Things I wish I knew before buying my first home

  • Family buying new house from broker Rawpixel

  • Buying a home is a lot of things - easy it is not. (Pavel Ivanov/Dreamstime) Pavel Ivanov/Dreamstime

Chicago Tribune
Published: 3/28/2019 5:19:51 PM

There will be surprises. And hidden costs. And more paperwork than you ever thought one person could file in a lifetime. Oh, and it might take you a while to settle into this giant commitment you just spent your pretty pennies on. Buying a home is a lot of things — easy it is not. Which is why a little knowledge from the pros and those who have been-there-done-that can go a long way. We asked industry experts, everyday homeowners and our own reporters to offer words of wisdom — things they wish they had known before buying their first home. Responses have been edited for space and clarity.

■If you can, refinish floors, replace carpet and repaint before moving. These are the most disruptive upgrades to do later because they disrupt entire rooms. It’s actually less disruptive to the household to remodel a kitchen or bathroom than to upend the entire living room to paint a year after you move in.

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull>No inspection catches everything. Count on something going wrong — a water heater that dies, roots growing into water lines — something will happen.

■Combine deals at home improvement stores. Research in advance the best deals they offer on in-store credit cards, and ask when they have sales. Combine sales and credit offers to get the best possible prices on appliances, fixtures and materials.

■If you have kids, line up baby-sitting for the day of the move and a day or two later. Plan a couple of unpacking/organizing shifts that let you park toxic, sharp or fragile items without worrying about protecting them from the kids or vice versa. And pack a suitcase for each child’s essentials, even if you’re just moving across town — think blankie, toiletries, spare clothes. Keep the suitcases in the car so you have everything you need for a first good night’s sleep.

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull>Window washing, shoveling, furnace maintenance ... they’re all part of homeownership. So plan on there being ongoing maintenance, in terms of dollars or time spent.

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> If you’re getting close to being under contract, start gathering your paperwork: paychecks, bank statements, tax returns, other sources of income, the promissory note committing your left kidney to the broker. Lesson learned.

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull>Maintain a professional relationship with your seller. If any additional “due diligence” type work comes up as part of the sale, you’ll need to make sure those lines of communication are open and both parties are aware of the necessary next steps. A strong relationship allows for any hiccups to be handled with minimal interference to the purchase process.

■Ensure whatever documentation provided by the seller is acceptable to your underwriters. If the documentation does not align with what your lender is asking for, it can cause a lot of rework between both parties.

■It takes a while to feel settled. Yes, this seems obvious. But after what may seem like a never-ending 90-day close, the light at the end of the tunnel is the prospect of a celebratory feeling you expect to experience when you move in. Nope. Not at first. The first night in a new home just feels, quite simply, like a lot to do. Boxes everywhere to unpack, all kinds of appliances and flooring, a new neighborhood to search out the closest pizza place. So don’t mistake first-night exhaustion for big-picture fears about making the wrong decision. Live in the space. See how it feels. Decide where you want things. But first, buy flowers and clear at least one room of boxes.




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