Our First Place – Part 2 – The Search

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Finding the motivation to write can be such a struggle sometimes.

There’s seems to be so much going on in this household it’s hard to find the energy much less the time to put thought down on paper (or screen).

This is a continuation of my first post on August 08, 2016 called Our First Place.

In this series of posts I jot down my thoughts about being a first time home buyer. It is by far the biggest purchase either my husband or I have ever made to date and one that has made a lasting impression on us both.

We took this journey in large part, on our own. We didn’t have family or friends to guide us through the experience.

All of our family is overseas and many of our friends are busy with their own lives and don’t own their own homes yet so much of our knowledge of the process was earned from researching articles on the internet, reading books and very brief conversations with people we know.

Needless to say, it was a steep learning curve.

My husband and I have different approaches to doing just about everything.

You could say that we are opposites. My approach is to think things through practically. To prepare for the worst and set realistic expectations.

I’m the one in the relationship with the tightest grip on the purse strings.

Surprising given that I also author a shopping blog. I’ve always believed though, that money should be spent wisely and it is possible to have nice things on a tight budget if you’re willing to shop for the best deal…until I was met with house hunting.

I have heard that it is best not to allow your emotions to get in the way of your judgement when purchasing a house. After all, parting with such a large sum surely requires that you have your wits about you, especially if you’re going to be committed to that investment for a very long time, right?

I have seen several examples on TV of people having extraordinary expectations for their next property purchase without being sensible of what their budget will actually allow.

I was determined that we not be one of those couples who bought well beyond our means and told myself that I might have to settle for a house that was a little less than perfect for my first family home and over time make the improvements and build up some equity.

Being in a position to buy at all is a rare gift and I was determined to remain humble about my expectations. Oh but how the search did test me.

While I told myself to keep an open mind and to see the potential in every property I couldn’t help but be disappointed, even surprised at how little you can expect to get in this city for what used to be considered a generous sum.

To us, spending over half a million dollars even on a house seems like an enormous amount of money. Clearly that’s a naïve attitude when you’re looking at buying a 3 bedroom freestanding house in the western suburbs of Sydney.

It was clear that despite my best efforts our wishlist was unrealistic for our budget and as the search continued we decided to cull the list of must-haves to the absolute basics:

  • Freestanding house with some yard space for the kids
  • 3 bedrooms
  • A 4th bedroom/study/office (heck even a walk in wardrobe) to set up a home office
  • Close proximity to our kids’ schools (within 10 mins drive)

The emotional effect on us during the house search alone was astonishing.

We’d go through a continual cycle of excitement whenever we’d find a potential listing, hopeful optimism when meeting the agent to inspect the property and then painful disappointment when the property fell short of what we were hoping for.

This was always followed by an exhausting in depth analysis of each property’s merits between my husband and I along with input from our daughter, who was determined to have a rainbow-coloured unicorn theme in her bedroom. Then further assessments of our wishlist and must-haves.

On and on it went with each house we inspected. The whole saga is draining mentally and emotionally.

In general, my husband and I have a reasonably harmonious marriage and we work hard to maintain a peaceful household but house hunting definitely tested our bond and our patience with each other.

Where our differences would usually provide balance, in this case it just created conflict. Then when we actually found a house that we agreed on, the process only tested our limits even further.

I often felt like I was playing tug-of-war with him. Some kind of weird battle of the spouses.

The Budget vs. The Wishlist. Functionality vs. Style. My practicality vs. His dream.

It may not seem all that surprising. It’s almost cliché how often couples fight about buying a house. I mean, you see it all the time on TV.

For us though as first time buyers and as usual allies it was difficult and confusing.

I don’t regret buying this house at all but we made some obvious rookie mistakes.

If I could go back in time I would have avoided bringing my kids to the inspection of the property.

The problem with bringing the kids is they get way overexcited or unsettled when they’re in an unfamiliar place. While hubby and I were trying to inspect the house the kids were running up and down the back yard, running in and out of rooms, opening and closing doors and we were torn between inspecting our future home and preventing our kids from damaging anything.

I would have liked to inspect the house when the kids were at school and take my time to look at everything including inside cupboards and wardrobes, flush toilets, turn on taps and light switches. Open and close doors, check the water pressure and even check the mobile phone reception.

In theory that’s the ideal way to inspect a house.

However, in our case the agent who listed the house was pressed for time and couldn’t stay with us long. His only available time slot for a private viewing was on a Saturday (when both of our kids were home) and for a max of 20 minutes. It was clear there was a lot of interest in the property. Several people attended the open home and by the time we managed to meet with the agent there were already multiple offers.

Me watching the kids in the front yard so that my husband could look at the house first meant that I missed a lot of what he saw.

We don’t usually leave our children with friends because our son who has special needs gets very upset so we had no choice but to bring him with us.

The other thing I wish we had done was arrange a conveyancer or solicitor before embarking on our search.

Hiring a conveyancer at the last minute after our offer was accepted and our 10 day cooling off period had started was a mistake but I’ll go into that in the next post.

In the end my husband and I found ourselves very much attached to our first house when we found it. Throughout the whirlwind of house hunting we had committed not only our money but our hearts into the transaction.

Our emotions became entangled into the deal and we did spend more than our initial budget.

It’s precisely what I’d been preparing myself not to do all along. And yet, we’re happy.

I love this house for its uniqueness and character.

I love that I feel instantly at home the moment I walk through the door.

I love that it’s a permanent home for my children and I hope to see them grow up, move out and come home again throughout their lifetimes.

Well that’s the plan anyway.

My husband believes all houses like ours will be knocked down someday to make way for higher density dwellings like townhouses and apartments and that “the Australian dream” will evolve into something that requires lower maintenance and less space so who knows what life will bring next.

They say home is where the heart is and our hearts are definitely at home here.

  • Lady V
*Disclaimer: Please note that all experiences related in this post along with all others are personal to the author and make no claim of offering professional advice of any kind on the subject matter. For further information regarding purchasing property it is recommended that you make enquiries with the relevant professionals in your area.