The goal behind Digs is to be as transparent about the home buying process as possible. We work to help guide you through your journey towards homeownership through education and saving. That’s why we interviewed our CEO to give you a little behind-the-scenes of how the company got started, as well as providing you insight on his own adventure to becoming a homeowner. In this post, we’ll be discussing where the seed of Digs came from, our mission, and insider information about the home buying process, as told by our very own co-founder and CEO, Pat McLoughlin.
The Seed of Digs
In 2010, Pat (left) graduated from Miami University with a major in Architecture. Right out of college he got a job working in commercial development and real estate, before starting a non-profit with his friend from college, Chad Johnson (right, also fellow Digs co-founder). Carrying on this recurring theme of housing in Pat’s life, their non-profit, dubbed “Build Abroad” builds homes in developing countries.
Pat had been busy saving money after graduation but was not sure where to invest it. Even though he was clearly interested in real-estate, he wasn’t sure if he’d even be able to afford a house. His curiosity led him to spend multiple hours researching, where he stumbled upon several first-time homebuyer programs. Pat would spend his days working and his nights scanning the pages of “Home Buying for Dummies,” hungry to know more about this process.
After finding himself in a good enough financial position, he bought his very first fixer-upper in Chicago. Afterward, he admitted that many of his friends saw him as this ‘home buying expert’ (he claims he wasn’t) and began seeking him out for advice about home buying. He explained, “Their questions made me realize that many people were interested in buying a home, but didn’t really know where to start. The seed of Digs was planted at that point.” Even though Pat and Chad didn’t start the company for another couple of years, this idea to guide people through the home-buying process was sparked.
The first initial idea for Digs was to be used specifically as a way to save for your future house. However, the idea has evolved a bit over time as the company has grown. Pat stated, “I think as we started to build this out, we saw that this journey goes beyond just the time that you’re saving for a house, but also the time after you own a home. We want to give you the financial tools to help make the best financial decisions. In reality, a home is the biggest down payment you have, the biggest debt you usually have, and when you retire it’s the biggest asset you typically own, so we’re working towards creating a suite of tools that really helps people throughout their entire lifetime.” The mission behind Digs is to add clarity to the biggest purchase of your life.
Behind the Buyer – CEO Style
Buying a house is an exciting adventure, but it’s even more fun when you get to do it with the one you love. Shortly after getting married, Pat and his wife were looking at purchasing their first home together. Unsure of whether or not this was something they could afford after their wedding expenses, they began talking to mortgage lenders to see if it was a good financial decision. After deciding to continue with the process, they landed on a two-flat in Chicago with extreme potential and after receiving an FHA loan that covered both the property and construction, the renovation process began!
In Front of Their New Home
The process of gut renovation is not for the faint of heart. The home that they purchased hadn’t been lived in for several years and was essentially falling apart. However, the pair were able to envision all that the house would become and were excited to build something of their own together. “Luckily, my wife is an architect,” Pat declared. “As newlyweds, the renovation was exciting because it was an opportunity to create something of our own.” A lengthy road ahead of them, Pat described the journey as being “long, kind of fun, but also very stressful.”
There are pros and cons that come with each type of homeownership, whether you decide to build, buy new, or completely renovate. Acknowledging that renovating a house may be an intimidating process, Pat advises future home buyers, “ to set realistic budgets with construction projects.” To be sure that remodeling is for you, plan for everything to be on the higher side. The weather can’t be controlled and projects get delayed. Fees you weren’t expecting suddenly appear. Thus, it’s important to note that schedules get pushed back, and unforeseen expenses pop up, causing a project like this to usually be a little bit more expensive than expected.
Renovating both sides of their two-flat at the same time, one for them and one for a renter, was no easy feat. With his background in construction management, Pat oversaw the process as everything was torn down to the studs. “For a year, every day was something new; choosing fixtures, ordering materials, making sure the contractors showed up, the permits, it was very intensive. However, it was worth it because we knew we were building our first home together.” Pat expressed.
Making Their House a Home
A house is just a building until you make it a home. While Pat had the unique opportunity to manage the construction, his wife handled the interior design, adding her own personal touches to the home. Pat stated that from a design stand-point his favorite part is the bathroom, “It’s a really neat bathroom that my wife custom tiled. She spends a lot of time there getting ready in the morning so it’s probably her favorite too.” Another favorite aspect of his home is the opportunity to finally have his own workspace, “For some people that may not be that important, but having the opportunity to have a place of my own where I can sprawl out without having to worry about having my papers cleared off the table in time for dinner. I can just sprawl my stuff out, shut the door, and get to work.”
Before – Bathroom
After – Bathroom
Another important aspect to consider when looking to buy a house is the neighborhood. Pat’s first home was located in the same neighborhood and after living there for several years, they knew that the area was right for them. Attracting a younger population, their up-and-coming neighborhood is growing every day. “We really enjoy getting to experience all of the new restaurants and bars as they pop up. We’re a block away from the train station, so it’s super easy to get to the city. I think just having the ownership factor gives you that much more pride in your neighborhood than you have if you rent.”
While Pat and his wife’s journey to buying their first home together was long and frustrating at times, being able to create something of their own was worth it in the end. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to buying a home. Everybody’s roads to homeownership looks different. Learning from other people’s home-buying journeys can equip us to become more prepared for our own!
Before – Kitchen
After – Kitchen
Before – Attic
After – Attic turned master bedroom!