"Time for us to grow up and get a house"
How Emerald the German Shepard sparked Elisabeth's house hunt
For those doing a double take at that headline, don't be too surprised: last Summer, a Harris Poll survey found that Fido was the top reason a whopping 33 percent of millennial homebuyers decided to buy a home--more than having kids or getting married.
So, after spending years living the apartment life in Sacramento, Elisabeth grew tired of making the compromises that come with being a renter / pet parent.
"All of my apartment situations had revolved around my ability to have my dog there. I wanted to find a place my dog and I could really call home. A lot of other decisions in my life revolve around her, so why wouldn't picking a house also be like that?"
The must-haves: safety, walkability, and yard space for her best friend
Elisabeth spent a year casually house hunting in the Sacramento area and getting a feel for what the "right house" for her and her 3 year old German Shepherd, Emerald, would be.
Along the way, she toured her fair share of open houses, where Elisabeth's encounters with a few overly salesy agents helped her figure out what she wanted most in her first home. "A lot of my decisions came out of the conversations I kept having with the agents showing these open houses," says Elisabeth.
"My responses for why I wasn't interested in a specific place were kind of news to me as well."
Ultimately, she realized that things that really mattered to her in a house were:
- Not too big of a place: Elisabeth wasn't looking to deal with the hassle of filling or maintaining more space than what was necessary for her and Emerald
- Neighborhood safety: Making sure that the two felt secure going on their evening walks was her number one priority
- Proximity to work: "I did cancel out a few places just by asking myself, 'Do you really want this to be your commute every day?'"
Elisabeth and Emerald in their new home
"It might sound cheesy, but I left a lot up to fate"
Elisabeth wasn't hunting for a house, but rather a place she could truly call home. "I wasn't hung up over details like the style of the house or the decade it was built in. Those things just really didn't matter to me."
Eventually, she came across her would-be home when checking her Open Listings feed.
"I knew it was the right one because it felt serendipitous. It was amazing to see what I had been looking for in my mind just right there on the screen. Until that point, I hadn't felt serious about homebuying. But that place made me feel confident I was ready."
Buying her first home as a single woman
Elisabeth opted to use Open Listings after a disappointing experience with a real estate agent she had met at an open house. "[The agent] was female and told me, 'I can find you something here because I know what neighborhoods are safe.' I figured it might be helpful to have someone around who was like me and knew the area."
However, her experience quickly fizzled.
"I realized 3 emails in with her that I was just another generic customer. She was sending me places that didn't match my needs at all."
"So then I thought, 'Nevermind. I don't need to work with someone to find my home because I know what I want better than they do.'"
Instead, Elisabeth used her Open Listings feed to find potential home matches. "I liked that I could just reject places and didn't have to explain to anyone why I didn't like something."
Once she found the home she wanted to make an offer on, she and her buying agent Beatrice worked together to figure out the right offer amount.
For good measure, they decided on a lucky number significant to Elisabeth that also happened to be a strong offer amount -- and it got accepted.
Elisabeth's new home is filled with charming details
"This is huge. I'm buying a house."
Once Elisabeth's offer got accepted, she felt the typical nervousness and anxieties that come with closing on your first home. But, she also found that through Open Listings, the actual paperwork and closing process wasn't as stressful as she thought it would be.
"To be honest, I filled out and signed some of my closing documents while I was riding the bus on my way home from work."
"I sat there thinking, 'Wow. The person next to me has no idea I'm buying a house on my phone right now.'"
For the things she didn't understand, she'd reach out to her buying team at Open Listings. "I'd just forward the documents to them and be like, 'I have no clue what this is.' And they would respond pretty much instantly."
As someone who works a traditional 9 to 5 job, Elisabeth also appreciated the ability to work around her schedule. "That was really nice--having someone to work with on all this stuff without impacting my normal daily life."
"If I had to be held responsible for printing things out, signing them, and mailing them, this process would've taken an astronomically longer time."
Homebuying, in hindsight
"Purchasing this house was a turning point for me. I'm only 28, so I don't like to think of anything as forever, but there is this sense of permanency now. This is my space and my neighborhood."
Thanks to her Open Listings refund, Elisabeth was able to quickly make cosmetic improvements to her home.
"I hadn't anticipated getting money back and was prepared for much higher closing costs. But, I was able to just walk into the house and make big changes I wanted right away. My first week of moving into the house, I got the outside painted."
Elisabeth's patience eventually landed her the perfect place. Since she was in no rush to buy and had a zero-pressure house hunting experience, she was able to check off everything on her list of homebuying must-haves.
Her big piece of advice for first-timers? Don't feel like you have to compromise.
"When I started looking, in a lot of my conversations, people would leave me feeling defeated. But I just waited until I got what I wanted, where I wanted it."