Where Have I Been? + 10 Lessons We Learnt Buying Our First Home

Title Photo of 10 Lessons We Learnt Buying Our First Home

My dear readers, I would like to apologize for my absence in the last 6 weeks. So many things happened, I’ve learned so much, had some amazing experiences, and, trust me, I missed writing to you desperately. I think I owe you an explanation here – the truth is, my husband and I purchased our first home together. It was such a special moment for us, but of course it meant a lot of work and hours spent making things happen.

The property had been abandoned for 7 years, most windows were knocked out and burned, it was infested with spiders, covered with a layer of dust, and it was in a serious need for some TLC. It looked rough but we caught a glimpse of its former glory and were willing to restore it.

Cleaning Windows - 10 Lessons We Learnt Buying Our First Home

My husband did a great job cleaning and replacing broken glasses

We both love restoring old things rather than getting new modern items, so it was only natural for us to keep the existing décor. Once we cleaned the dust, we realized it was absolutely beautiful and perfect for our taste.

Kitties - Buying Our First Home Together

Sirena and Jimmy enjoy their new home, too!

We also spent a month going through second-hand ads online and visiting all the antique shops on the island looking for suitable furniture. It was a great money-saving move but we were also aware of the fact that the quality of furniture used to be so much better before: it’s pretty difficult to find solid wood at an affordable price these days.

And so slowly we gathered everything we needed. We found an amazing second-hand kitchen the night after I told my husband that I’m just going to close my eyes, imagine the kitchen of my dreams, and it’s going to turn up. Guess what? Next day we went to get a bathroom sink with a cabinet from a lovely old man, and found our perfect kitchen there for a ridiculously low price! Visualization totally worked for us every time.

Second-hand kitchen - 10 Lessons We Learnt Buying Our First Home

The 600€ second-hand kitchen

When everything seemed almost settled, our electric boiler overheated bursting a pipe in the wall. I found myself with 100 litres of water on my kitchen floor. I was terrified, to say the least. 🙂 After one week of living without warm water, we finally got it fixed with minor wall destruction and minimal paint damage on the walls due to all that water.

Then we were told that it’s impossible to get internet access in this house. Obviously, I didn’t bother to inquire  about it earlier as I didn’t imagine there were still places like that in the 21st century. After two weeks of desperation and frequent trips to the internet cafe to check my email and answer to comments, we found a solution! 🙂

Thanks to a wireless receiver on our roof, we are now connected, and I can finally get back to my beloved blog. I have so many things accumulated in my head and I can’t wait to share them with you!

To end with, I thought I would share with you 10 things we learned from purchasing our first home together. We certainly made some mistakes, and found we did other things quite well, so if you’re thinking of doing something similar in the future or if you’ve been through it in the past, I hope you’ll enjoy!

1. Preserve and restore – don’t destroy!

Try to preserve and restore the existing beauty rather than destroying and rebuilding. In many cases, it’s cheaper and easier to start from scratch, but the satisfaction of resurrecting old lost beauty is priceless.

2. Give a second life to awesome pieces!

Go for second-hand furniture where possible. It will save you incredible amounts of money. Just to give you an example – we got our fabulous second-hand solid wood kitchen for 600 euros. A comparable brand new kitchen would have cost around 5,000-6,000 euros. We also got an amazing dining table with 4 chairs for 60 euros.

Remember that most people want modern furniture right now and are throwing away the valuable old furniture at a fraction of the cost. I hope this trend will last because that means we can continue scoring amazing deals. Am I the only one struggling to understand everyone’s love for modern things? Buying second-hand furniture is also a great way of recycling things.

My husband keeps saying this proverb: “One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”.

I couldn’t agree more. How about you?

3. Uh-oh, but there is one exception!

The point above doesn’t apply for beds and mattresses. We got them new from  Ikea, as we believe their beds are simply superior and very affordable. We still can’t believe how comfy our bed is! Our cats adore it, too. 🙂

4. Sometimes a stingy person pays twice!

Getting second-hand furniture is plausible but I don’t recommend trying the same with appliances. Remember that boiler incident I mentioned earlier on? Well, that’s because it was a second-hand one. Then our second-hand washing machine failed as well! We ended up getting a new one with great water and electricity saving features.

Buying second-hand appliances might seem money saving but in the long term you’ll end up paying much more for your electricity, gas, water, etc.

5. Monitor closely!

If possible, try to do most work yourself. But if it’s not possible, and you have to contract someone, try to buy all the materials yourself. If that’s not possible either, at least get them to report to you every time they need to buy something. This will prevent you from getting a nasty surprise at the end. Once they bring you a pile of receipts, it’s pretty much impossible to tell if they are genuinely things they bought for your property or if they have been inflated.

6. Communicate openly and in a timely manner!

If you aren’t happy about the contractors’ work, say it as soon as you notice something you don’t like. Don’t wait, as it will feel very awkward if you bring it up once everything is finished. Naturally, they are going to say, “Where were you before? Why didn’t you say anything?”

7. Tell your money where to go!

Do your research and make a rough budget of how much everything is going to cost.

If you don’t tell your money where to go, it will simply fly out your window without you even noticing it.

I’m pretty proud that we managed to stick to our budget and ended up slightly below it.

7. Create a little cushion for unexpected expenses!

Coming back to the budget, make it slightly higher that what you think you’re going to need. Always allow for some unexpected expenses. It feels much better ending up below budget than having to exceed it and look for additional resources.

8. Teamwork and peace until victory!

Work as a team until a victorious end. A lot of couples find purchasing a house extremely stressful. I once read that based on the stress level it’s just below the death of a loved person and a divorce.

Of course there will be stress, there will be exhaustion, there will probably be money issues as well, but you are in it together, you both want the best and there is no point in expressing negative emotions towards each other. Instead, go for a run or do some boxing! 🙂

9. Visualization rocks!

Visualize things you want, and they will come. I did it with most things we needed for the house, and it worked! Just close your eyes, try to imagine it very visually, with great detail, and then go to sleep. Then simply keep your eyes open for opportunities. Does it work for you too or am I the one wearing pink glasses here? 🙂

10. Don’t hurry – wait till things “speak” to you!

Don’t be in a hurry to complete everything perfectly in a short amount of time. Trust me, it’s so much better waiting a bit until you find something really special or until you save up enough money to buy something of high quality that will last you for many years.

It’s really so much better to have fewer amazing things that truly “speak” to you than a hundred mass-made meaningless items.

And finally, don’t let yourself get stuck in the rat race. Who cares what the others live like! Don’t be tempted to take huge loans and chain yourself forever. Try to get the smallest house you can still live in comfortably and stop looking at others.

As Dave Ramsey says in his awesome book The Total Money Makeover, live now like nobody else, so that you can live like nobody else later. This book has been an amazing inspiration and support for us throughout our house buying experience. I highly recommend it to everyone interested in taking control of their money.

Do you agree with my points or would you have different advice for new house buyers? What has your experience been?

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  1. Love it darling…great points for people getting their first home. I was a realtor in the USA for 9 years and wish I had your points to give to my new home buyers. Your kitchen ROCKS…and for 600 Euro—WOW! Keep it up and enjoy your new home!

    • Thanks Joy! I’m definitely enjoying the new home, and the kitchen is a pleasure to cook in! By the way, looked at your website. You should start updating it again! I’d sure love reading it, and you’ve got a lot to tell!

  2. I realize this might sound cheap, but I found a beautiful classic outdoors
    lantern on a hard rubbish collection on the weekend! At this time I am searching for
    wrought iron patio chairs to match. You know exactly what they say, one mans
    trash can be another mans treasure!

  3. Vita,
    My husband and I since Christmas have been remodeling a bathroom downstairs. It had a really tiny shower and next to it was a tiny closet for linens. I told my husband to knock the closet out and make the shower bigger. We are doing the work 100% ourselves and luckily my husband used to work on houses, but it is still a learning and sharing experience. I look at habitat for humanity stores and thrift stores for decorating. found some silk plants which will look nice once it is finished. I am trying to bring the outdoors in with it. And when we sell we are hoping it doubles our home price!

    • Wow, you two are so cool, Debs! My hubby and I also have a few things that still need to be done in the house, but there’s never enough time or money. We keep postponing, but I’m sure one weekend we’ll definitely start doing something about it. We have to paint room doors, varnish wardrobe doors, tile the terrace, and repaint some bits and bobs on the walls. Not much work, I guess, but enough to send us into procrastination mode. Well done, you two! Keep going, and I hope you’ll send me a picture of the end result. xx

  4. I did not see a comment box for the pets, but wanted to leave a comment regarding the house training of the dog. One thing that worked for us and our dog Maggie (she is the miniature pincher in the picture with me I had sent), but we bought an extra large cage or kennel and every time we had to go somewhere she would go in it with her food and water, and blanket and toy. Once we got home we would get her leash and take her outside. Dogs usually will not mess where they are sleeping or lying down. This does take patience. I have a fenced yard, but I still would take her out on the leash, and now, she automatically comes to me jumping and going to the door to let me know she has to go out. I do not let her out by herself because we had a boxer one time and we had a doggy door for him, but someone stole him out of our yard while we were gone somewhere, so I always take my dog out. But, if you want to give it a try if you have not tried that method yet it works. I have an aunt and uncle who raises and sells dogs all over the U.S. they do Yorkies, hounds, labs, but have stopped and only sell them locally now because of the high cost of shipping to the owner. They are licensed and take very good care of their animals. They have a farm. But, my aunt suggested this to me for Maggie and it worked! Best of luck, dogs are great company, a lot of work, but are like family.

    • Hi Debs, thanks for your advice! Giulietta is perfectly house trained now. If we go out and can’t bring her with us, we lock her in the spare bedroom, and it’s kind of tiny, so it works almost like a large cage. She’s turning into a perfectly behaved dog. We’ve taught her a few commands: Sit!, Down!, she’s also been trained to sit and wait while we give her food and will only go to eat when we say Yes. The next step is teaching her to heel and not pull when walking, also to consistently come when called. It’s definitely a fun process. 🙂

  5. P.S. the doggy is beautiful! So glad she has found a good home 🙂

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