I picked up a good habit when I was in the Army. Early on I was told by a superior to keep a Me Book which is common practice among the best soldiers. It’s a binder with all your important documents in one place. I carried the practice into civilian life and keep a binder with my DD-214, birth certificate, social security card, car title, etc. so I can easily find these items when I need them. I even created one for my two year old daughter. I can’t tell you how many times my mom had to send off for a new birth certificate or some other important piece of paper when we were growing up.
First time homebuyers should keep a notebook while searching for that first home so that they have some way of cataloging that experience, keeping it organized so they can reference it later. Write down what you like and dislike about each house while touring. Which house had the little pantry I liked so much? Was that the house with the creaky floors? Write down the names and numbers of the people you are working with and save it. If you had a great experience you can call on those same people to help you sell your home and buy the next one. No human being can be expected to remember everything. Successful people keep a journal for all sorts of things. Journaling allows a person to reflect and reference the process of setting and achieving goals.
Keeping a notebook is a great tool for the savvy first time home buyer. She will learn a lot and years later she’ll have that experience as a reference when buying the next home. I find it helpful to write our the questions I would like answered and then writing the answer once I get it. I can reference my notebook if I forget, and I can verify that I did receive an answer. I wish I had that advice when we bought our first home.
I find it funny how much my wife and I forgot about what it was like to buy our first home years ago!! We were so involved in the process, from fighting with the bank over financing to negotiating the sale, and that valuable experience was kind of fuzzy to recall years later when it came time to buy our second home. The point is not to become an expert on the subject, that’s why you work with a real estate agent and a team of people who are experts in their area, but to save the time and energy of making a mistake twice!! You might think you can remember it all but I made the same stupid mistake in our current DIY kitchen remodel that I made during our first DIY kitchen remodel!! I swear it won’t happen on the third one!!
Write down how you ‘feel’ during the process too! I was a little surprised to find I get a little supercilious when I look at houses!! And homeowners display more hubris when selling their property; these emotions are related to the Endowment Effect or Divestiture Aversion. So how do you negotiate a deal when you own Willingness to Pay doesn’t match with your own Willingness to Accept? Or maybe when you find that perfect house and it gets snatched out from under you by a better offer? Did you get discouraged and overpay for the next house because of FOMO? Like anything else, emotions can be managed. Remember? What get’s measured gets managed!!
An organized business is a successful business and it follows that an organized person is a successful person. Create a Me Book for your home with important information like insurance, tax documents and home warranties. You can even include the paint chips you used to choose the paint colors for your house and write which rooms they belong. A small touch-up job in the future will take five minutes saving you a trip to match some paint at the paint store.
Another reason to maintain that notebook is to reference repairs to your home. How old is that roof? When was the water heater installed? Remember that one contractor we worked with? He was so much better than the other guy I cannot remember!! When I see a seller’s disclosure and the age of the roof is listed as unknown, I’m inclined to think that homeowner didn’t take great care of their house. That seems like a pretty important thing to know. I picked up something from a landlord who owned several properties and was super organized. He actually had a spreadsheet with the names and numbers of every contractor he used, what they did, and whether or not he would use them again. That information was included along with the sellers disclosure and the house sold well above asking because the buyers knew the house was well cared for. Inspections are great, but they don’t reveal everything.
So go get yourself a notebook or binder, or just keep it all in a spreadsheet. Whatever works best for you. The more organized you are the less time you spend looking for things you might need in the future.