You Never Forget Your First Time: Has The Romance Gone Out of Being a First Time Buyer?

Mortgage and Lending with Platinum Home Mortgage Company NMLS #238304

I was a brand new real estate agent, and must have looked pretty ridiculous in my miniskirt, long blond ponytail, driving an over-sized and totally inappropriate white Chevrolet Impala (which was dubbed the "tuna boat" by my husband).

But hey, it was the seventies, the real estate market was rotten, and I was more than a little clueless. It is truly amazing what enthusiasm can overcome when you are a complete green pea.

The very last thing on my mind that balmy Sunday afternoon was BUYING a house. My entire focus was on SELLING a house (to some of my first clients).

When the little red cottage came into view, it was absolute love at first sight. 

Not for my clients. For me. Completely and utterly head over heels, madly, can't think straight, crazy in love. You know what I mean if you have ever felt this way.

The red cottage was invisible from the street, in an older area near downtown that had been all but forgotten. The rage then was all those brand new suburban homes being built much further out, treeless, near "good schools" with avocado green dishwashers, and beige stucco siding.

The cottage had been built in the 1930's, most probably as someone's summer home. It was surrounded by ancient trees. A winding path lined on each side with bright yellow daffodils led right to the front door.  

In an era of gold shag carpeting and rustic brick fireplaces, it stood in stark contrast with wide plank polished hardwood floors, simple white wool berber carpets cut to fit each room, and a flagstone fireplace.

In an era of narrow walk though kitchens, it had a big square country kitchen, attached to a genuine old fashioned dining room. Not just the dining "L" that was popular in that era. 

And in the backyard, was a Japanese style fish pond, with pink waterlilies floating on top of the water.  Huge gold and black spotted koi begged to be fed. The resident bullfrog provided the background music for this scene, and a tiny little dock hung out over the water among the reeds. 

Weeping cherry trees hung over the pond. All this, and it was long before the word "ZEN" came into being.

Completely enchanted, I couldn't get rid of my clients fast enough.

You do crazy things when you are crazy in love, and within a day, and without any idea how to come up with a 10% down payment or closing costs, I bought the little red cottage.

I didn't know much, but I knew how to write a contract. Even with my parents and my husband in the background begging me to "calm down" and "think it over".

We were too proud to ask our parents for any help. So we sold our car, emptied every bank account we owned, and got my real estate company to apply the entire 3% commission to the down payment.

We were certain we would never be able to buy groceries again, certain we would never be able to afford the payment, certain we were destined to be poor for the rest of our lives.

But heart overruled head, as it often does when you are young and madly in love. We succumbed to the romance of the red cottage. The early years of our married life were spent gazing at the fish, falling asleep to the chorus of frogs in the pond, and hosting some parties that (to this day) remain legends among our friends. 

The payments? A little bit of a struggle. The experience? Priceless.

 We have these memories to cherish forever.

This many years later, you would never know the red cottage existed. As the downtown gentrified, the cottages disappeared, and one by one, they morphed into McMansion style homes more befitting of their prestigious addresses.

As I watch my first time buyers struggle with financing issues, sometimes overcome with the stress of making 15 offers before they win a foreclosed house in a multiple offer situation, I wonder if something very special has disappeared.

Along with the red cottage.



What was your first home buying experience like? Care to share?


Written by Janet Guilbault, Mortgage Lending Specialist Based Out of the San Francisco Bay Area



Rosa Updale
Appleseed Group - Staten Island, NY
Associate Broker

REAL ESTATE IN THE 70'S!!  I remember the first MLS book here on Staten Island, NY.  We thought it was the greatest thing.  When I think of it now...OMG...we carried this book around that was outdated before we opened it!

Apr 09, 2009 01:46 PM
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR

I loved the story and wonder if you are still in the red cottage?

Apr 09, 2009 02:05 PM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Ah, the first home. We described how we got into this business in a real estate video a year ago, what our first home was and that interest rates were 12.25 in an age of 16% so we felt excited and scared a little, a normal emotion. Good post.

Apr 09, 2009 02:10 PM
Erik Hitzelberger
RE/MAX Alliance - Louisville REALTOR-Luxury Homes - Louisville, KY
Louisville - Middletown Real Estate

We bought our first home about 12 years ago.  At the time, we found 2 very similar homes that we liked.  One was a few thousand less, but needed a bit more work (paint, wallpaper, etc).  In the end, this was the one we correctly chose.  It was a great home and met all of our needs.  It provided a place to live, entertain, and, eventually, start a family.  Over time we worked to maintain and upgrade it.  As we did this, the thought process never revolved around whether the upgrade had a given ROI.  We were more concerned about whether it improved our lives.  I still believe that your house should reflect your needs, wants, and style.  If necessary, tone it down when selling, but until then your house is to LIVE IN.  My first house cost $76k and I'd probably still live there if we hadn't relocated. 

Apr 09, 2009 02:44 PM
Kristi DeFazio
RE/MAX Advantage - Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs Rea lEstate 719-459-5468

What a nice topic. My first home is special because it reminds me of bringing home my FIRST BABY to that home. Great memories there in that small space!

Apr 09, 2009 02:48 PM
Greg Miller
Ruoff Home Mortgage - Sarasota, FL
Florida Home Loans - Conventional,FHA,USDA,VA

I Remember my first home Janet, in 1978 I paid 18,500 and was scared to death at the $265 a month payments. I was 18 and on the hook for 20 years.Costs more than that now to redo a kitchen. I do laugh and remember when sometimes I see some trashed out foreclosure go for 20,000. LOL

Funny - One of my very first posts here on Active Rain  was         "You Always Remember your first Time" about my very first listing,a 14,000 sq. ft. log home & I had never sold anything.

 Nice post, Thanks for sharing.

Apr 09, 2009 02:53 PM
Bob Foster
Century 21 Lanthorn R. E. Ltd. Belleville, Ontario - Belleville, ON

I still sense a lot of the same enthusism and pride in home ownership, Janet. Yes, the world is a more complicated place, but it's still a great experience for young homeowners.

Apr 09, 2009 02:58 PM
Mike Frazier
Carousel Realty of Dyer County - Dyersburg, TN
Northwest Tennessee Realtor
Great post! Congrats on the feature. I will never forget mine and my wifeaks first house. It was a fixer upper!
Apr 09, 2009 03:46 PM
Laura Forty-Garcia
Your Central Florida Connection to Real Estate

I love your posts.. I remember my first Home.. It is still my current home and I love it...

Apr 09, 2009 04:22 PM
Karen Cooper
Karen Cooper | Sr Mortgage Loan Originator ! NMLS # 223305 | First Federal Bank of Florida, Ocala, FL - The Villages, FL
Helping Homeowners w/Home Loans in 27 US States

Hi Janet - I love your story about your first home purchase. Mine was much less romantic, but equally many 23 year olds get to buy a home with one of their best friends, a home with a 180 degree ocean view in Hermosa Beach? What a thrill! Raced home every day from work to catch sunsets - and meet my friends, of course - and didn't mind eating all that Top Ramen one bit. 3 blocks from the beach, I was one happy camper. Was just as happy when I sold that home, took the proceeds from the sale, and traveled Europe for almost a year. Came back, and bought a vacation home in the mountains in Big Bear AND rented an apartment at the beach. Those were the days...

Apr 09, 2009 04:34 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I too was an agent when I bought my first home, a couple years into the business.  My husband and I had been playing with the idea for a couple of years, looking at this one and then that one when something caught our eye, but never really committing.  Finally, we found the right one.  I was so nervous, I called my mom over to see it and made her help me write up the offer as I was too excited to be sure I was thinking straight.

Apr 09, 2009 04:40 PM
Roland Woodworth
Blue Cord Realty - Clarksville, TN
Blue Cord Realty

This was a great reading post.. thanks for sharing.... I'm sure glad I was not in a mini skirt on my first showing... LOL

Apr 09, 2009 04:56 PM
Daren Krause
Keller Williams Realty - Austin, TX

The romance hasn't gone anywhere.  You're simply describing buyers that are approaching the process from a less emotional standpoint.  They are letting economics and reason command the process rather than  dreams and feelings.  Either way, first time homebuyers are emotionally charged; whether they know it or not, they're dealing with a great deal of stress amidst the excitement, uncertaintly, fear, and hope.

Apr 09, 2009 04:59 PM
Sally Dunbar
Lyon Real Estate, Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento Area) - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks Realtor - Fair Oaks Homes for Sale

Janet and the others... Isn't it cool to think that the first time homebuyer we closed escrow on today will look back in 30 years and tell someone of his own excitment buying his first home.  The first time is special, and we are so lucky to be a part of it with our clients.

Apr 09, 2009 05:15 PM

One of the things I enjoy most is reading the "real" stories of those who are comfortable to share their vulnerabilities, their raw thank you.

But I have to know, whatever became of the red cottage?


Apr 09, 2009 05:46 PM
Laraine Shape
Comey & Shepherd Realtors - Glendale, OH
Selling kitchen at a time

Janet - Wow!  What a beautifully written story.  I'm practically swooning. I felt as though I was right there with you the day you found your little, red cottage.  And I can totally relate.  Bet you wish you still had that white "tuna boat."  :-) Thanks for the morning uplift.  Laraine

Apr 10, 2009 12:08 AM
Brian Turner
Realty Direct - Washington, DC

Great article.  I will never forget my first home...just wish I had a better real estate agent and loan person.

Apr 10, 2009 12:18 AM
Valerie M. Blake (Prudential Carruthers Realtors)

Janet, I'm right there with you, mini-skirt and all.  It was 1977.  I was 22 and just divorced (!) and living in the Detroit area.  I paid $22,200 for the house.  I have no idea what style it was before its addition, but when I bought it, it looked like one of the houses we would draw in elementary school, but listing to the right.  Not that it was really listing - they had just added a room on the side and decided not to make the roof symmetrical or even its own, but just ran the new roof up at an angle to the top.

It had 3 bedrooms (including the first floor addition), one bath (on the top floor in the eaves so my gentleman friend at the time always had to sit to "read the paper," if you know what I mean.  There was a huge storage room on the back of the house that was painted yellow and blue - horizontally.  Apparently the former owner had decided to change the color and had simply painted as high as she could reach.

But I was the only one in my crowd who actually owned a house!  Imagine my 70's decor as I decorated: black, white and brown foil wallpaper in the bathroom, plaid wallpaper in yellow, orange and green in the guest bedroom, silver and blue foil in my office and in the kitchen, a striped paper in blues and greens coupled with indoor/outdoor carpet on the floor in a graphic pattern.  I'm sure the sound of all that will make our younger colleagues gag, but how stylish it was for the day!

Despite its character flaws, I loved this little house and proudly sold it for a capital gain of $2.50 two years later.  Never rented again.


Apr 10, 2009 01:32 AM
Andrew Haslett
Van Warren Home Inspections, NAHI CRI - Fort Knox, KY
Heartland of Kentuckynulls, Best Home Inspector

Buying my first home:

I wanted to buy in another area.

I wanted a certain "look".

I lived in an area with older homes, none of those new-fangled, olive green jobs. New construction was rare to find.

Lenders were JUST starting to be willing to accept 5% down. I had to go to 6 hours of seminars about buying and owning a home: listen to brokers, agents, appraisers, ...

I was pretty clear about what I wanted.

My agent was excellent at finding 5 homes that fit my criteria.

First home I walked into was IT. Most homes had tiny living rooms, lots of walls that carved up space, and carpet. I walked into a 1000 SF home that was 25% living room, no hall, fireplace, hardwood floors.

Apr 10, 2009 05:05 AM
Rita Bradley
Laguna Hills, CA
Valuation Consultant in Orange County California 949-916-3263

Beautiful made me WANT that house. 

Apr 16, 2009 11:16 AM