We did it! We bought our first home. And we bought outside the Greater Seattle area in the middle of the pandemic.
Brandon and I chose to postpone our September 26th 2020 wedding date to next May 21st 2021. Once we made the decision to move our wedding out, we decided to flip our original timeline and look to purchase a home before the end of 2020. As a first time home buyer, we weren’t sure what to expect. Was it a great time to purchase home while the pandemic was going on? How did the Seattle/greater Seattle market look?
We soon learned the answer to these questions as we scoured the homes available on Zillow and Redfin. We also decided to move forward with a realtor on Redfin. Brandon’s sister and brother in law ended up using Redfin to purchase their first home and recommended the brokerage company to us.
Here are 5 lessons we learned buying our first home (in the middle of the global pandemic):
The Seattle/outside Seattle market is extremely competitive – even in the midst of covid-19.
My friends who bought when the pandemic first broke out didn’t experience the same level of competition on homes that Brandon and I saw when we decided to start shopping for a home in June.
But this past summer, the housing market was on fire in Seattle/outside of Seattle. According to Komo 4 News and Wallet Hub, Seattle is ranked number 1 in the health of its real estate market among all large cities in the United States. The Seattle Times reported that home prices broke records in every major Washington County this summer. I was shocked (but I really shouldn’t have been) that the median home in King County sold for $727,500 and even Snohomish County saw 13% spike with an average home being purchased around $575,000.
Brandon and I put our very first bid on home in King County. It was built in the 1979 and fully remodeled. It had 9 offers with potential buyers waiving the inspections left in right. We didn’t get the home and we later learned that the home went went $50,000 over asking price.
If you’re entering the market and are looking to buy in Western Washington, I highly recommend doing your research before you experience sticker shock.
Make a short list of potential cities/locations
When Brandon and I started house hunting, we decided to draw a 30-35 min circle outside of the city. We looked as far north as Everett and as far down south the Lake Tapps area. I grew up south of Seattle and I lived in North Seattle for 4+ years after college – so I personally was open to settling either north or south of the city.
Because we picked cities that were both north and south of Seattle, we had days where we only looked at homes up north and days where we only looked at homes down south. I think our first list of potential cities was too broad. We eventually started to narrow our list down to 2-3 cities as we started touring homes and got a better feel for the different cities.
If you aren’t sure which cities or neighborhoods you want to buy in, I recommend taking a weekend to at least drive around the area. After house tours, Brandon and I would drive around the area to get a feel for the neighborhood.
Identify your priority list
- What is most important to you in a home?
- Is it the number of bedrooms or bathrooms? Do you want a small or large backyard?
- Do you want your home to be move in ready or are you open to updates?
- How far do you want to be away from the city or airport?
- How close do you want to be to parks, national parks, or even the mountains?
For me, I wanted a home in good condition, and I was open to updates (it didn’t have to be 100% new). I also always need to be within 10 min drive of running trails. I’ve been a runner a majority of my life and I love to run at least 3-5 times a week. I also wanted to be withing 30 min of the city and the airport.
You may not get every single thing on your list. But having your priorities identified early on will help guide you when you look for homes to tour.
Leave room in your budget for closing costs
Before getting pre-approved and talking to our mortgage lender, I had no idea that closing costs would be 2-5% of the purchase price of your home. If you haven’t heard of closing costs before, closing costs are all the fees paid at the closing of the real estate/home transaction. Both buyers and sellers can incur closing costs. Source: Zillow
Set a ceiling for your escalation clause
If you’re shopping for a home in or outside Seattle, you’ll probably run into bidding war at some point. People are eager to buy, and sellers are eager to get the highest bids on their home. When you decide to put an offer in on a home, you need to decide at what price you’re comfortable escalating to.
For example: You can offer the seller a full list price offer and you can tell your realtor that if the seller receives a higher bid, you’re comfortable increasing your offer to $$.
Brandon and I decided that we didn’t want to escalate to the very top of our budget so we could cover closing costs on both homes we put offers for.
There you have it friends! The 5 lessons we learned buying our first home.
What lessons did you learn buying your first home?
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