MONEY: Be superbly honest with yourself about your finances. Does this make sense for where you are in life? I asked for a lot of advice on this before diving in. Most frequent advice given to me: have more money saved than you plan on spending. Case in point: closing costs. Closing costs are scary. I had a mild panic attack when I first saw the number from my bank. The money you have needs to be able to cover both your down payment and the closing costs (unless you have a loan than combines the two). Talk to your bank and realtor early!
NEW BFF: Once you have decided that you are ready, find yourself a new best friend in your realtor. I mean this literally. I started with a Realtor that didn't care too much about anything. He didn't care if I hated brick or loved brick, wanted to be in the city or outside of the city. Nothing. Does that sound like a best friend? NO.
On instinct and the help of parental wisdom, I fired him and went to a showing without him. At this showing, I met a charismatic, personable realtor named Jason. Like freshman year of college, you can often spot your new BFF directly upon seeing them. I had found my new best friend. I hired Jason and life got much, much easier.
LENDER: Once you've met your new BFF, it is time to meet your new group of tier 2 friends. You know this type, yes? They should be always handy, ready to appease you at your whim. They will compete like schoolgirls for your love and affection (read: money). Similar to this school girl hierarchy, trust your best friend's instincts when choosing the tier 2 winner. You will all need to work together.
STYLE: If you have a great realtor, he or she will help you find your style. I had no idea what my style was so I called my BFF, duh. Jason took me to places he knew I would like and places that might be risky. Even if I didn't like the property, he made me walk through and decide the parts of the property that I liked and the parts that I didn't. This helped me form my style.
SEARCHING: Spend lots of time on this part. You should be having fun!
PLACING AN OFFER: This is scary. It is like asking someone on a date when you know lots of other people are also asking them on a date. These other suitors are invisible and mysterious. Do they have more money? Better hair? Act more civilized?
Like dating, sometimes you will get a hard no from someone you had already imagined having 12 kids with. AKA: you might not get your first offer. Actually, this is highly likely. I found an apartment that looked like the spitting image of my pinterest page and instantly told Jason that I was in love. “Ask this property to date me forever! “ I said. And then that mysterious hot girl who always gets everything waltzes in and takes your place. Heartbreak. Ice cream. Candid discussions with your BFF.
And like dating, this sadness eventually turns to appreciation for that hot girl that took your place. Because you got something that suits you way better. Everything happens for a reason and all that crap, huh?
...AND THEN THE PERFECT PROPERTY SAYS THEY LOVE YOU BACK. And your world becomes beautiful again.
PAPERWORK: Now that you have your support crew and are in full blown love, ask for all of the paper work. ALL. OF. IT. And then buy yourself one heck of a bottle of wine, get comfy, and start reading. Drink enough of the bottle so that the numbers on the paper (closing costs) don’t give you the aforementioned panic attack but not enough to put you to sleep. This stuff is boring. And also incredibly important. One date was wrong on my final paperwork, pushing my closing back almost two weeks. That type of devastation causes the necessity, of course, for many more bottle of very good wine.
INTERMITTENT MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS: You may feel like you are drawing closer and closer to psychosis during this part of your life. Or maybe that was just me. Probably just me. My thoughts: why am i spending so much money when it is really dang easy to rent? Will I still be able to irrationally buy pizza and get my nails done on my way home from work or am I going to be scraping pennies together? (hint: if you are scraping pennies together, refer back to #1)
SO DO I REALLY WANT THIS MUCH RESPONSIBILITY?
Yes, you do. Do it despite all of these tiny voices in your head telling you not to. I am one year into this long term relationship with my mortgage and, while this is a relatively short time in relation to the investment, it is enough time to be thankful that I stuck it out. This was a smart choice for me at this time in my life and I am glad I did it. I learned a lot and am writing this from my beautiful condo, drinking a very good bottle of wine.