If you’re about to buy a home—especially if it’s your first—it’s perfectly reasonable to feel elated one moment, terrified the next, angry, indecisive, and a whole lot more. To help clue you in to what’s in store, check out our guide to the various stages you’ll experience on the road to owning some real estate. Godspeed!
Stage 1: You can’t seem to find what you want
You have your heart set on a sprawling front porch, while your partner won’t even attend an open house without the promise of a finished basement, leaving your home search dead in the water. What are prospective home buyers to do?
“Work together with your partner or spouse to develop a list of ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ in your home search,” explains Wendy Flynn, a Realtor® with Keller Williams in College Station, TX. “Put it down on paper to commit to it. Expect that list to evolve as you view different homes. When there is a disagreement between partners/spouses, refer to the list of objectives that everyone agreed to in advance.”
Stage 2: At long last, you find your dream house
Finally! You can’t believe your luck. This home checks off nearly all the boxes on your list. You’ve measured, and your sectional will fit perfectly in the living room. You know exactly where you’ll hang the flat-screen. Bust out your welcome mat, you’re ready to move in!
Stage 3: You can’t stop talking about your dream house
You’ve spent the past four hours scrolling through the photos you took of this magnificent dwelling. In fact, you’ve shared them with everyone from your great-aunt Dolores to your dog groomer. Everyone’s psyched for you. You’ve already invited 75 of your nearest and dearest to the housewarming party you can’t wait to host. You realize you haven’t had the home inspection yet or gotten approved for a mortgage yet, but you’re just so gosh-darn excited!
Stage 4: You’re having panic attacks about the home inspection
Termite damage to the sill plate and columns on crumbling footings are some of the things that are crippling you with insomnia as you await the home inspection.
“Going through home inspections is a bit like a couple taking their first vacation together. You learn things. The clients discover all of the realities of the home, and realize that they are buying the house ‘for better or worse,’” Flynn says.
As heartbreaking as bad news can be, it’s always better to know before you sign on the dotted line. Speaking of those all-important documents…
Stage 5: You’re drowning in paperwork
Tensions are mounting as you’re forced to peruse a stack of paperwork thicker than “War and Peace.” You’re also crossing your fingers that the financing comes through and those library books you lost in the late 1990s don’t come back to haunt you. How many relationships have ended as a result of a low FICO score, you ask yourself. Hopefully, though, all goes well and you keep slogging forward to the next lovely stage.
Stage 6: Holy crap, this is costing you a fortune
With home inspection and survey costs, title, appraisal, and lender’s origination fees, you may feel like you’re hemorrhaging cash. Closing costs typically amount to 3% to 6% of the purchase price. The best thing you can do is be prepared. Oh, and never buy anything, not even food, ever again.
Stage 7: You’ve got cold feet about the closing
You’re about to take title and own this thing. Is this what you really want? What if you lose your job and can’t make the payments?
It turns out getting cold feet before closing is normal. To stay calm, Flynn suggests going over your “wants and needs” list yet again. Facing the facts will help you remember why you fell in love with this house in the first place.
Stage 8: Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?
What were you thinking? You shouldn’t own a home. This is madness! Cue more brow mopping and hand-wringing.
This is kind of a carry-over of the cold feet—it’s just as natural to have a reflexive case of buyer’s remorse when you’re plunking down so much money.
But, if you’ve done your due diligence, stuck to your list of non-negotiables, and resisted getting caught up in the heat of the moment, chances are you will settle into your home just fine. Um, congratulations!