Recently, I’ve been in the market to purchase my own condo all by myself—no significant other, no help from family, all me. It’s scary and exciting and there are times where I have a complete and utter panic attack thinking about making such a big commitment but I do know I’m making the right decision. Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned:
- Location is everything. You don’t want to spend a ton of time on a commute to work every day no matter how perfect the house. You also don’t want to be so far away from your friends that it makes a social life difficult. I’ve made that mistake before, moved too far away and realized how inconvenient it was to meet at the bars we used to go to and far too expensive to Uber there. Safety is also important. As a single woman, I already have my guard up while living on my own I don’t need to add a scary location where I feel unsafe.
- Trust your gut. If you walk into a house and you hate it, don’t try to find the redeeming qualities. Hell, if you pull up to the curb and realize that you hate it, just leave. My real estate agent has been great about that. He has always said, “If you know you hate it just tell me and we can walk away.” There’s no point in wasting your time or even putting in an offer on a place that you might like someday. If you do not love it, leave it.
- Have your finances in order and then some. You can never be too prepared for buying a house. Have all the money you will need and then some. Spend a couple of months earning extra just to be prepared. Trust me, I’ve put offers in on condos that have been way above my budget and then immediately panicked. What if I got it? Could I afford to exist? Should I just eat beans and rice? Have your act together and then a little extra so that you don’t cause yourself more stress than necessary.
- Know what you want. What’s more important to you, a big place on a busy street or a smaller place in a quieter area? I know personally, I don’t need much space and I desperately need quiet. I can’t sleep with cars racing by my window. I don’t want a car dealership’s bright lights shining in my windows at all hours of the night either. I also know that I love to cook so counter space is important. Figure these things out. I know I’ve figured them out in the process. I’ve even surprised myself with my “must have” list.
- Keep an open mind. While we’d all love to be able to move into a house that’s gorgeous already, we also need to taper our expectations. I know that all the gorgeous places I look at looked really rough at some point too. Someone put in work to make them gorgeous. I’ve gotten to be pretty handy around the house, so I know that I could put in a little work and make it how I want it. Sometimes that is hard to get past when you walk into a home that needs A LOT of work. However, if it’s in a good area and has a decent layout, be open to giving a rough home a little love.
- Checking out the neighbors and the neighborhood in general is REALLY important. When going to look at a new place, show up a few minutes early. I think the best time to look at homes is right when people are getting off work. This way you can observe who is coming and going. Especially with condos, you need to make sure the people living next to you are the people you want to be sharing walls with for a long time. If it seems noisy and the complex seems unkempt, get out of there. This is going to be a very big purchase, make sure you’re completely happy.
- Remember: this could be YOUR home. I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is that I must shop for me. I cannot allow family members and friends to skew my judgment. Sure, they can’t possibly imagine living in 550 square feet, but I can, and I’d be happy with it. I want a place where I feel safe, comfortable, and secure. I’m not looking for a place that everyone in my life needs to love or approve of. This is your future home, stick to your guns, get what you want and make the best possible choice for you.