My husband and I are closing on our first home today.
This means that we have just dropped further into debt than we’ve ever been in our lives (we both squeaked through higher education with the great blessing of low/no student debt, and paid it off feverishly within the first year). This APR business makes us a little nervous, although we try to reassure each other regularly with lines like: “everybody does it” and “we’re too old to be renting—what are we, millennials?” (We are.)
At the same time, this new noose of mortgaged responsibility is apparently our final step into what sociologists call the ‘hallmarks of adulthood’.
Hallmarks of adulthood (this is a list of steps into maturity that experts say our generation is putting off longer than any other in American history):
- Completed education
- Self-supporting employment
- Home ownership
Our little family is bagging the final two hallmarks this year.
I could go into all the reasons why people our age are dragging their feet so disgracefully, and why Justin and I actually have exceptional reasons, but the facts won’t change. For one reason or another, it’s just taken this long, and here we are: in our late 20s and 30s, just stumbling into steps our grandparents had down by the age of 18.
In the process of shopping and committing, we’ve discovered all sorts of things that you just don’t know until you take the plunge and buy a home. I wish there was a Homeownership 101 or Homeownership for Dummies that we could go through, but I think we’ll just have to ask around and figure it out by trial and error.
Things we don’t know about owning a home:
- Why did people ever stop building homes with wood floors? It seems like all everybody ever wants these days is wood floors. “Does it have original wood floors?” “If you take up the carpet, are there wood floors under there?” “Are they ORIGINAL WOOD FLOORS?”
My question is, why are there any houses anywhere without wood floors? Who invented parquet, and why weren’t they shot, since all anybody wants are wood floors? Who are all the people in the 70s and 80s who were putting down ugly carpet over wood floors, and did they do it on purpose just in order to give later homeowners a nice surprise? Surely they knew that carpet was ugly.
- Why is it that when you haggle on the asking price, sometimes you throw in a few thousand more dollars, but ask for them to pay closing costs? Is it that we think we’re going to trick them? Like they don’t know how much closing costs are? Or is it just sort of a trick that everybody knows about and politely pretends not to see?
Is this haggling trick the mind-game equivalent of pricing items at $1.99 instead of $2.00?
- What, exactly, is the point of closing early and building an extra two weeks into the contract, where the seller can live in the property after it’s been transferred? Why don’t we just close two weeks later?
- How do other people’s houses get to smell so strange? Should I be worried about the way their houses smell, or should I assume that—like other people’s babies—the smell is just indigenous to the family and not necessarily permanent?
- Why do they even offer earthquake coverage in Tennessee?
- What exactly is the difference between a home inspection and an appraisal? Why do I get to hire one and not the other?
- Should I be worried that this roof is ten years old? Should I be worried that the HVAC is ten years old? Different agents tell me different life-spans! What if I have to replace it in two years? Should I have included a new-roof request in the contract and added a few grand to my offer? Is this the mind-game equivalent of new cars being sold with cash-back bonuses? Aaaagh!
- What is the etiquette of working with real estate agents? Is it sort of like prom-date etiquette?
e.g., If you go see the house with the selling agent, does that mean your own agent has to enter the home with you in order to be considered ‘the agent’ and to get that other whatever-percent-it-is? Does it matter that they’re already your agent, and have been all along?
If your boyfriend is out of town and can’t take you to the prom, can you still take a friend as a date, so long as everyone understands that you and your boyfriend are still going steady, and he sends you flowers?
- Is it better to buy a nice house in a cheap county with a low tax rate, or a rough house in an expensive county with a high tax rate? What would Monopoly say? Can’t… remember… investments… Boardwalk… St. Charles Place…?
- Should I be putting my money into the NASDAQ instead of real estate? What is the NASDAQ?