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Thursday night, Susie and I closed on our first ever home together. It’s remarkable to think back to seven years ago when our relationship was on the rocks and something like this seemed impossible.
When we moved to Nashville in September 2013, we weren’t sure how long we would be here, so we didn’t even look at buying a house. We love the Midwest, and never had any intention to leave it in the first place, so the idea of buying a house down here, even if we could afford it, wasn’t very attractive.
This past fall, some opportunities arose that made Susie and I have some tough discussions about the future, primarily surrounding the question, “Should we stay in Nashville or try to move closer to home?” In this time, I came to the realization that I hadn’t allowed Nashville to become home for me the entire time we had lived here. I had a contentment problem.
Susie and I both decided that, because of the doors the Lord was opening and closing before our eyes, it was best for us to be faithful for where the Lord has us and to stop longing for home. We were discontent with our circumstances because we made an idol of the ones we wanted most. Instead, we decided to refocus our contentment and be faithful where we were.
In the fall of 2015, we decided to finally buy a home in Nashville. Despite a delay due to our rollover wreck, car replacement, and subsequent physical therapy, we finally started seriously looking at homes in February, and we put an offer on a home in mid-March.
A lot of young people read this blog—let’s be real, mainly just my friends read this blog—and a lot of my friends haven’t purchased homes yet. Friends, and other readers, here are five things I learned in the home-buying process that I would like to pass on to you:
I didn’t realize how privileged I was, but growing up, my mom bought name brand everything—or at least most things. When Susie and I got married, and especially before she started working, we were trying to spend as little money on groceries as possible, which meant two things: Aldi first, Kroger second, and generic everything, no matter where we buy our groceries.
Okay, so we don’t quite do generic everything—we buy Starbucks coffee usually, and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, and some other name brand items. But, I think primarily shopping generic, and at Aldi (which is awesome) has saved us a ton of money.
Also, and I don’t mean to knock people who get to take fancy vacations, but we could have gone to Europe or Hawaii or any number of places with the savings we stockpiled over the last few years in order to put a nice downpayment on a home, and we chose not to.
If you can get to Maui or Rome on your family’s dime—DO IT. But if you’re 23 and you have some money saved up, you may want to continue to save it for a house instead for springing for that all-inclusive resort—unless you’re cool living in an apartment, then do whatever works for you!
I can’t even tell you what all I’ve signed my name to in the last three weeks, but I can tell you it’s been pretty stressful. Taking ownership of a home, and all of the appliances and other fixtures that come with it is adult stuff!
Living in an apartment is nice for dozens of reasons, but when you purchase a home, it’s all on you now! If you don’t realize that while you’re poking around Zillow on a Saturday afternoon, you realize it when you’re signing loan agreements an insurance policies, that’s for sure.
Being an adult can be scary. Especially because you don’t know what the future holds. Do you buy the home warranty or not? What will you ask the sellers to fix on the home? What sort of price should you offer in order to not overpay, but have your offer accepted? Having a good realtor is important. We did—thanks Andrew Buckwalter—and it’s relieving to have someone who will listen to all of your questions no matter how dumb you think they are. I had a lot of dumb questions (“What’s ‘escrow?'” “How long do HVACs last?” etc.).
Other than pure acts of evil, there are two things I hate most in this world: details and paperwork. Suffice to say, the last two weeks of the home-buying process were like my own personal dungeon of sadness. When it comes to details, I can be pretty forgetful. So, in an effort to protect against that, I would deal with any house details that arose immediately so as not to forget to deal with them later.
In the metaphorical game of tennis, I would hit any balls that came onto my side of the court as soon as they crossed the net, and I would constantly be feeling like I had forgotten one here or there.
Thankfully, the only mistake I made was sending our bank account information and social security numbers to a wrong email address. You know, the little stuff. Our identities haven’t been stolen yet, so no harm no foul, right?
At the same time, I had the awareness to catch a minor mortgage insurance detail in our “Closing Disclosure” that would have cost us about $3,000 over five years.
In short: pay attention to detail. It can save you lots of money and protect you from handing your identity to someone with almost your wife’s email address.
My wife would affirm that I am a stickler about precise, prompt communication (thanks Linda). I can unintentionally be a really annoying jerk about it. If you email or call me or something and you communicate in an unclear way, I will act like I didn’t understand in order to help you communicate more effectively, even if I actually understood what you said. I know, it’s a tool move, but it’s almost reflexive at this point—I blame my dad, who I think did this to me a lot as a kid. Sorry dad, but thanks, too, I guess.
Many of the players in our home-buying process were effective, clear communicators, which was helpful. Because, when you’re a first-time home-buyer, learning the lingo while signing your life away can be burdenous and frustrating.
Whether you’re having to exercise patience in saving for a home or if you’re having to be patience in the home-buying process, patience is everything. Like I said, living in an apartment has its perks—no yard to mow, a personal repair service, and more. But, at the same time, we’ve been itching to get away from our four-packs-a-day chimney-neighbors since we moved in, and I’m looking forward to having a garage and a bit of my own space. Being patient hasn’t been easy, and enduring the paperwork wasn’t fun either.
We were blessed with a number of great helpers in our home-buying experience. We’re thankful for Andrew, Brandon, Leslie, and everyone else who helped us over the course of the last few weeks. Buying a home for the first time, especially in a market like Nashville’s that demands speed and quick decision-making, is a great experience. Save up and make the investment!