Adulting: So You Want to Buy a House


This editorial series, Adulting, is brought to you by The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn LLC and Des Moines Mom. The Law Shop provides 100 percent customized client services for families in central Iowa. All 5 original articles from the Adulting series can be found here.

kids and woman sitting on front steps of homeBuying a house definitely falls into the category of “adulting”. If you’re like me, you felt a moment of panic, questioning if you were signing your life away as you signed your name and initials on what felt like countless dotted lines.

It’s likely the largest purchase you will ever make and a place you will potentially live for years to come. So how do you start the home-buying process? Think it sounds daunting? It can be, but it’s also pretty awesome to have a place where you can put down roots and create a home for your family.

I have purchased 4 different homes feel like I learned something each time. 

Here are 5 things to think about when buying a house. 

What matters most? 

No house is perfect, but hopefully, you find one that checks most of your boxes. I love old homes (even though they have their faults) and big trees. I was downsizing when I moved and wanted enough space for me and my kids to be comfortable but not so much that I felt overwhelmed with upkeep. 

What are your dealbreakers or must-haves in a house? On the flip side, what are things you’d like to have but aren’t essential? What things don’t matter to you? Whether a house has a fireplace, yard size, how many garage stalls, and square footage are all things to think about. Some things can be changed but others are permanent. 

What school district are you in?

If your kids will go to public schools this is a big deal. Even if they aren’t school-age yet, check to see what schools they will attend and learn about the schools. We live just 2 blocks from both our elementary and middle school. I didn’t realize how much I would love being able to walk to school with my kids! 

How much do you care about location?

If you love the house but it’s in a rough neighborhood, it may not be the right one for you. I currently live on a busier road, but the fact that we know the neighbors and are close to school were more important than that. Here are some other things to think about.

  • Do you work downtown? Maybe it’s important that you’re close to the interstate.
  • Do you love walking? Are there sidewalks?
  • Is it close to trails or parks?
  • What things do you drive or walk to the most? 

What will it cost? 

Sure there’s the initial price you pay for the house, but there are so many other costs associated with owning a home. Whether your house is new construction or 100 years old, it will require maintenance and repairs. If you plan to do work on your home, make sure to check if it qualifies for any grants or Neighborhood Finance Corporation (NFC) loans. These are forgivable loans that can be used to make property upgrades. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

I had a list of questions for my realtor whenever we looked at a house. I also asked the inspector questions about his report. This helped me understand the house and some of its quirks. 

  • Have a list of questions for the inspector so you understand the good and the bad things about the home’s structure and build. 
  • If it’s possible to talk to people who live in the neighborhood, do it! Ask what they like about the area, how traffic is, and if there are any unexpected quirks. 
  • First-time homebuyer? Ask friends and family what things they wish they had known before buying a house. 

Do I have it all figured out when it comes to owning a house? No. Do I still call my parents when I hear a strange sound or don’t know how to fix something? Sometimes. Even though I own my house I don’t always feel like an adult, but don’t tell my kids that! 


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