April will forever hold a hella special place in our hearts as being “the month we grew up.” Exactly a year ago, J and I closed on our very first home! *pops bubbly* Springtime is now even more of a season of growth and change for us, since we made some of the biggest decisions and biggest move (literally) of our life together thus far right at the beginning of April.
But let’s back it up a year.
I was about to graduate from UPenn, and J’s apartment lease was about to expire. We were getting married in September and knew what we each were doing job-wise.
We knew we wanted to buy a house.
…But we also knew that felt like a total far-off dream.
At the end of the day, I hadn’t started really working yet. Yes, I had already made money from blogging and was continuing to do so, and J had a consistent paycheck coming in, but I couldn’t make any guarantees on my end. And especially since we’re both new in our respective careers, we didn’t know if we truly felt ready to do the whole “settling down” thing – financially OR emotionally.
We knew a few more things, tho.
We knew we didn’t want to stay in the same area as J’s apartment. Big cities are waaaaay more my speed than J’s, so he was ready to break outta the citysphere ASAP.
And we knew…I have a lot of stuff. There was just no friggin’ way that this girl was gonna fit allllllll of the things inside one tiny box in the city with the already-established fiance and two cats, lest it be world war three over sink space and closet room. 😉
Emotionally, we felt pretty certain we were ready for a house. We were about to tie the knot, we had a general area in mind – even a general timeframe for how long we’d ideally see ourselves in this first place.
Financially we soon knew, too. Our options were basically a.) keep renting an apartment, b.) rent a house, c.) buy a house, build equity, and pay a mortgage instead of a rent.
Renting an apartment in the city is expensive, and space is obviously v. limited. Renting anything might’ve made more sense to us had we no clue where we wanted to be geographically. But, we did know the general area that we needed to be for J’s job (and my end was easy since I work from home). It was time to start researching.
SO, to help shed some light on the housebuying process, I’m going to try and break it down into a few biggies (Should be a little financial series on CUR? All related to house buying? Yay? Nay? Sound off in the comments below!) that really impacted our financial confidence as a couple, to help us make the right decision in buying our cute little house-turned-home.
1.) Talk about your finances. To be financially confident, you’ve gotta KNOW your finances…AND talk about ’em with people that matter. So, any potential roommates or anyone potentially helping you pay for anything at all should be in on the financial action. How much are you bringing in every month? What are your expenses? What’s absolutely necessary to get by, versus non-essential if push came to shove? Who pays for what? What’s the balance – IS there one?
2.) Do yo’ research. Like a madman. Research, research, research. Learn what every single term on a Zillow page means. Know neighborhoods. Know taxation. Know whether things are one-time expenses or ongoing fees. You will feel more financially confident the more you know!
3.) Get help. Right off the bat. If you’ve been reading CUR for awhile, you might remember this post, where I spilled the beans on some house-hunting drama that had unexpectedly unfolded in our process. Long story short…J and I were naive. We were so hyped up on the idea of buying our very own home that we completely forgot the fact that we actually knew nothing about buying our very own home. We were just about ready to sign on the dotted line when my parents came up to check it out. In all of our excitement, we had been shrugging off potential red flags as “no big deal,” thinking this was the best we could get at this point, yadda yadda yadda. Turns out…it wasn’t. My parents were able to point out literally THOUSANDS upon thousands of dollars worth of work that would need to be done to make it actually livable, jacking up the asking price and making it suddenly a really stupid decision. Womp. So, first thing’s first: enlist help before you buy. Always.
4.) Know your local EIT. Or, earned income tax. Depending on where you live, your taxes are directly impacted. The EIT inside the actual city lines of Philadelphia *so much more* than our EIT living in suburbia. If you shift your search circumference by literally 10-15 minutes, you might be saving thousands in tax dollars.
5.) Know your actual budget. The million dollar Q: Would you rather live in an insanely gorgeous dream home, but not be able to afford going out on weekends, traveling, etc, or would you rather live in a beautiful home and still be able to go out to dinner on Saturday night and not flinch at drinks and dessert? We chose the latter. We knew right from the start that no matter what, we did NOT want to be “house poor,” where all of our money was going towards our mortgage and house upkeep that we had zero left to enjoy life. My parents also had bestowed this tidbit of wisdom upon us: Live below your means. Know what you can technically afford, and then go below it. THAT should be your budget. Because you never know what unexpected things will pop up in the meantime!
6.) Communicate said actual budget with your real estate agent – if you’re using one. Make sure your agent knows what you’re planning on spending, and tell him/her that it’s not worth their time pulling higher. They might try to pull higher if you’d not stern, insisting that “you can afford that!” based on your respective salaries, but the price you close on directly impacts their commission. Go with what YOU know to be comfortable. We also went with an agent that was recommended to us as being super honest and transparent. She knew what we wanted to spend and did NOT let us go over. It felt like a real team effort.
7.) Avoid money traps. Like I mentioned in point numero uno…we messed up on our first prospective place. There were places where you could see outside light coming in through the attic ceiling. Flooring was in need of repair. Siding on the walls outside needed fixing and/or replacement. Basically, it was a hot mess express. We were chalking it up to be this romantic fixer upper project, forgetting the fact that we are no Chip and Jo – we did NOT have the moolah to start investing in these major home improvement projects right outta the gate.
In the end, we felt financially confident after hours upon hours upon hours (upon hours) of intense research, consideration, and frustration. If you’re new to and/or about to embark on a housebuying process – or you just wanna be more financially confident in yo’ life, as you should! – enlisting help doesn’t have to be as difficult as it was for us at times.
A few weekends ago, J and I had the opportunity to check out the Capital One Banking Reimagined Tour in downtown Philly, and we. were. blown. away.
So much so that we’re both switching to Capital One. But that’s a story for another day. 😉
Capital One is empowering people to feel confident about their relationship with their money, and in doing so is completely redesigning the banking experience. The Banking Reimagined Tour is crossing the U.S. as an easy way to get started on your own financial journey with confidence. What J and I both loveloveloved was the fact that Capital One isn’t selling ANY of their own services here – it’s solely for getting educated, which is AMAZING. We went through the tour while traipsing past City Hall (there was a DJ and everything, so ya couldn’t miss it); it was this interactive session that starts with understanding your own financial behaviors and your values in life, all the way to how you can make financial goals that actually align WITH your values. Being forced to actually think about tougher financial things in a suuuuuper casual, actually fun environment took the stress off of it.
I’d 100% recommend checking out the Banking Reimagined Tour schedule to see if it’s coming to a city near you. (Hey Austin, TX – you’re next! 😉 )
Beyond that, see if a Capital One Café is opening near you, too.
THESE CAFES THO.
Guys. Ask J. I used to be soooooo not the financial guru. (Slash still am not, but that’s okay 😉 ). The Capital One Café is a place where I want to actually hang out. I never knew this, but Capital One was an entirely online banking system until recently. Now, they’re developing these cafés to merge innovative products and digital tools with a human connection. You can come in and get coffee from an actual café (bonus: if you’re a Capital One customer, your drinks are half off!), talk to ambassadors about your own finances, attend workshops, use an ATM, learn through games on giant digital screens – even meet 1:1 with a life coach to talk about your own personal life and money – and you don’t even have to be a Capital One customer to do so. I’m sorry, what? Yup, that’s right. ANYONE can use these resources. They’re right at your fingertips, zero strings attached, FO’ FREE. Bless up.
I’m a huge advocate for making the hard stuff easier in life.
I’m really proud to know that a place like Capital One is making efforts to actually do that.
Are you confident in your own finances? Have you had to make big financial decisions yet, like buying a house?
I’d lovelovelove to talk about it, cos honestly, it’s important. Let’s talk $$$ in the comments below!
Also, I’m curious…have you ever banked with Capital One??? Especially since I’m looking to switch my business to be entirely Capital One, I’d lovelovelove to hear your opinion!
*Thank you to Capital One for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions presented are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!