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buying a home tips

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The late summer of 2020 saw 43 percent more home sales than the same time period in 2019. A pandemic certainly didn’t stop people from wanting to put down roots and nest. In fact, it made them want to more than ever. One survey found that 63 percent of millennials hope to buy a home in the next year. So much for that being the generation that others say doesn’t have their sh*t together. It sounds like, if anything, they’re getting their down payments together. With home sales skyrocketing, you would almost think that the process of purchasing property is quick, easy, and painless. But I am here to tell you that it isn’t…at least not when you’re buying it with a significant other.

In mid-2019 my husband and I caught the home-buying fever. We were comparing monthly mortgage payments to places we could afford to do monthly rent at in honestly less-than-desirable apartments and realized they were pretty comparable. In some cases, mortgages were less. Throwing away money on rent started to feel pretty stupid and we resented each and every check we wrote to our landlord after that. So we looked at our finances, figured out a realistic down payment we could make, spoke to several lenders, found a realtor we liked, and were off to the races. Buying a home was meant to be something that brought us closer. The act alone was a gesture that said, “I want to intertwine my life with yours, more.” But, surprisingly, the process of searching for and buying a home drove us apart. We’re good today, but things were rocky for a moment, and we had some damage control to do once we closed escrow.

buying a home tips

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Date night becomes an Open House

Once you catch the home-buying fever, you will spend all of your free time checking and refreshing listing sites like Zillow and Redfin. You’ll sit down to have a “chill date night” and, before you know it, you both have your laptops up, side by side, and are checking out new listings, emailing each other links to ones you like, and texting the listing agents to see about upcoming open houses. Furthermore, any relaxing time together that would be spent, say, going to the park or going on a hike turns into driving around the city like lunatics, checking out open houses. All of your free time is dedicated to the hunt, and before you know it, you feel pretty distant because you haven’t focused on each other in a while.

buying a home tips

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Traffic fights. Multiple times a day.

If you’ve been in a relationship for a while then you know that driving anywhere can cause some arguments. If you need to be somewhere at a certain time, you argue about whose fault it is that you left your home late. Or you argue about scheduling, with one of you thinking you can squeeze several destinations in and the other stating you can’t. You argue about parking, with each person having strong opinions on where to look for a spot. There is passenger driving going on. You argue about the quickest route to take to your destination. When you’re on the house hunt, you will have several of these arguments every single time you leave your home to look at listings. And it’s not great for your relationship. It doesn’t sound so bad but…it piles up, and you could feel really annoyed with your partner.

buying a home tips

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Calculating down payment comfort

If finances are tight, then scrounging up a down payment might cause some conflict. It did for us. We were really coming down to the line on what we’d have left in liquid after putting down a down payment. And we had different comfort levels surrounding how much cash we should keep in our checking accounts for emergencies. The down payment would determine which homes were actually an option for us, and we were finding that offering a down payment that was even just $12K less or more put us in a totally different bracket of home options. It was one of the most stressful financial decisions we ever made and didn’t exactly leave us feeling warm and fuzzy towards each other for a while.

buying a home tips

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Deciding when to ask family for help

Like I said, we were cutting it close with this down payment, and we realized we’d have to do the dreaded thing nobody wants to do: ask our family for help. We were so close to making it work, but a little assistance from our parents was going to be what got us to the finish line. But, not all family ties are equal. Translation: him asking his parents for help and me asking my parents for help came with completely different implications, respectively. We both had our reasons (read: family drama) that made us hesitant to reach out to relatives for help and were low-key just trying to push the other to ask for more help so we could get out of doing it on our own end. It was uncomfortable.

buying a home tips

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When only one person loves a place

This is a big issue and happens all of the time when you’re house hunting. We found a townhouse that I adored. It had a fireplace, hardwood floors, a swimming pool on site, even a little doggy run. To me, it was perfect. My husband didn’t like the street that it was on, and there wasn’t anything I could do about that. You can replace tiles, but not the location. I thought I’d found my dream home when we saw that place, and my dreams were quickly dashed when we got in the car and my husband said, “No way. Not gonna happen.” I felt like he was responsible for ruining my chance to be in my dream home.

buying a home tips

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It’s all you talk about

Buying a home will be the only thing you and your partner talk about until it’s done. Oh, and then decorating the home will be the only thing you talk about for several months after that. It will be like this addiction – this intense draw to the subject. You tell yourselves, “Okay. That’s enough house talk for tonight. Let’s talk about something else,” and then two minutes later, after pretending you both care about the weather or what happened on the news that day, you’ll be back to discussing houses. You won’t have a real, genuine conversation about what else is happening in your lives for a long time.

buying a home tips

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“Why did you say that in front of the seller?!”

You need to put on a united front in front of the listing agent. You have to play some mind games. You need to play hard to get. You can’t go in and just gush over the place – how are you supposed to get them to knock some dollars off the selling price like that? You can’t tell them what the other places you saw cost. You can’t reveal your hand. These are a bunch of unspoken rules you’ll only be aware of once you break them, and your partner gets mad at you in the car after the open house. There are a lot of ways to disappoint each other when talking to realtors, and you might accidentally do them all.

buying a home tips

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Buyer’s remorse

We felt bad about buying a home. We were excited for many reasons, but we were also aware of the fact that we have many friends who are nowhere near being able to afford to do so. We didn’t want to rub our accomplishment in their faces. So we were in this weird place of not talking to some of our friends about the biggest thing happening in our lives at the time. Both my husband and I slipped up a few times and told people we shouldn’t. I eventually got frustrated and said, “What happens when we buy a place? How will we hide it then?!” and that was a whole big argument.

buying a home tips

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Neighborhood disputes

The only areas we could afford are all about a 45-minute drive from where all of my husband’s friends live. Well, correction: the only areas where we could afford something larger than a shoebox were about a 45-minute drive from where my husband’s friends live. Feeling uneasy about it, he would try to sell me on some places that were just a rip-off…all in the hopes of staying near his buddies. He finally came to terms with the reality that we’d need to move across town, but he fell into a depression for a bit because of it. It can happen to any couple: the affordable homes are nowhere near the people and things you base your social life around, and it’s an adjustment.

buying a home tips

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You feel like business partners

What ultimately happens is that you feel more like business partners than lovers or best friends. Every conversation is about money or documents or appointments. You don’t have time (unless you work really hard to make it) to just be playful, shoot the sh*t, and have fun for months…or however long it takes you to find a place. You have to be very careful, and make sure you get strict about setting times when you do not talk about house hunting. Maybe get away for a weekend. Otherwise, when you close on a house, it may not feel as celebratory as you’d hoped because you and your partner no longer feel as close as you did when the homebuying process began.

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