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Advice from my first home purchase

By: Nicole Rhoads

Life is all about experiences and learning from those to be better prepared for the future. Let’s take a more detailed look at my first primary residence home purchase in Arlington, VA.

The idea to purchase real estate first came to mind as I was becoming a licensed agent in 2019 at age 25. Growing up, I had pictured that people only ever bought houses once they were “old” and married or with a partner…forget anyone buying anything before that, let alone BY THEMSELVES?! Crazy idea, right? For the DMV area, I honestly did not have that high of a salary (<$80K) but because I’d been renting a home with 3-4 friends I was living cheaply and saving up thousands of dollars. After a few years, I got tired of moving, dealing with landlords, and wasting money.

Some advice to young professionals…BUY EARLY ON! Who cares if you don’t know what you will be doing in one year, three years or five! You know why? Because life is so unpredictable, and we live in such a strong real estate market. If you make a good/informed purchase, then it won’t be a problem, in the event that something changes in your life, to rent or sell a home in this area especially since the job market is so strong – between the government and tech industries. The longer you wait to purchase, the more rates will change, the more expensive houses will get, and the more you’ll be spending money on rent.

This is a big one…Put less money down. Especially with rates SO low. They really will never be this low again in our life time, based on historical data. One of my biggest regrets is putting 10% down instead of 3% or 5% with my conventional loan. Yes, I am saving $150-$200/month but I could have an additional $23,000-$30,000 in the present time which I could be using towards my second primary home purchase. Depending on your financial situation, take time to think about this one, because there are other investment options and it is good to keep some cash on hand. Don’t have all your money tied up in your first primary residence.

Be conscious of the condo or HOA fees and trade-offs you may need to make. When I was setting up my personal parameters, I said the max condo fee I’d want to pay is $500/month for a 2 bed + 2 bath purchase. If I could go back and decrease my max monthly condo fee, I’d love to; but I went with a higher fee as a trade-off to be able to live in a location that I really liked. The other option would have been to buy a few additional miles away and purchase a more expensive fee simple ownership, townhome. Yes, condo fees are annoying, but they do allow me to live in the location of my choice. And they do cover building maintenance, an umbrella insurance policy for the association, trash, amenities, etc. And, to be honest, I love not having to take care of a yard or the exterior of a home at this point in my life.

Buy newer construction, if possible. My building is 18 years old. Not bad – all things considered – for Arlington, VA. BUT the HVAC is original and so are most of the appliances. My advice, either have a home warranty to cover these items or set aside a couple hundred dollars each month for when these do need replacement.

Things I did well with my home purchase:

  • Location!! Both geographically and I have a top floor unit! Also, I’m steps away from the parking garage and face the interior of the complex overlooking a beautiful courtyard
  • Don’t max out your lender’s pre-approval monthly payment
  • Think ahead – don’t just focus on the present for your monthly payment – you will be able to afford more over time. In the short term think about renting out a portion of your home to mitigate living expenses – that can be a HUGE help (aka “house hacking”) – rather than just purchasing a one bed one bath that has a lower monthly payment
  • Be reasonable with your expectation for your purchase power and the market
  • Know the value of what you are purchasing and negotiate where you can! I was able to get 2.5% off the purchase price when the unit was on the market for less than 2 weeks because I knew the market

Since purchasing I have updated the kitchen by painting the cabinets, changing the hardware, adding a backsplash and in the bathrooms I had the vanities painted, changed the hardware, and put in new counter tops. Very few in my building have done updates, and I know when I go to rent this out in the near future it’ll be more desirable to potential tenants!

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Whether you’re ready to buy now or in the future, we are here to give advice and guidance on the steps towards home buying, selling, and the real estate market. BPG Residential is excited to share our experiences and expertise to help you in the DMV area!

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