We’re homeowners! (+ Advice For First Time Home Buyers)
BIG NEWS: WE BOUGHT A HOME!!!
It has been so hard to keep these details to myself over the past few weeks, but I was so nervous about speaking too soon. I mean, our wedding hasn’t panned out… twice ? This almost felt too good to be true, but now that we have officially closed and we have keys in hand, I’m so excited to fill you in!!
To give you a little context, we have been in a 2 bedroom (+ office) rental for the past 2 years. It’s been a great place for us- super affordable, lots of space, and in a great neighborhood. That being said, it’s an old building with creaky floors, it’s on a busy street, and it has the darkest kitchen OF ALL TIME. Not only are the counters dark, but there are also no windows in there. ZERO. I think most people wouldn’t mind it too much, but it’s definitely made my job more difficult. To say I’m excited for more natural light to work with is a MAJOR understatement!
But back to the new place! When Adam and I realized that we had to postpone our wedding a 2nd time, we started talking about how we wanted to fill this extra year as an engaged couple… and purchasing a home felt like a great way to continue to move forward with our future. We told each other we’d take our time and wait for the perfect place to pop up. And then it did!
Our New Home
Originally, we talked about buying a house that we could stay in for a long time. We quickly realized that our options were limited within our budget. We didn’t love the houses we could afford in the neighborhoods we liked, and we didn’t love the neighborhoods where we could afford nice houses. There was a brief moment where we considered looking at a few suburbs, but both of us just didn’t feel ready for that step. So, we started adding townhomes to the search… and then we found our new condo.
I don’t think either of us thought we’d end up with a condo at the beginning of our search, but this one is so special. First of all, it’s 2000 sq ft with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. That’s more square footage than some of the single family homes we looked at! And second, it has a HUGE private deck. As soon as we saw it, we completely fell in love and knew that we would get just as much use out of that space as we would a backyard. I seriously cannot wait to show it to you!!
Quite honestly, the only thing we don’t love about this place is the kitchen – but that just means a renovation is in order 😉 We’ll put a more neutral quartz countertop in, along with the inset cabinets that Adam sells, and maybe a pretty backsplash? We shall see!
Advice For First Time Home Buyers
Save up for a down payment.
Not sure how much you can spend on a home? First things first, save up for the down payment! Knowing how much you will be able to use for a down payment will help you determine your price range when it comes time to start looking. (Don’t forget to factor in closing costs to this figure, too!)
Solidify your price range.
Once you know how much you can use for a down payment, there are a few other factors to consider. I have to give a MAJOR shout out to my Dad here, because he created a spreadsheet for me that breaks down all of the costs to consider when owning a home. I highly recommend putting together you own version that calculates the estimated monthly costs of your mortgage, taxes, home insurance, maintenance/utilities, and HOA (if applicable).
The reason why this is so important is because the list price isn’t the only thing to consider – and in some cases, buying a place might actually be more affordable per month than you thought, especially since interest rates are so low right now. Also, we saw an option that was significantly less than the condo we purchased, but due to higher taxes and HOA fees, it would have actually cost more per month than the one we got. This is extremely empowering as you look at different homes and weigh their pros and cons!
Get Preapproved for a loan.
Next step, work with a lender to get pre-approved for a loan. It makes everything easier if you have this before you want to make an offer.
Find a realtor you feel comfortable with.
We worked Adam’s cousin and she was super patient, especially since it took us seeing a lot of places to realize what was really important to us and what we could reconsider. I’m so grateful for all of her help!
Narrow down the neighborhoods you want to be in.
Speaking of realizing what’s really important to us… we looked at places in a bunch of different neighborhoods. The more we looked, the clearer it was that we wanted to really love our location. Of course, buying a home in a more up and coming neighborhood can be a really great gamble – but that’s just it. It’s a gamble. In addition to that, I really love being able to walk to restaurants and public transit, instead of being in an area that would require us to buy a 2nd car. Plus, Lincoln Square is so perfect for this stage of our lives. It has great parks and restaurants, but it’s still quiet, neighborhoody, and so so pretty ?
Narrow down what type of home you want.
As I mentioned above, we originally started the process thinking that we wanted a single family home with a yard, so that we could stay for a long time. But after looking around, we realized that it didn’t necessarily have to be a stand alone house. Our non-negotiables shifted a little bit to include at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a good amount of private outdoor space, lots of natural light, and around 2000 sq ft or more. And that’s exactly what we found!
Only make offers you feel comfortable with.
Before we got this place, we actually put an offer in on a townhouse in Ravenswood. Our offer was lower than asking and we ended up losing it – but we wouldn’t do anything differently. That place just wasn’t meant to be ours! I know that can be hard to remember when you find a place you love, but that’s the best way to approach this process. Figure out what you feel comfortable offering + how high you’ll go if they counter, and what will be will be. Sometimes going higher makes such a small difference per month that it’s worth it. (This is where that monthly estimator is so helpful!) And other times, it’s not worth it to spend more, especially if the place needs work.
Get a good attorney.
I’ve heard so many people complain about this part of buying a home, and I feel so lucky that we had such a great experience. I truly cannot say enough good things about Cerami Law Firm. Jim Cerami may be my brother-in-law, but he is also EXCEPTIONALLY good at his job. He kept us on track every step of the way, explained everything in a concise way so that we could understand without being too overwhelmed, and made the closing a breeze. Seriously, the best.
I hope those tips are helpful! And don’t forget to head over to Instagram for more peeks at the new place – we will be painting this weekend and moving in next week. It’s allll happeninggggg! Grateful doesn’t even begin to cover it ?
Also, I will be taking this Saturday off from my Weekly Meal Plans, but there will still be an email blast and Sunday Spotlights post.
PS. You might also like A Letter to Brides Affected by COVID-19, Our Wedding Update (2nd postponement), and my wedding planning resources.
September 17, 2020 @ 8:01 pm
This is so exciting!! My husband & I just purchased our first (and hopefully forever!) house in the suburbs and the process is definitely overwhelming but so exciting! Can’t wait to see more as you settle in!
September 17, 2020 @ 8:35 pm
Congrats! Buying the new home made me and my then fiancé feel like we were married honestly – it was such a fun next step! Enjoy decorating and all the fun of home ownership!
September 18, 2020 @ 1:47 pm
September 18, 2020 @ 6:32 am
Yay! My husband and I also just moved into our new home in Lincoln Square at the end of July. To say we are obsessed with the neighborhood is an understatement. It has everything we could want and more. I hope that once this pandemic chills out I see you out and about!
September 18, 2020 @ 1:47 pm
Yesssss! It’s the best neighborhood!!!!
September 18, 2020 @ 11:19 am
Congratulations! Do you guys have any tips for saving for a down payment? Renting in Chicago is so pricey that it can make it difficult!
September 18, 2020 @ 1:50 pm
Hey! I can certainly elaborate on this another time, but the quick answer is: set up a budget so you know exactly where your money is going, meal plan and cook at home instead of going out/ordering takeout as much as possible, and try to find an apartment with lower rent if you’re stretched too thin! Not sure were you are in the city, but we have been renting a place in North Center for the past 2 years that was suuuuper affordable. It’s not perfect by any means and we’re really excited for the upgrade, but living here for a few years helped us save in order to make this possible!