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I Bought My First Home Earlier This Year — Here's Everything I Really Wish I'd Known Beforehand

Learn from my mistakes.

When purchasing your first home, I can basically guarantee that you will experience more "wow, literally no one prepared me for this" moments than you could possibly imagine. I know I did.

Author standing in front of new house in the middle of a snowstorm.

Whether you're a soon-to-be first-time homeowner, beginning to think about making the plunge, or you're simply addicted to scrolling through real estate listings and daydreaming about your future homeowner life, I made this list of helpful tips and advice for you. For what it's worth, the home-buying experience can vary pretty wildly depending on a variety of factors — the state of the housing market, type of sale, even time of year — so let me just say that your experience might differ from my experience in every way! Regardless, I want your first home-buying experience to be more enjoyable than mine was, so this is basically my way of channeling all of my stress and frustration into something that makes all that chaos *worth it*... Right?!

1. Take the time to find a real estate agent that you'll love working with, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Potential homebuyers walking into a home tour with their real estate agent.

2. Familiarize yourself with the differences between getting pre-qualified and pre-approved — and aim for the latter if your resources allow.

3. Throughout your home-buying process, you'll write checks for a LOT more than just your down payment, so factor these additional costs into your budgeting process well in advance.

4. Be realistic with your home-hunting — if a listing looks too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Don't rush the initial visit to your future home.

Author's boyfriend and dog walking down driveway with text: "literally RUNNING to go put an offer in on this home"

6. Consider the pros and cons of large vs. small lenders.

Couple meeting with lender in an office setting and going over paperwork together

7. When applying for a loan, don't include any info that you can't back up.

8. Even if you're getting the "deal of the century" through the lender that granted you pre-qualification or pre-approval, you'd be wise to shop around.

Loan calculator showing loan balance of $200,000 with 3.25% interest rate for 30 years; total interest to be repaid is $113,347.60; vs. with 3% interest rate for 30 years; total interest to be repaid is $103,555.60

9. Don't purchase anything major (or open any new accounts) until after closing.

Woman on couch looking over financial statements

10. There's a 99% chance that the purchase process will take longer than you think, so make sure you're prepared for worst-case scenarios.

Screenshot of author's calendar with events: 8:30 AM - Target run; 10AM - Driving; 12 PM - final walk-through; 1PM - CLOSING OMG OMG OMG OMG FINALLY

11. Get as much information as you can from the seller ahead of time.

Woman getting questions answered over the phone will standing in her office

12. Apply the same diligence to choosing your home inspector as you did to choosing your real estate agent and lender.

Screenshot of home inspection report given to the author

13. If you can swing it, plan on being present for the inspection and any other in-person events that are scheduled prior to closing.

14. Depending on where you live and the specifics of your sale, you might consider working with a real estate attorney.

Buyer shaking hands with attorney in an office setting

15. Block out some "paperwork time" and get organized, since filling out documents of all kinds will basically become a full-time job.

16. If any terminology comes up that you're unfamiliar with, ask a professional to clear things up (and don't feel weird about it).

Confusing text exchange between author and loan originator with text: "immediately calls loan originator to ask WTF is happening"

17. Your final walkthrough is anything but a throw-away, so come prepared.

Homeowners walking into home with boxes along the floor

18. Post-closing, your credit score is going to go on a rollercoaster ride. This is 100% normal — but it doesn't hurt to be prepared for it.

Photo of brand-new snowblower with text: "Financing this bad boy days after hindsight, really dumb ideas, as evidenced by my credit score tanking by 60 points"

Though the (occasionally excruciating) process of buying your first home can, quite literally, feel like the sky is falling at all was worth it in more ways than I could have ever imagined. 10 months in, and I can happily report that any stress or anxiety I experienced was nothing compared to the joy of having a little place 👇 that's 100% mine.

Author's house with flowers on front porch, hammock on a tree, and front lawn with falling leaves.

If you recently bought your first home and have any helpful tips or advice that you're dying to share, let me know in the comments. Happy home-buying! I believe in you!