I don’t know about you, but owning a home was always on my radar. In my mind, the question was not, “if,” but, “when!” After all, owning a house is a major piece of the American Dream. For my wife and I, our dream of homeownership was a bit delayed. After college, we acquired a mountain of student loan debt ($80,000 total!) and had a baby in the mix. The odds of us owning a home were at best, not great. Against the odds, we made our dream come true. Here’s what we learned along the way:
Typically, I hate the above advice because we as humans have a hard time separating our emotions form the decision-making process. The truth is, it’s almost impossible to remove our feelings from any equation. I learned, though, when buying a house, it’s kind of a necessity.
Like most people, we wanted our daughter to attend THE BEST schools in THE BEST neighborhood. Our emotions were totally wrapped up in giving our daughter THE BEST! In reality, we could not afford a, “premium package house.” So, we set a budget, and gave our daughter the BEST we could afford.
Lesson Learned: Untie my emotions from the house I can afford.
I remember closing day like it was yesterday. We signed the papers (a sea of papers) and the attorney handed us the keys. We then entered what I like to call, “the honeymoon phase of homeownership.” For the first month, the house could do no wrong. 3 months in, a shift occurred. We started noticing things, small things. The fridge was louder. The hardwoods squeaked. The fireplace didn’t work! I actually started second guessing our purchase until my wife hit me with some much needed perspective: There’s no such thing as a perfect house. She went on to say: “I don’t want to live in a glass house where everything has to be perfect.”
Lesson Learned: There’s no such thing as, “the perfect house.”
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, we had $80,000 of combined student loan debt. I won’t mention who had more (it was her) because it does not matter. In fact, our student loan payment was MORE than our RENT payment! Before we could get serious about owning a home, we HAD to cut some of those monthly expenses. So, we stopped making the minimum payments and threw everything we could at our debt. We weren’t totally debt free at the time of purchase, but we had it beat down to only $5,000.
Lesson Learned: “Debt and Deeds do not mix!”
I hope I’m not painting a pretty picture of my attitude during the house buying process. I experienced a lot of stress and disappointment. Putting in an offer, getting rejected. Seeing a house, its suddenly gone. Liking the photos online, not-so-much in person. All of these elements can cause frustration but looking back, I wish I would have taken a HUGE chill pill. We’ll likely only get to experience buying a house once or twice in a lifetime. The highs and the lows, the good and the bad, its all worth it.
Lesson Learned: “Owning a home is AWESOME! Enjoy the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows.”