Across The Threshold
Purchasing Your First Home with McEnearney Real Estate Agent, Kristen Jones
Story by Liesel Schmidt
There are a lot of changes happening when a couple gets married, not to mention an overwhelming amount of decisions—all of which pile onto the already mind-boggling list of things to do for the wedding. Despite the fact that this is such a happy time, it’s also a very stressful one. Having the advice of experts on some of those weighty decisions, that often come with newly combined living, is extremely invaluable, especially for things like buying a home.
Buying a home is a big deal for anyone—but even more so for newlyweds. After all, you probably don’t have joint finances or may not have great credit built up, and both are deciding factors in qualifying for a home loan and being able to afford your payments. “It can sometimes become a tricky subject, but combining finances is a wise decision and can be greatly beneficial to newly married couples who want to buy a home together because it gives them more money for a down payment, which lessens their monthly mortgage payment,” says Kristen Jones of Kristen Jones Real Estate, whose expertise in the industry has launched her to the top of her field and gained her great respect throughout the Alexandria community and beyond as an NVAR Diamond Top Producer.
“Buying a home, while a big step, is a wise move when you’re looking to the future. If one or both parties had been renting in the past, in buying a home, they are now putting money toward their own equity in a home instead of paying someone else’s mortgage. Investing in a home should be as important as investing in a 401(k),” she goes on. “The appreciation in investing in a home in a healthy market over a period of time is as good as—if not better than—investing in the stock market.”
Naturally, not everyone has stellar credit, but there are ways to raise your credit score as you work towards buying a home. “Pay off or pay down your student loans as much as you can, make your credit card payments on time, and pay your rent on time,” advises Jones. “Also, keep credit card balances low and refrain from making any large purchases such as buying a car, amassing hefty credit card charges, or splurging on a luxury vacation at least six months to a year before you’re planning to buy a home. This period of watching your finances also includes the time during the loan application process and continues through settlement, because large purchases will ding your credit and can adversely affect your interest rate and your ability to qualify for a loan,” she continues. “Keep your spending to a minimum, and don’t be frivolous with your spending—after all, you’ll need money to furnish your new home!”
Finances aside, there are other sticking points and decisions to make when it comes to home buying, and that’s where thinking about the future and having the ability to compromise comes in. “It’s important to focus first on location, then on price,” says Jones. “Take commutes to work into consideration, because that will affect your quality of life. After deciding on a location or city, decide on your price range and then focus in your search—but don’t let small, cosmetic things deter you from a home that could otherwise be perfect for you. Updating a kitchen backsplash, redoing a bathroom, or changing the paint color or flooring are changeable over time, so focus on the bigger details of the home as you look.”
Naturally, it will take time to find the right home to suit your needs, but stay the course and do your homework. “Go to open houses in different areas as soon as you decide you are wanting to buy, which will give you a clear vision of what you can get for your money. Take nights and weekends to drive through neighborhoods and see how you feel about them,” Jones recommends. “Looking online at homes and seeing their prices is vastly different from actually getting in the car and walking through homes and driving through neighborhoods, and doing that is key in helping couples hone in on different locations and rule out some neighborhoods because they don’t meet their needs.”
Much like marriage, home ownership comes with both happiness and challenges; but in the end, saying “I do” is definitely worth it.