From the first moment I saw the link from LifeHacker in my Facebook feed, my mind was whirling. I pretty much immediately clicked over to read Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Bought a House and it got me to thinking, “What do I wish I had known before I bought a house?”
In many ways, there is no way I could have known these things before I bought a house. They are lessons learned by living. But they are things I will take with me before I buy my next house, and I hope maybe they can help someone else think through what is important to them before they buy a first/second/next house.
Anything About Foreclosures or Short Sales
The housing bubble made it the fervent wish for all the media to teach all us regular people what foreclosures and short sales were about. They weren’t trying to educate us to help us out on our next home sale, they were trying to make us scared so the commercials could sell us things that would make us feel more comforted. Duh. But, in the meantime, I was learning all this amazing stuff about buying houses on the super-cheap. Information I wish I had known before I bought my home. While we may have done the offer/counteroffer dance with the previous owner of our home, but that only resulted in a $5k discount overall. A measley 4% (I don’t care if you know how much my house cost, it wasn’t expensive.)
We got lucky because interest rates were considered very low at the time and we managed to score a 6.25% fixed interest rate with a credit score of 640. It wasn’t pretty and I honestly don’t know how we got a mortgage in the first place. But, like many people, I assumed that if someone was willing to give me a loan, I was qualified to be a homeowner.
Your mortgage will be $749 a month, we were told, it’s cheaper than renting, we were told.
No one mentioned escrow or insurance payments until we were at the title company signing up for a $1200 a month payment. But, what do you do? You’ve already put down that $5k in earnest money and you’re sitting there and it’s a house and the keys are on the desk and I may be a smart person, but I wasn’t strong enough to say no.
If I could have gotten a foreclosure or short sale instead of a regular house, if I had seen the kind of deals available, I wouldn’t have been content paying full price. I would have been forced to get my finances in order and save up to buy a bargain property.
Even though it sounds like armchair quarterbacking and doing the would have could have thing, it’s absolutely what I plan on doing if I ever need to move or decide to buy a different house.
My Real Space Preferences
Sure, my bathroom is the same size as the one in the apartment I rented before I married and moved in with my husband. Absolutely. What I couldn’t have known was how my bathroom size needs would change once I lived with another grown human full time and then, again, after having three kids.
I know people who have half-baths that are bigger than my main bathroom.
A kitchen with an island is something I’d consider selling part of my soul for. I didn’t really cook before I got married. Ten years later, I don’t just cook I do all this DIY stuff like making shampoo, faux-canning (Freezer jam, anyone? LOL), baking, and doing a bunch of other stuff that requires space. Lots and lots of counter space.
I have done what I can within reason up to this point. I did an IKEA makeover and made the counters a couple inches higher (which, omg, makes the hugest difference when you’re 5’9″ and trying to do dishes) and I gave myself more counter space than the kitchen originally came with and I reduced the number of cabinets by more than half. It was extremely helpful, but without a major “take the walls down” renovation, my kitchen is as big as it’s going to get with the maximum amount of counter space.
If there was some way to know what I was going to be like in 10 years, I would have known to hold off and not buy this house. I would have gotten something with a huge kitchen and a big bathroom and small bedrooms. I just don’t spend much time in my bedroom. I would have a living room where we could set up the computers, or a dining room where we could open the laptops on the table when we weren’t using it for meals.
As it stands, we eat dinner as a family in the living room on TV trays. On the bright side, we rarely have the TV on during these meals, so we still get the togetherness/talking aspect of family dinner, we just don’t have a place for a kitchen table anywhere in the house without it looking like it sticks out like a sore thumb no matter where it is.
I never realized how much I would long for a kitchen table.
No Extra Rooms or Unnecessary Space
This one is a little more abstract and it’s entirely possible I’m just spoiled by making houses for my little virtual families in The Sims but the house we live in right now is full of unnecessary space.
My living room is this crazy rectangle and I have a huge nine-pane window in front. Across from the big window on the other long wall of the room is the door to the kitchen. Finding a couch to go in the room so I can watch TV now and then has been a never-ending hassle. Usually the couch sits against the window and then, if we want to watch a movie, we swing the couch out so it’s facing the TV.
It’s a serious hassle having to move a couch every time more than one person wants to watch something. We can’t leave the couch facing the TV, because it only leaves two feet of space to walk through the living room, which isn’t enough to comfortably maneuver.
I wish I could see pictures from the first person who owned the home, so i could see what they used the space for.
One of the previous owners of our house decided the original layout wasn’t big enough, so they had an addition built. It added two bedrooms, a walk in closet, and a half-bathroom to the back of the house. The layout was created by extending a hallway from the former back bedroom.
That means when you walk through my living room past the bathroom, you open the door into an extra room. At the time we bought the house we were all, “This will make a perfect playroom!” In reality? The kids rarely play in there and the only regular use is from the guinea pigs who live in a cage on top of a small kitchen table. Great for the guinea pigs, but not so great for overall space in the home. I mean, it’s a whole room we are heating and cooling and it serves no discernible purpose. It could be made into a dining room, or a better playroom, or a media room…but that hasn’t happened yet. (Also, moving the TV into that room would require a bunch of rewiring that no one in this house has time for right now.)
Last but not least is the house’s main bedroom, which we currently use as an office. I also refer to this room as Mr. Brickie’s “hoarder heaven” because anything that doesn’t have a home finds one in our office. It has this amazing 8ft x 4ft dry erase board that we can’t access because there are boxes and other things in front of it. There are two full sized office desks (the wooden kind you see in actual offices) that take up an entire long wall.
In my next house, we will have only the space we need. If I could allocate the extra space from the playroom and the office and half of the living room and use it to expand the kitchen and bathroom, well, then we’d have a huge kitchen and a huge bathroom and room left over.
Sure, we could do these things in our current home. It would require a bunch of money or hundreds of DIY hours, neither of which I’m able to invest right now.
The Bottom Line
I guess if you had to narrow it down, function and price are the two things that are most important to me in terms of housing. I can make any space feel like “my own” and don’t need the structure to provide that for me.
That being said, a huge, deep claw-foot tub would go a long way to providing some seriously awesome structure. Wouldn’t you agree?
What do you wish you had known before you bought a house?