Along with your first job, first love, and first car is your first home—truly a sign that you’ve made it as a responsible, mature adult. (At least it would appear so!) Whether you’re moving out of the family home for the first time or taking the plunge into ownership after years of renting, buying your first home is a big step that requires a lot of preparation in all aspects—physically, mentally, and most of all, financially. So, are you really ready to find a home to call your own? We’ve got a few things you need to remember before you bust out the “Welcome” doormat.
1. Study up
Before you buckle down and begin looking at houses, doing your research is a must. Start by scrolling through home blogs, watching copious amounts of HGTV, reading home and architecture books and magazines—soak up all the knowledge you can about the real estate market. This will help familiarize you with the process of buying a house and learning the sometimes technical and hard-to-understand jargon of the real estate world (“escrow,” anyone?). Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A trusted family member or friend with experience in buying homes should be able to answer your questions.
2. Make a list of your “ideals”
This is where the fun part comes in. Get a piece of paper and a pen and list down your “ideals”—the specifics of your dream home. Start with your ideal type of home—do you want an apartment, a condo, a single-family detached home, a townhouse? Really analyze your lifestyle, needs, and budget and figure out what kind of home suits you best.
Then, think about your ideal neighborhood and location. Would you prefer a home right in the center of the urban jungle or somewhere a bit farther but with more space? Are you a fan of modern and contemporary architecture or is an American-style home more your taste? Take the time to think through your wants and needs, so you’ll be more prepared when you do start buying.
3. Consider finding a real estate agent
If you have a busy schedule, finding a trusted real estate agent will help the process of buying your first home. Ask family members and friends for recommendations—they’re sure to have a name they can refer. An agent will help narrow down your choices and handle all the messy, technical details that go into buying a home. In fact, an experienced agent can help you haggle for a better price! Just be prepared to fork over a bit more money for this extra help.
4. Make sure you can REALLY afford it
With a new home comes extra expenses such as renovation and repairs, new furniture, homeowner’s association fees (for some, at least), maybe even a higher cost of living especially if you’re moving to a new area. The crazy unpredictability of real estate means having to be ready to spend a little more to get exactly what you want; make sure you’re financially prepared and mentally ready. If you’re nervous, visit your preferred bank and ask about options on home loans and payment terms to help you out.
5. Inspect before you sign that check
So you’re almost at the finish line. You’ve looked at a few potential places, and you’ve got your heart set on the perfect place for you. But, is it really the perfect home? Before you sign on that dotted line, it’s best to give your new place a full physical inspection. Probe the structure from top to bottom, going through each room individually as well as inspecting utilities, plumbing, gardening, and other areas of interest. Doing this will prevent any costly repairs down the line and will allow you to invest more in things like decor and furniture to match your personality.
6. Scout your new neighborhood
Now that you’re ready to move in and declare yourself an official first-time homeowner, it’s time to know more about your new neighborhood. Set aside a few hours before move-in day to walk around or drive through the area. Is it pet-friendly? Are there a lot of young kids playing on the streets? Any food joints nearby or maybe a mall you can call your neighborhood tambayan? Is public transportation easily accessible? Are there any hospitals, police stations, or fire stations nearby? These are important questions that will make day-to-day life much easier and safer for you—find the answers!
Along with these questions comes the burning matter of being the neighborhood newbie. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your new neighbors, and get to know them casually. After all, they’re the people you’ll have to deal with every day, so it’s best to be friendly and approachable.
Now that you’ve covered all the bases, the only things left to do are sign that contract, pack up all your belongings, and finally, get the chance to open that front door and say, “I’m home.”