Homebuying Dreams vs. Homeowning Realities

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Just a heads up, this post is sponsored by the fine folks at Chase. This should go without saying, but all opinions are our own and came straight from our own noggins.

As a kid, The Neverending Story was just a trippy movie about a child warrior, an awesome lucky dragon, and a pee-your-pants scary animatronic wolf. Nowadays, our never-ending story mostly consists of laundry, dishes, and diapers. Har-de-har… but seriously. Something else that feels never ending for the OFB household is saving and preparing to buy our first home.

It’s not for lack of trying. We’ve saved up time and again only to have another expense or relocation creep in and thwart our homebuying dreams. Whether it’s getting out of student loan debt, yet another cross-country move, or starting our small business, we keep finding ourselves uprooting or cashing out some of our future home’s down payment money to fund our next adventure. We’re excited for when the time comes to purchase our first home, but it just doesn’t seem like the universe has it in the cards for us for the next little while. (Cue sad trombone.)

Still, it doesn’t mean we’re not continuing to do our research aka watching Property Brothers on HGTV. We know when we’re ready to settle down, we want to live in a great neighborhood in a great school district for our kids. We also want to make sure the land surrounding our home isn’t zoned for future transit or a skunk farm or anything like that. Financially speaking, we agreed long ago to have and achieve several savings goals in place before buying a home. We knew we wanted to have at least 20% saved for a down payment (to avoid private mortgage insurance and have enough “skin in the game” to make such a major decision), store a good chunk of money in a 6-month emergency fund, and be otherwise debt free.

When it comes to the actual house itself, things get a little less black and white. We have a list of “wants” for our future home, like a big, beautiful kitchen for Joanna and a yard that would make Tim “The Toolman” Taylor proud of me, but we’re also considering applying a little elbow grease to a careworn home in the right neighborhood. We love the idea of doing some Fixer Upper magic on a lower-cost home and reaping the benefits in increased home value. In this post from a few weeks ago, we highlighted current homebuying trends from a recent survey done by Chase called, “Insights from the Mind of the Modern Homebuyer.” Two-thirds of participants believed the value of their home would increase in five years, with 38% considering or planning to use a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) in the next five years to make home improvements. And while we’d probably use cash to fix up our future casa, we agree that the right home improvements and TLC could pay dividends in the right market.

One of the other key takeaways from the survey was the rise of the DIY home search, which seems to mirror other DIY trends that we’re all increasingly more open to trying. When it comes to my dream yard, I think we’re well positioned to not royally mess that project up on our own. After all, we may not have the greenest of thumbs, but we’re not scared of weeding, laying sod, and fencing. But when it comes to Joanna’s beautiful white kitchen with marble countertops or whatever is on her most recent Pinterest inspiration board (like the photo here), our DIY intentions may be good, but our execution would likely turn into a disaster. That’s where we’d hire someone who knows a thing or two about kitchen makeovers. We might be stubborn, but we know what we don’t know. In addition to kitchen renovations, we’re mostly novices at the entire home purchase process and we’re planning on using a real estate professional. In Chase’s survey, that sentiment is shared by 77% of respondents, which seems a little surprising considering how much technology is available now attempting to cut out middlemen.

Because a home will likely be the biggest purchase we ever make, unless Joanna has had a lot of sugar and finds herself in the Pottery Barn pillow section, we want to make sure we’re being as thorough as possible. At our rate, we might have another 20 years to do our homework, but we’re crossing our fingers that the housing gods smile favorably upon us this decade. In the meantime, if you’re in the market, check out some of the helpful tools and calculators at chase.com/homebuyers.

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