Most of the time when military families move it’s because of orders. But recently, my husband and I took a little leap of faith and moved locally. We had been stuck in the renting cycle for a while, and after some thought, decided to put our VA loan to good use and buy our first house!
Our lease was ending in the spring, so we began looking for houses in December/January. We started by making a list of want we needed, wanted and our absolute deal breakers. Then we worked on our budget. This really helped us figure out how much we wanted to spend with our VA loan. I used Excel templates to compare rates, mortgages and taxes. At the end of the day, you absolutely want to make sure you’re able to afford your home. Lastly: location, location, location. We mapped out a 2- to 3-mile radius of where we wanted to be, and even though we don’t have any kids, we made sure to check the local school districts as well.
Once we had a general outline of what we were looking for and a budget, we started going to open houses. Even if we didn’t love the layout of a house, we went anyway. We did this just so we could gauge how well the places were built and get a feel for the age of them as well. Also, you might be surprised when you see a place in person. We spent about two months looking around at places and didn’t find anything that we loved. Then one night, I saw a condo online. On our checklist, it hit all the marks, but aesthetically, the place needed some TLC. On top of that, it was very overpriced. I convinced my husband and realtor to look at it with me anyway, and after seeing it, we agreed that we wanted to make an offer. We sent in a fair, but low offer based on the amount of renovations it needed. It took almost a month of negotiations with the owner, but we finally got our new home within our budget!
There was endless paperwork during the negotiation process. We were constantly with the mortgage company, inspectors and realtor. When closing day finally came, we signed more papers and got our keys. We immediately began renovations – which we mostly did ourselves – and completely transformed the house in two weeks. But our biggest misstep was packing – we completely underestimated packing. We are so used to big moves that we barely packed anything in boxes. We ended up just throwing everything into our cars and shuttling it down the road. It was a mess. Here are some takeaways from our experience:
- Don’t underestimate your local move. Use your pro packing skills or you will end up driving in circles, literally.
- Get your finances together ahead of time, and stick to your budget.
- Your future house might not look exactly how you want it to – a fresh coat of paint makes a world of difference.
- Start looking early. Look at everything because you might just change your mind.
Happy house hunting! I hope all your future home buying adventures go smoothly.