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Welcome to our blog! We are a husband & wife photography team based in Madison, Wisconsin who document weddings & anniversaries for joyful couples who believe in marriage. This blog is a journal about real love stories, marriage & our own adventures along the way. We are so glad you're here — please stay awhile!




Buying Your First Home | Our Seven Biggest Tips.

September 14, 2017

The first thing that I’m going to say, before writing anything else, is that this post is simply our opinion. It’s what we would tell you if you were to come over and we were to have a drink and discuss what buying a house looked like for us — if you were to ask us for our advice on buying a home, this is what we would share! We are not claiming to be experts of any kind and we are not, of course, realtors or financial planners, etc. : )

Now that that is out of the way, I am super excited about today’s post! Buying a home was a very intentional decision on our end — we did a lot of calculations and really took the time to figure out what we wanted and what we could afford. So let’s get right to it! Here they are:

Our Top 7 Tips for Buying Your First Home

  1. Meet with your financial planner or a financial planner and figure out what your budget is. It’s so important to have a professional help you weigh in on all the factors and options when it comes to making such a big investment.
  2. We would recommend not spending more than 25% of your monthly income on your mortgage as this will allow you to LIVE and SAVE while owning a home. You do not want to be a slave to your mortgage! (Again, your financial planner can help you figure this number out!).
  3. Our BIGGEST recommendation is to buy a home with a 15-year-mortgage. Having a shorter mortgage will cause your monthly payments to be higher (and oftentimes, you will not be able to afford as much “house”) but it will save you SO MUCH money in the long run. For example, in our specific situation with the home we just bought, if we had done a 30-year-mortgage instead of a 15 year-mortgage, we would have paid $124,000 MORE for our home than we will end up paying for it due to the interest rate over those additional 15 years. When looking at numbers, the 30-year-mortgage can seem so much more appealing because the monthly payment is smaller AND it appears like you can buy a more expensive house, but you must ask yourself if it’s worth it to pay “X” dollars more over time for that home (and maybe for you it is, but for us it was not!). We will have our house paid off by the time we are 42 (40 is the goal ; )) and then we will literally have NO debt whatsoever, meaning every dollar we earn after that can go to whatever we want it to!! No more payments. Now that’s freedom to us!
  4. We would also recommend putting 20% down on your house when purchasing as this will save you a lot of money for three reasons.
    • Banks usually offer lower interest rates to people when they put 20% down.
    • Banks usually require borrowers to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) on top of their mortgage until they reach 20% down to lower the bank’s risk that the buyer can’t afford the home.
    • Lastly, your interest paid will be higher if you don’t put 20% down because you are paying the interest on a higher dollar loan value. So, for example, if you are buying a $400,000 house, you will need to put down $80,000 in cash to meet that 20%. This would bring the amount you borrow from the bank to $320,000. If you only put down 10% ($40,000), you would be borrowing $360,000. It might not seem like a big difference, but over the course of a 15-year loan, you would save almost $12,500 in interest alone (and even more savings without those PMI costs!).
  5. Once you know your numbers, find a realtor you can trust!!! I would literally trust my life to our realtor (shout out to Matt Winzenried and Andrew Genin!!!) and that is so important when you are making such a HUGE decision. Find someone who will listen to you and work hard for you! We personally think that the best way to find a realtor is to ask your home-owning friends who they used, if they liked them or not, and WHY : )
  6. Be clear about what you want. We have two tips for this:
    • Choose 1-3 of your “must-haves” or top priorities. REALLY discuss this in detail with your spouse or significant other. It is unlikely that you will get everything on your “must have” list if there are more than three things on it. We personally chose one thing that was a MUST (our neighborhood) and were open to everything else. This really took the pressure off finding the “perfect” home and made the process so much more enjoyable!
    • Prepare for disappointment. Unless you have a humungous budget, know that your house will mostly likely not look like images you see on Pinterest or on HGTV right when you buy it. Try to have realistic expectations. Home projects can be done over time to make your house look like you want it to! Additionally, you might find homes that you love and end up not getting them. Trust in the process and that everything happens for a reason : ) We put offers in on two homes before we found the home we bought and now that everything is all said and done, it totally makes sense! We LOVE our new home and couldn’t imagine ourselves in the two other homes that we didn’t get.
  7. Lastly, speaking a bit more into the idea of home projects and changing the home you buy — remember to factor this in when looking at houses! If a house is at the top of your budget but you have visions and ideas to change 100 things about it AND you want to do them as soon as possible, maybe you need to reevaluate if it’s the right home at this season in your life. All those changes will cost money and buying a top-of-budget home won’t allow much room for those thousands-of-dollar projects right away!

If you’re anything like me, the numbers portion of this home buying process can be extremely overwhelming. That is why it is super important to know your general the goals for buying ( again, for us they were not spending more than 25% of our income on our home, wanting a 15-year-mortgage, and putting 20% down) and then meet with a financial planner!! This really is the key as they will help you do all the proper and necessary calculations to determine your final budget for your home based on your goals (they will also help you discover your goals in more depth if you need that, too!).

I hope this post was helpful and please, leave any questions or comments below! I am happy to answer them and I am also super happy to write additional blog posts relating to this topic so send your ideas!!!


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