the purchase altogether.