Anastassia Nelson recently purchased a 925 square foot 1920s bungalow in Tacoma, Washington, and spent a year renovating the house into a stylish cottage full of vintage finds. And Ana was only 25 when she became a homeowner. Are you impressed? I'm 33 (not a homeowner) and very impressed. Ana was kind of enough to answer some questions about how she bought a home while still in her twenties, from how to know when she was ready to how long it took to save up for a down payment.
"Eventually I felt like I wanted more than what renting had to offer. I was tired of having no power to alter my space."
When did you decide you were ready to buy a home? Why did it feel like the right choice?
My family had been pushing the perks of home ownership for years, especially while the market was low. But as a young 20-something, renting was less of a commitment, you can pack-up and start over quickly, and you're not responsible when things break. Eventually I felt like I wanted more than what renting had to offer. I was tired of having no power to alter my space.
From dingy bathroom hooks and towel bars, to poor storage options, no yard, slow maintenance...and, most importantly, it was expensive. I lived on a modest income, which limited the quality of places I could afford to rent on my own. So, this little idea of maybe buying a house grew. If a mortgage payment was comparable to my rent, and I could have more space, it felt like an option worth considering. I think NY Times' Buy or Rent Calculator is quite the eyeopener.
What was on your list of "must-haves"? Were your expectations on what you could find or afford right on or did you end up having to compromise?
I wanted a classic home like the one I grew up in. A craftsman-built house with vintage charm. I knew the space would likely be small with my budget, but I wanted hardwood floors, built-in cabinetry and shelving and a covered front porch. Ultimately, I got a lot of these things, but I did it by picking a fixer-upper. In the end, my biggest compromise was selecting a home that needed some work, but that fit my budget and left some money over to make all the changes I wanted.
"At first I felt awkward asking my realtor to see houses. I felt like I was an inconvenience. But really, buying a house is a big deal, it's a lot of money and you should absolutely check out as many homes as it takes!"
How many homes did you look at until you found "the one"? Could you tell it was going to be yours from the moment you walked in?
At first I felt awkward asking my realtor to see houses. I felt like I was an inconvenience. But really, buying a house is a big deal, it's a lot of money and you should absolutely check out as many homes as it takes! The more you see, the more you know what you're looking for, and better yet, what you're not looking for. I saw around 10 houses in-person until I found the one. As it turns out though, I basically stumbled upon the house that would become my home.
I was driving down a street I typically had no business on and noticed a sale sign. I couldn't find anything about the house online, so I called the realtors listed number. The realtor apologized and said the sign was put up early and the house wasn't ready to be listed yet…But he gave me the price (in budget!) and I passed the info to my awesome realtor team. I was allowed to view the property (inside!) the next day, and knew after my seven-month long hunt this house was the right fit. The seller accepted my full price offer before listing the house online. It felt like it was meant to be.
"I lived simply before buying a house. I lived within my means ... Little things can add up. Making a budget and sticking to it makes all the difference."
How long did it take to save up for a down payment? What sacrifices did you make to be able to hit your savings goal? Will you share some of your strategies for saving?
I lived simply before buying a house. I lived within my means and didn't use my credit card much. However because of this, I was able to save hundreds of dollars each month. I dumped money into my savings account for about a year with no plan on what to do with it. And once I was set on buying, the months spent looking for the house I doubled down and saved even more! I simply stopped buying things I wanted, and went down to things I needed. Little things can add up. Making a budget and sticking to it makes all the difference.
Once you found your place and put in an offer, how long did it take for it to be accepted? How much negotiation was involved? Were you pre-approved for a loan?
Step one to buying a home, find a mortgage broker and get yourself pre-approved. You want to know what you can afford before looking. And how awful it would be to find a great place only to be slowed down and possibly miss out because you have no financial backing. Most reality companies require pre-approval before showing homes anyways. Luckily for me, with this pre-approval in hand it made the negotiation process pretty easy. I made an offer on the home within my range and as it fit the value the seller was looking for not much more had to be worked out.
How long did it take from the offer acceptance until the closing? What did you do while waiting to move in? Did you dream about paint colors for the living room or start hanging out in the neighborhood to find new favorite spots before moving day?
I had just a couple weeks from acceptance to closing. It was a nerve-racking time spent scheming what I wanted to do with the house right away. I had lots of things I wanted to plan but didn't want to get my hopes too up. It wouldn't be the first time a house fell through.
Once closing, I had one month to renovate whatever I wanted before I had to move out of my apartment. Being a fixer-upper, I knew I wanted to paint, put in new trim and molding, rip up carpet, refinish the original floors, replace a bunch of cabinets and rip out and rebuild the ceiling in the living and dining room. It was an ambitious list but we did just that!