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Meet This Newlywed Couple Looking For Their First Home

Photo: iStock
Follow this newlywed couple's journey on finding their first home.

We know how intimidating—and complicated—buying your first house can be. But obviously the end result, a home to call your own, is all worth it. In order to help demystify the process, we decided to follow three different couples' real estate journeys, sharing the lessons they learn along the way with you. First up: newlyweds Jaclyn and Todd Patton.

Meet the Couple:

Who they are: Jaclyn, 33, account director at a media agency, and Todd, 30, account director at a media agency (they work together!)

How they met: At work. They were acquaintances for about three years before they started dating. “After our first date, we knew we would get married," Jaclyn says.
Wedding date: October 2nd, 2015
Where they live now: A two-bedroom apartment in White Plains, NY (Westchester County)

The Hunt

What they're looking for: Four-bedroom home in Fairfield County, CT
Their budget: $700–$800K
When they want to move: Before their lease ends in July 2016
Must-haves: Updated kitchen, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a good neighborhood
Deal breakers: Structural damage, an old kitchen, just one bathroom (unless the home is a fixer upper, which they're open to)

Jaclyn and Todd got married last fall, but decided to start their search in the new year to give themselves time between the wedding and a potential move. Thinking ahead, they'd signed an 18-month lease in order to “have time to just breathe and recoup all the money we spent [on the wedding]," Jaclyn says.

Right now they're living in a two-bedroom apartment in White Plains, New York, that's too cramped. “We've already more than outgrown our place. We had to get a storage unit to store all of our wedding gifts, which I won't let Todd take out of the boxes," Jaclyn says. They also can't wait to get away from the noisy firehouse right across the street. Mostly, Jaclyn and Todd are just ready to settle down. “If we were going to move, it's not going to be to another apartment. We're going to move into a home we'll be in for the next 10 years," she says.

Their first step? Setting a budget. Jaclyn and Todd are both very good about saving—and were before they met—so they were financially prepared when it came time for this big step. To get started, the couple got pre-approved for a mortgage loan. (Based on your income and credit history, the lender determines the type and amount of loan you're qualified for, so you'll know what homes are in your price range.) They received a pre-approved loan over the phone from an online lender, but it wasn't that simple. “We learned that every lender has their own set of rules—for example, one lender couldn't provide a mortgage that allowed us to put less than 20 percent down," Jaclyn says. After shopping around, they found that their own bank offered the best rate and terms. “We were pre-approved for more than the $700,000 to $800,000 budget we've set, but since it's our first home, we decided to go a little bit more conservative so we'll have some cash leftover to buy furniture," Jaclyn says.

Step 2: Deciding on must-haves and location. Fortunately, Jaclyn and Todd have always been on the same page about what they're looking for in their first home. Their wish list includes a grand entryway, large open kitchen, four bedrooms and a finished basement. Even with an $800,000 budget, they realized they should be open to a fixer upper if they want to live in their preferred location—Fairfield County, Connecticut. The couple picked it for a few important reasons: 1. It's a quiet, rural environment; 2. lower property taxes; and 3. great school districts. “Property taxes in Fairfield are half of what they are in Westchester County for comparable properties," Jaclyn says. The area is also known for its schools—and while they don't have kids yet, they're planning on it. Jaclyn researched the schools online and also turned to a Realtor®, Larry, who knows a lot about the area and helped them compare schools zones and property taxes.

Step 3: Finding the perfect Realtor®. Todd first spoke to Larry when he inquired about one of his listings, and the couple met him at the prospective house. Larry really impressed them during the walk-through. “We realized that he was listening to our questions. 'Would you put new countertops in here? Would you redo the layout?' And he would chime in with really great tips and advice," Jaclyn says. It turned out Larry previously owned a home remodeling company, which was a welcome surprise.

“Because we're open to doing a remodel, his experience is really valuable," Jaclyn says. After viewing a few more homes with Larry, Jaclyn and Todd signed an exclusive contract which promises they won't work with another agent. “I'd recommend spending an afternoon with a Realtor ® and looking at a few homes with them to see what they're like before signing an exclusive," she says.

Now with Larry by their side, the couple is really ready to start the search for their first home. Check back next month to follow along on the hunt and see a few of their favorite (and least favorite) houses.

The Nest and the National Association of Realtors® present The Journey Home, a sponsored series full of house-hunting inspiration, including tips and advice from Realtors® and couples on their own home searches. To learn more about how a Realtor® can help find your dream house, visit buyandsell.HouseLogic.com and realtor.com/GetRealtor.