As first time home buyers at the age of 25, my husband and I had a pretty specific list of “Must-Haves.” MUST HAVE 2 bathrooms! MUST HAVE great kitchen. MUST HAVE a good porch for having company over, MUST HAVE a beautiful lawn for our future children to learn to walk on. MUST HAVE space for a play room. MUST HAVE beautiful wood flooring, MUST HAVE no gross carpets. MUST HAVE gas stove, new fridge, fancy washer & dryer.
However. We also had student debt. A lot of it. Let’s say, somewhere in the range of $40,000. We both had jobs, but really wanted to fast-track payments on our debt, which meant that while we could ‘afford’ a larger mortgage, move-in-ready perfect houses were pretty much out of our range.
Turns out that my mom was right: You can’t always get everything you want. This, by the way, is a really good thing to remember when buying a house.
We actually ended up buying a house that had 2 bathrooms, an amazing kitchen, and a beautiful front porch, but we decided to rent out the upstairs and live in our basement and basically live rent & mortgage free for a few years. Living downstairs meant that a) we had a tiny, old little kitchen b) we had 1 bathroom that was in desperate need of improvement c) we had an old carpet in our basement livingroom d) we had an ugly patio and a weedy, overgrown back yard with an old rotting stump in it. We also did not get those dream appliances or that gas stove. Bummer.
Because we chose to buy a lower-cost house and we decided to rent out part of the house, we had room in our budget to make the improvements to the house and property that would eventually turn this ‘ok’ house into our perfect house. We did about 2 major projects per year – that is, until we decided to sell our house – then we really put the metaphorical pedal to the metal and checked about 20 projects off of the list in 14 days!
My biggest piece of advice is this: if you plan on doing DIY to save money, always consult with an expert before starting your project. We have a lot of friends who happen to be in the trades, so we got a lot of planning advice (and physical labour) for pizza & beer. However, even if you’re paying actual dollars & cents, it’s always worth the investment in your house. You really don’t want people to be able to tell that it was a DIY job – not only does it take away from the effect, but if and when you sell it’ll affect the purchase price.
In order to sell our house this spring, we had an interior designer in to help us make our house as appealing as it could be to the masses, and we were left with one thought: we should have done this AGES ago! When we buy our next house next year, an interior design consult will be happening a soon as the deal closes!
Don’t be afraid of ‘fixer-upppers.’ The only things you can’t change in a house is LOCATION and ROOM LAYOUT. Everything else is negotiable – and chances are, if it needs a few extra things done, you’ll get a great price on it.
Talk to the Experts. When you invest in your house, make sure that it’s going to pay off – do it right!
Now I want you to help me out with something: when you bought your first home, did it have to have the perfect finishes & floors? Or could you look past the outdated cupboards and pink shower tiles?
P.S. Come Join the #RBCFirstHome Twitter Party!
You can win one of 3 $100 Visa gift cards before the party even happens! Come hang out with me there – Tuesday, September 22 at 8:30pm EST. Don’t know how to jump into a Twitter party? Comment below and I’ll help you out!
Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Royal Bank. They asked me to share my experience about buying a fixer-upper – which I’ve gladly done!
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