Words can’t even express how I feel right now, so I’m not even going to try. Just know that Chris and I are totally over the moon to be homeowners!
you know you’ve made it when your town is a parkway exit 😉
We closed Wednesday, but our movers don’t come until Monday, so we’re not in yet, but the house is definitely ours! Our bank actually approved our mortgage last Friday (which I hear is unusual) so our lawyer was able to tell us the final closing amount due in order for us to get a certified check from the bank. Check in hand, we drove out to the house first to meet our realtor and do our walk through. It’s exactly like it sounds. We just walked through the house to make sure it was in the same condition (or better) than when we saw it at inspection. We were really nervous then, and it hadn’t hit us that in just a few hours this place was ours!
After the walk through, we split from our realtor and drove up to our attorney’s town to grab a quick lunch before meeting up with him. Lunch was… a little tense. Both of us were so nervous we didn’t really eat or talk much, and before we knew it, it was time for our closing. We drove to our attorney’s office and sat in a very fancy conference room feeling like total big-wigs. Our attorney had a stack of papers with him the size of our cats, which was only mildly intimidating. For about an hour, he went over EVERYTHING with us. He explained each disclosure, the terms of our mortgage and how our closing costs were determined. We really understood everything well by the time he was through.
Eventually, our realtor met us at the attorney’s office to collect her commission and drop off our keys!!! She also left us a very sweet “Welcome Home” basket (it’s actually in the lower left of the second picture). It was a really nice touch. We signed a few more documents with her, and then the house was officially ours!! We were thrilled and even our grumpy lawyer picked up on it and started smiling. After getting the key, we called our parents to tell them the good news then headed back to the house to walk around like bosses.
Chris actually carried me over the threshold which I thought was going to feel silly, but actually almost made me cry. It was pretty wonderful to walk into our new home with the love of my life by my side. I felt like I was walking on a cloud. This was a big moment that we had both been so nervous and stressed about, and it felt like it just melted away in that moment.
At that point, it was pretty late in the day, so we walked around and took a few “before pictures” then decided to head back up to Jersey City for the night. It’s safe to say that that was the best day ever.
As promised, I’ve been noting some tips I wish I had known at the outset of this project. I think there are some things you can only learn by messing up, but in case it ever helps anyone else, here’s what I learned:
- Don’t ever forget that you’re in charge. This was so hard for me because I hate any type of negotiation/confrontation (unless it’s for my job, oddly) and tend to just defer to whoever I’m dealing with. It’s also hard because whatever we were negotiating (from the actual house to movers to floor guys) was something we really wanted, so I was afraid to push back too hard and lose out. I wish I could go back and tell myself, “You’re the one writing all the (big, fat, huge) checks, dummy! They want your business!” Seriously, everyone from the house sellers to the contractors want your business. Obviously, they want the best deal possible, but they definitely don’t expect to get what they’re asking for, so negotiate!
- Negotiate. Jumping off the first point, I wish I had played more hardball with our house. I wish I had gotten multiple prices for movers and attorneys. A lot of our situation was dictated by timing. Remember, we first saw this house like 2 months ago. That’s crazy fast. Lots of stuff had to happen yesterday, and that prevented me from really shopping around. Still, I read this line on Young House Love that stuck with me. Sherry basically said to always ask, “Is that your best price?” Chances are it’s not, and just by asking you might get a better deal. The only time I felt like I really negotiated was on the floors, and we got a good deal, so I wish I had done it more.
- Ask about ALL the fees. Speaking of the floors, while I did get a good price, it didn’t include everything I wanted. It was my fault for not reading the estimate more carefully, but there were a couple instances where sneaky fees really got us, and I think it was because I was too naive to guess that there were hidden costs. Before committing to anyone, ask, “are there any additional fees I should be aware of?”
- Schedule your stress. This sounds silly, but Chris and I made a rule at the onset that only one of us was allowed to be stressed at a time. It really helped too. When he was stressing, I just told myself, “Pretend you’re not involved in this deal at all” and it helped me be objective and stay calm. When I was ready to stress, I told him, “You have to stop stressing now because I’m ready to freak out.” Two stressed people tend to feed off of each other in a vicious loop, so it really helped to have only one person at a time losing their sh*t.
- Take advice, but take it with a grain of salt. Most times it was really helpful talking to family, friends and coworkers. Usually, we discovered that nothing we were going through was new or shocking, though it felt like it at the time. And we generally got a lot of good counsel. Still, there will always be someone who tells you how they did everything 150% better than you did. Usually they don’t mean to be such a Braggy McBraggerson, but they are, so let it flow in one ear and out the other. You’re doing the best you can.
- Pick your battles. Chris and I debated for a while about whether or not to get movers. We don’t have a ton of stuff, but we do have some. We wanted to save the money, but we weren’t sure it was worth the stress. We’ll paint. We’ll garden. We’ll clean until it shines like the top of the Chrysler Building. We’re not a fan of moving. We opted to pay for movers, and we’ve been very happy with that decision.
- Soak it all in. Even if you do everything “right” buying a home is stressful. There have been a few times we’ve found ourselves just wishing it all away. Still, we tried (and are still trying) to make some memories. We’re hoping this is the last house we have to buy for a long time, so we’d really like to remember it. I want to be able to tell our kids all about this someday, so I’m hoping it didn’t fly by too quickly.