Interview With a First Time Home Buyer In Austin, TX

Kristina Modares
Dec 10, 2018 · 9 min read

I met Juliann via Linkedin a couple of years ago. When we had the opportunity to meet in person, at Cenote, we spoke about life goals, finances, and real estate. It was magical! Juliann had a clear vision about what she wanted her life to look like and you guys…she literally made it happen! She was working for a company at the time I met her, and she spoke about wanting to live a remote life and have her own clients. She wanted a job that allowed her to travel and be free to pick up and go as she pleased. She wanted to buy a house that she could rent out while she was gone and have a room to call her own when she returned home. I was so excited to work with her!

The journey to find what she was looking for wasn’t super easy, but the house we found was perfect! A fixer-upper in a charming North Austin neighborhood called Georgian Acres. I am always proud of my first-time buyer clients who take on a renovation project for their first house. Juliann not only took on a large project but she managed all of the construction by herself, and all the work was done in record timing. It only took 45 days to repair the foundation, demo the entire kitchen, get a new roof, new floors, paint everything and much more!

Details of the Deal:

Sales Price: $173,000

Area: Georgian Acres

2 Beds & 1 Bath

Sqft of house: 1,040

Lot size: .316 acres!

Year of house: 1944

**Juliann now has one roommate and rents out part of her land to a tenant with an airstream.

You can watch her renovation story on my Instagram page under highlights “J’s Reno” if you’re extra curious.

Juliann answered some questions about the process of buying to help others like her gain the courage to at least look into seeing if it’s right for them. She had a few fears going into it, just like anyone would! But the knowledge and confidence she gained from this process will stay with her for life. She renovated that house, started working for herself, and has been traveling ever since!

Juliann, how did you decide on the house you bought?

I’d been looking for a long time, and I wanted a big lot but a small house. It was perfect, and I just knew energetically that this was a house that I needed to put an offer on. I put a lot of offers in with other Realtors before, but Kristina gave me a lot of confidence because she had fixer uppers before and gave me a point of view from the investment side. This house was going to put me in a better position than buying something that was move in ready. I went ahead and put an offer in, and the rest is history. For me there were some bonuses too because the lot was super big, the fencing was great and ready. I had a backyard for my dogs which wasn’t a requirement but was nice to have.

This house presented to me what I was looking for, and I wasn’t coming into it with a list of things that I had to have, but when I found this house, I found one thing after another that I thought was excellent. I’m not super far from downtown Austin and I really liked the detached garage, and that it’s near public transportation. It has good space for my dogs, and it has a good space to be able to expand the house — the house is zoned for multi-family units so if I ever want to turn the house into a duplex, I can. There’s just a lot of freedom with the property that I ended up purchasing. I feel that in a peculiar way I was just led to this house and this house was meant for me to own. I think because I was so keyed into my intuition it made it a lot easier for me to say this was a for sure yes for me. The house found me. The house decided on me. That’s what it feels like in a lot of ways which maybe sounds super weird, but I think that it’s true. I like that the neighborhood is up and coming and its definitely in a different part of Austin than what I lived in before. I didn’t really want to live in North Austin but it’s still super close to a lot of stuff, and I know that the area is only going to improve. I wanted to be somewhere where there were families, and people were young. I really like that it is a very cultured area. I didn’t want to be somewhere that was super prim and proper.

How did the offer process go?

We looked at the house and I thought, yes, I need to put an offer in even though this house would require a good amount of work. After talking to a lender, I realized pretty quickly that I needed someone to sign the loan with me because I had been working a freelance job. I wasn’t going to get approved for a loan by myself and that kind of sucked. From a financial standpoint and a personal standpoint, I’m very responsible, and I have a lot of resources, so, I didn’t want to have to go in on this with anyone else. I called my dad, and he immediately agreed. Honestly, this was shocking because in recent years my dad has made it clear that he would not do so. But he agreed! It was remarkable that this all came together and I’m very thankful. We put an offer in, I offered $1,000 more than asking. They picked my offer — I sent them a letter of approval and explained why I wanted to buy the house and why it was important to me to own a home. I sent a picture of myself and my dogs because I could tell that dogs had lived on the property before so I tied in an emotional prospect to my offer. From there we submitted the offer, and then the sisters who were selling the house for their mom chose me. They said that one of the reasons that they decided on my offer was because they were needing to sell the home pretty quickly because it was coming around tax time. They also said they loved my letter and liked learning about who I was. Apparently, their mom, who lived in the house before me, was named Julia Ann which is very close to my name.

We went into the option period, and I got the inspection and everything else done. I wanted to negotiate super hard because of what came up on the inspection report and Kristina kept me really grounded through that process. I was able to negotiate down under $7k asking, and they paid some of my closing costs, and that was awesome. We moved forward and got all the paperwork in order and then I got ready to sign. It was pretty easy, actually. It all flowed well but I know that is not the case for a lot of people in the Austin market. I think it was just meant to be in a lot of ways.

What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself and homeownership?

The biggest thing I learned is that I am super resilient. It’s tough to do what I did, and I want to give myself as much credit as possible. There were a lot of things in the house that I needed to do, and I came close to gutting the house. I was also working on a short timeline because I needed to get a roommate in the house so I could have some help covering the mortgage.

What I learned about homeownership is that it is a lot of responsibility, but it’s also rewarding. It’s actually more rewarding than I thought it was going to be! A lot of people tried to scare me. And there were suddenly things I had to think about that I didn’t have to think about before. One risk is that something big in the house could break and it could be costly to fix. I think it’s most important to be prepared and get a home warranty and good homeowners insurance.

What kept you motivated throughout the process?

I sat down to create a project plan of all the things that were going to need to be done on the house. I had a friend helping me with the design and the colors because I am really indecisive, so it helped to have someone there to hold my hand and make these decisions. I paid for that, but to me, it was priceless. A good motivator was seeing the house come together piece by piece. The house is not entirely where I want it just yet, but it is slowly getting there, and it’s motivating to see it all come to fruition. That’s what kept me going when I knew there was still a lot to be done.

How did you save the money or get the funds?

Saving money has always been something that has come easily to me. And I’m fortunate that my family chipped in and helped me a little. When I can find a side hustle or another way to make some money, I’ll do it, even when I’m not in dire need. I see money as being an energetic thing, and I come to the subject of money with the thought that I’m always going to be abundant in it. I see that it comes back to me three times. For example, when I would go out to eat (rarely because I was saving money), I would always tip really well and put that good energy out in the universe. It’s all about cutting down on things that you don’t necessarily need and being able to understand that time is also money.

Now, having an assistant to help me with certain things so that I can free myself up in other ways to make more money is very important. I always want my money to be working for me. I don’t feel comfortable if I don’t have money saved and I’ve never lived somewhere with super expensive rent. I live frugally. A good tip is to always live two steps beneath what you can afford. It’s really about choices too. Looking at money from a place of abundance instead of a lack of will often result in you having an abundance of money. Budgeting will also help, and there is an app I use called Mint, so when I was nearing my budget for the month, I would get a text message about it.

What are some things that you have not been able to do with your house yet that you want to do?

There are so many more things that I still want to do with my house, but it’s totally liveable right now.

Here is a list of things that I will do eventually:

  • Redo my kitchen and add new appliances.
  • New tiles in the bathroom on the floor and walls
  • Landscaping in the front of the house and trim the trees in the back.
  • Add a privacy fence around the house
  • Build a deck in the back with a screened in porch
  • Replace the siding on the house
  • Get a new AC unit.
  • New windows because I need to replace them with double pane windows.
  • New asphalt for my driveway,
  • Get an automatic door opener for my garage.
  • I want to build a shed and maybe do one of those tiny homes in the back.

Right now I have a little airstream unit back there. It’s been super awesome, and I’m glad I invested in that. I want to build more on the property and have more tenants so I can turn a profit. Right now I’m pretty much breaking even, but I would like to be able to profit off of it, eventually.

How did you get in the mindset for doing something big like buying a house?

I’m addicted to self-growth stuff and learning about myself and others. I feel like I’m here on this earth to learn and get as much as I can out of everything. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I also knew I was going to learn a lot from it. I was excited — that’s just the person I am. I think that it is essential to focus on the goal and why you’re doing it and knowing that you are capable of doing anything. Getting in tune with yourself is also vital. And knowing that buying a house is only going to benefit you. There are going to be so many people giving you their opinions, and they’re going to project their fears onto you. It’s important that you stay very strong and confident in yourself and know that you’re doing the right thing. It’s really easy to let those people come in and completely change your plans.

I was also coming from a place of asking others who have bought houses and flipped it for their thoughts and what they did. Being mindful of who I am asking for opinions from. I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I felt I could do this too. But even walking up to the signing table, I felt nervous but I’m glad that I did this and I think it was helpful having an excellent person to walk me through it. Yeah, it’s a risk, but with big risks, there’s a big reward. You have to take calculated risks, be confident and prepared.

Kristina Modares

Written by

I’m a realtor/investor in Austin, TX. My passion is contributing to others success by helping them reach their big picture goals.

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