I think we’d all be lying if the thought to quit our corporate jobs, sell our belongings, and buy a one-way ticket to our dream destination didn’t cross our minds at least ONCE. Even if you hadn’t thought about it before, you just did, and you have to admit… it sounds pretty nice, right? With a courageous desire to live in the present, that’s exactly what Jesse and Lauren Stuart did in 2017. Putting their comfortable lives in Missouri on hold, the newly married pair (also known as The Wandering Stüs) quit their jobs, sold their belongings, and purchased tickets to Southeast Asia. Satisfying their itch for all things adventure, Jesse and Lauren backpacked around Southeast Asia and Nepal for 8 months. (Okay, amazing) After returning from their travels, the audacious couple was ready for their next great adventure together: buying their first home. In this exclusive article that is apart of our Behind the Buyer series, Jesse and Lauren so kindly take us through the highs and lows of their journey towards homeownership. Here, they offer their insight on budgeting, the greatest challenges they faced, the dreaded renovation process, and leave you with their biggest piece of advice.

Their Next Great Adventure: Homeownership

After meeting in college, getting married in 2016, traveling around the world, and now finally buying their first home, the Stuarts have been through a lot in their time together. Jesse, who runs a restaurant and a potsticker company, and Lauren who is an account executive for an advertising agency, knew that buying a home was something they’d always wanted to do. Jesse stated that when they returned home they realized that, “Buying your own home builds more roots and staying power than if you were to rent.” Standing by their belief that if you can afford to buy a home, you’ll save money in the long-run, the couple started on their journey towards homeownership.


Where to Start

One of the first things that Jesse and Lauren did was to create a budget to start saving for homeownership. By taking their combined monthly income and adding up their expenses each month the couple discussed what they felt comfortable with putting directly into savings. Lauren explained, “It truly is about being disciplined, and we are not by any means a shining example of being disciplined. It just takes being patient, keeping your end goal in mind.” 

Something else the Stuart’s mentioned when finding ways to save is to have an incentive in mind. For example, our platform has a unique set of tools that helps you map out, envision, and save for your future home. Like Lauren mentioned, it really is all about being disciplined, which can be really hard to do on your own! However, Digs holds you accountable and makes this daunting process of saving for homeownership so much easier on you!

Before you even begin looking for a home you should set SMART goals to help create your budget!

Staying on Track

Another thing that the Stuart’s did was to consider what they were looking for in a home. Because Lauren’s family had a history in real estate investment, they knew that this was the route that they wanted to take. Thus, when they began to look at houses within their budget, they had narrowed it down to 4-unit homes, where they would live in one unit and rent out the other three.

Knowing exactly what you want before you start house-hunting makes the process less stressful and go smoother. If you’ve already separated your ‘wants’ vs. ‘needs’ in your future home, it’s easier to stay focused on the things that are at the top of your priority list!

The Part of House Hunting Nobody Talks About

The house-hunting process was something Jesse and Lauren wished they’d been more prepared for. So for any of you who are just beginning your search, listen up! “It’s so easy to fall in love with a house. There’s this one house that we still talk about… we did NOT expect to have some random connection to something that we have no literal attachment to. It was way more emotional and overwhelming than I think we expected it to be.” Lauren expressed.

Authentically speaking, the couple explained how having an unexpected emotional connection to a house can cause you to compromise your budget, which is dangerous. Jesse opened up that this was a very difficult pill for them to swallow when they started hunting. They would find places they really liked but were over their budget. They then had to step back and realize why they set their budget in the first place. 

When househunting it can be really tempting to go over your budget. However, be patient and remember why you set this budget in the first place. Don’t worry, you will find a home you love within your budget, if only you keep searching! Don’t settle until you found the house that fits within your personal and financial goals! You’ve got this!

Renovations: The Marriage Killer?

Only kidding of course, but that does go to say that while renovations are stressful, they’re oh-so-worth-it! Jesse joked, “Let me just say, if you can survive home renovations as a couple, you can pretty much survive anything.” After finally landing on a 4 family house that satisfied their needs, they moved into their home, which was currently being lived in by three other tenants. Since then, the two have been busy making their house into a home.

One thing they did in order to save money was to refurbish the home themselves. “We didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so about 95% of the renovations we’ve done ourselves, besides plumbing and the electrical stuff. We both work full-time so of course, it’s time-consuming… it’s a lot of baby steps towards the finish line, but in the long run, we’ve saved so much money by not paying someone to do these things for us.” 

In order to save money while renovating, consider doing some of the renovations yourself. While it can be time consuming, you may just end up saving money in the long-run, just like Jesse and Lauren did!

Two Cents Worth

Lastly, we’ll leave you with one final piece of homeownership advice from these new homeowners. One thing the Jesse and Lauren were really glad that they did was to explore and local/state/federal incentives. They explained that using a program helped them save a lot of money and get the process kickstarted. “If you can fit in the profile to take advantage of those kinds of programs or grants, definitely do your research and find them! There are a lot of places you can get reduced down payment or in some cases free money to help you buy your first house!”  

We highly encourage you to explore any affordable housing options that can make homeownership more affordable to you! Read about several of them here.

A huge thank you to Jesse and Lauren Stuart for a genuine look into their homeownership adventure! If you are beginning your journey to homeownership soon, be sure to consider Jesse and Lauren’s tips on budgeting, house hunting, and renovations!

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