Buying a home remains a huuuuge step in anyone’s life. While younger generations feel less pressure to hurry up and buy their own home, it’s still the ultimate goal of many of us to eventually own their own home. Homeownership is more than just a signal that you’re all grown up and ready to be an adult. It can also serve as an essential component of your net worth, retirement goals, and financial stability—not to mention a place where you can keep all of your stuff.
But buying a house is scary—and it should be. It’s probably the single most expensive thing you’ll ever buy, the single largest loan you’ll ever take on, and one of the biggest responsibilities you’ll ever accept. Before you dive into mortgage brokers and real estate agents, open houses and the endless paperwork, here are ten books you should take some time to read in order to ensure you know exactly what you’ll be getting yourself into.
Buying a Home: The Missing Manual, by Nancy Conner
Start with some brass tacks. This book is a step-by-step guide that covers all the nuts-and-bolts aspects of buying a home, from choosing the house you want to assembling a real estate team ideal for your needs, figuring out mortgages and financing options, and dealing with inspections and other due diligence. If you think buying a home is a complex and overwhelming process, this book will take away much of the intimidation factor and mystery that surrounds many of the steps along the way.
Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart
It’s always good to get a second opinion, and this guide covers similar ground to Conner’s book while offering a different perspective. Instead of one expert’s advice, this guide collects the wisdom of dozens of real estate professionals from every facet of the business—Realtors, loan officers, investors, landlords, buyers, and sellers. The end result is a plethora of advice, facts, and useful true stories from various perspectives that really make it easy to understand how things work and the impact of certain specific mistakes.
Keep Calm … It’s Just Real Estate, by Egypt Sherrod
If all the talk of mortgages, putting down roots, and dream homes is getting you anxious, you might want a more comforting tone. Sherrod, host of HGTV’s Property Virgins, offers a great mix of advice, facts, and humor in this book. The main takeaway from her advice is that buying your first home doesn’t have to be a stressful horrorshow if you take the time to do some research and be thoughtful in your choices. While this book isn’t as heavy on the facts and figures as the other guides mentioned, it’s a friendlier, kinder, and gentler approach that makes it easier to get your head around such a big decision while also making the process seem a lot easier and less frightening than it otherwise might.
The Mortgage Encyclopedia, by Jack Guttentag
The biggest part of the homebuying decision for most people is the mortgage, which is just a fancy term for “huge loan.” Many first-time buyers are stunned to discover how much they can borrow—or or how little—and mortgages come in so many shapes and sizes (and loan officers can be surprisingly creative in putting together financing packages) that it’s easy to worry that you’re going to get pressured into a bad deal. This comprehensive reference work offers everything you need to know about how mortgages work and the different options you’ll encounter, giving you the expertise you’ll need when figuring out how to finance your dreams.
Real Simple: The Organized Home
One thing many people fail to think about when searching for their first home is how they’ll organize it. Sometimes the problem is moving from a studio apartment to a 3,000 square foot home means you’ve got a card table in the dining room and absolutely nothing in the spare bedroom. Sometimes the problem kicks in when you clear out your storage units and discover you have turned your second bathroom into a place to store your boxes full of comic books. Either way, thinking about how you’ll organize your home before you move in will save you a lot of stress.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
Similarly, Kondo’s runaway bestseller will get you into a crucial frame of mind: keeping things neat. A tidy, organized home will always seem bigger, newer, and in better shape than a disorganized, cluttered space. But when going from a relatively small space (or a space where cleaning and tidying duties were shared with others) to a larger space that’s all your own, keeping things neat can seem wearying and impossible. Let Marie Kondo show you the way before you move in.
The Big Ass Book of Home Decor, by Mark Montano
Something else you should start thinking about before you buy your first home is what you want it to look like. While some people grow up cutting out photos from magazines and collecting fabric swatches, just as many step into their first home and realize they have no idea how to choose paint colors, upholstery, and other home decor basics. Get a head start and reduce that first-week stress load by boning up on home decoration basics, while also getting a load of information about how to re-purpose items and otherwise make your new home pretty without spending a lot of money—money you probably don’t have because you just bought a house.
Black & Decker The Book of Home How-To
Once you’re in the house, trust us: no matter how comprehensive your home inspection was, things will go wrong. Repairing and maintaining your new house is an essential part of protecting your investment, and if you want to save yourself a boatload of money along the way, learning how to do at least some basic stuff is an absolute must. This book offers easy-to-follow guides on all the basics you’re going to face, offering an overview of everything that gives just enough information without overwhelming you with complicated details you simply don’t need to know about. Having this book packed up in a box before you move will give you some peace of mind.
Finally, house-hunting can be so exciting you overlook some of the possible problems, so here are a couple of books to remind you to consider everything that can go wrong—or at least to deflate that sense of optimism that might lead you to buy more house than you can handle, or to ignore downsides. In the horror classic The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson, you’ll get a good dose of house-hunting paranoia as the Lutz family is driven from their dream home in just a month by a malevolent force they maintain was very real. And in Mark Z. Danielewski’s modern classic House of Leaves a family discovers that their house is larger on the inside than the outside—something that might be cause for celebration when you’ve just finished calculating your price-per-square foot, but which serves as a reminder that no matter how much due diligence you do, a house is a place of secrets.
Now that you’ve done the reading, go ahead and start house-hunting. Just remember the biggest lesson from those TV shows: don’t fret about the colors on the walls. Paint is cheap.
What books would you recommend to potential homebuyers?