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Paige Wajsman's Blog

By Paige Wajsman | Agent in Jacksonville, FL

How Buying Your First Home Is Like Your First Day of College


First-time homebuyers often experience total excitement, frustrating setbacks and overwhelming anxiety much like they may have encountered on their first day of college.  These two experiences are remarkably similar.  Buyers are often searching for the perfect home.  They have high expectations of finding an affordable house with great schools, a big yard and character.  Beginning college students are also motivated to use their money wisely, tackle all of the challenges that higher education presents and earn high scores – all while working.  Along with wild expectations, there are five more blaring similarities between the two experiences.

1. Lifetime Milestone

Remember the excitement of the first day of college?  Finally, students move away from home and explore a whole new city away from their family and friends.  These 18 year olds get to take on more responsibility and fully enjoy their new freedoms.  Going to college is a rite of passage for many youth in America; it’s a huge transition.

For buyers, owning a home is a momentous transition into adulthood.  Homeownership is a major commitment of money and time.  When buyers purchase a home they are planting roots in a community for at least a few years.  They can finally unpack all of their boxes, settle-in and call one place home.  Buyers accept the responsibility of home maintenance and payments.

Both of these experiences are milestones at different stages of life.  They indicate a major transition and an increased level of responsibility.  Going to college and buying a home are both accomplishments representing maturity.

2. Underestimating the Lengthiness of the Process?

Getting into the right college can take months.  Teenagers study for tests to qualify for acceptance, go through the application process and then wait.  Upon acceptance, students have paperwork and orientations to go through.  Finally, on the first day of class, students have to travel all around a foreign campus to get from class to class.  Even the most prepared student may underestimate how long it takes to walk or bus from class A to class B.  Getting in and adjusting to college can be a stressful process that tests patience and confidence.

The home-buying process also takes an enormous amount of patience.  Buyers should be pre-qualified for a loan before their house hunt begins.  Finding the right home requires persistence to attend open houses, search online and stay in contact with realtors.  Buyers can be out-bid or turned down.  Once a home is selected and an offer is accepted, the process continues.  There is an inspection, tons of repeat paperwork and rapid exchanges between the buyer and lender.  After the papers are signed, the money must be issued to the seller and the deed recorded before the purchase is final.  Buyers may feel at times like they will never see the keys!

Lots of front-end work must be completed before finalizing acceptance into a college or the purchase of a home.  When one stressful step is completed, another begins.  The question of getting into a college or a home can be emotionally discouraging.  Both processes can be ongoing and require persistence.

3. Learning Curve

Think back on that first day of college.  Remember how every reference to a class, a department, a building or a book was expressed as an acronym?  No matter how many times new students reference their orientation manuals, those acronyms just don’t seem to stick.  Eventually, students become comfortable explaining that they live in B.T. eat lunch in the V.U. study their G.U.R.s and plan to complete a B.A. in G.S.  Even if students have all of their books on the first day and show up with every supply imaginable, these acronyms can make them feel confused or behind.

Similarly, first-time home buyers may feel like they know all about loan options and mortgage rates before meeting with their lender.  When all of the numbers are in front of them and all of the answers are provided in real estate jargon, it can be mind-boggling.  The choice of loan program can determine the next 30 years of a buyer’s monthly costs.  It can be distressing to make such long-lasting decisions without clarity.

It’s important to ask questions and do research.  Whether it’s the first day of college or the beginning of the home buying process, questioning the experts is the best way to get pointed in the right direction.  Studying the processes and topics that present challenges is another good way to get back on track.  Lacking confidence can make a student or buyer feel unprepared to move forward.  However, in time, these topics will become familiar and second nature.

4. Studying To Catch Up

Some professors use the first class of a semester to hand out syllabi and discuss how the course will progress over the next few months.  Other professors jump right into lecture.  Such rapid adjustment to topics can overwhelm new students.  They are often left wondering if they already missed an assignment and hoping the professor doesn’t call on them.  Alternatively, that fast approach can motivate students to read their books to get up to speed so they do not find themselves unprepared again.

When a buyer’s offer is accepted, he can hire an inspector to evaluate the condition of the home.  Inspections can last several hours, and the buyers are recommended to be present.  The inspector references building codes or points out structural inaccuracies.  After the findings are compiled, the buyer can decide whether he wants to proceed with the purchase or negotiate deductions.   For first-time home buyers, this step can be well above their knowledge base.  New homeowners rarely know how much it would cost to correct an electrical panel, fix some water damage or replace the roof.  Buyers may find themselves studying that night to find out if the fixes are worth the trouble.

A student’s first day of an intense college class or a buyer’s first home inspection can be overwhelming.  Both student and buyer should research the material to be better prepared and educated in the future.  However, even when topics are above an individual’s knowledge base, diving right in can motivate him to catch-up and become better informed.

5. Buyer’s Remorse

After students have experienced the first day of class, they may feel like they have taken on more than they can manage.  The course load could be too intense or the balancing of a job may be unachievable.  Once the tuition check goes through, it’s difficult to go back on the commitment.  The feelings of hopelessness or fear can sometimes be explained as buyer’s remorse.  All of that money is gone and applied to something that seems unattainable.

First-time home buyers may also experience such remorse.  Buyers go through such a long process of completing one step after another that their focus may not be on the final purchase until it’s complete.  The size of the mortgage payment can be shocking and saving money for each payment can be stressful.

College education is invaluable, regardless of the career path graduates choose.  Education sets an individual up for a successful future.  A degree opens the door for more professional opportunities and higher standards of pay.  Buying a home doesn’t make perfect sense for everyone.  For most, it’s a financially sound decision for their future wealth.  Whether the home is purchased in Phoenix, Seattle, or Charlotte, it’s a long-term investment that appreciates in value.  Although the purchases of education and a home are some of the most expensive in an individual’s lifetime, they are generally quality investments with high returns.

In conclusion, try to soak up the pride associated with these comparable milestones.  Stay persistent through the long processes and adapt as each presents challenges.  Begin as prepared as possible and study if the steps seem confusing.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of experts, family, friends or the web.  When it’s finally complete, appreciate the degree and home that were worked for so diligently.  Not everyone is steadfast enough or financially sound enough to complete college or purchase a home.  Be responsible for the commitments made and relish in the accomplishments.

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