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121. What I Learned About Business While Buying My First Home

Entrepreneurship is hard… but so is life. And if we can do hard things in life, we can do them in business too. But sometimes we just need a little reminder of that, so that’s what today’s episode is all about.

So, the next time you need a little kick in the butt to get in gear and grow your eCommerce business this episode is a must listen.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why “experts” might be wrong about what’s best for your business
  • The thing you might need to get to your goals faster
  • Why entrepreneurship might not be right for you… and why it’s okay

Episodes Mentioned

31. 3 Things I Learned About Customer Service from a 5 Star Vacation Resort


Read the Full Episode Transcript

Assuming this isn’t the first time you’re hanging with me then it’s pretty safe to say that you are aware that my husband and I just bought our first home. What you might not know though is what a roller coaster ride the process was from getting regularly pushed out by cash offers, waived contingencies and stupid stipulations like renting the place back to the homeowner for $1 while they found a place to live… ahhh, definitely not.

Navigating the home buying process as a first time purchaser is complicated enough but add on the buying frenzy of COVID and the market of Southern California and it’s a straight up shit show. 

As crazy as it all was, it worked out in the end and as I reflect back on my experience over the last 6 months there are definitely a lot of parallels to being an entrepreneur and after constantly thinking about those parallels in the shower–truestory–I felt compelled to share them on the podcast. 

Plus, who doesn’t love to learn business lessons that are wrapped up in other stories. It makes learning a smidge less boring, ya know! If you do enjoy that, make sure you check out episode 31 where I share 3 things I learned about customer service from a 5 star vacation resort. 

Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut and ignore conventional wisdom

As someone who essentially sells information for a living, it might be weird to hear this from me, but hear me out…

When it was time for us to get pre-approved for a mortgage we immediately went to our bank, which is also the bank my mother works for. She put us in touch with the mortgage guy she works with and we got started. The initial process was pretty easy, communication was good and we had everything we needed. 

Then the place we were looking at required us to get pre-approved with their preferred lender which was actually a broker, not a big bank. It was apparently a bit of a strange request according to those we spoke to, but we really wanted the place so we went through the motions with them as well. 

Once it came time to actually get the loan, things took a turn for the worst. Our rep at the big bank was pretty unresponsive, it was hard to get straight answers from him and with an extended closing time of 150 days we had a bit of a special situation and needed a rate lock. 

Mike and I are both the type of people who need to understand all the options before we make a final decision and it was proving to be very difficult to get that sort of thorough explanation from the big bank. It seemed like the only time he ever would respond to our inquiries was when he got a nudge from my Mom which was super annoying because I’m a grown ass woman and don’t need her to do shit for me. I needed him to get on the phone with us to explain our options so we could make an educated decision on the biggest purchase of our life. 

Once we saw this was not going to be an easy task we started inquiring with the broker. They were super responsive, had an online quoting system that would show us all the different options in terms of how many points we could buy to get a few different rates, the premiums we would pay to lock the rate in, what that would mean in terms of our payments, how much we would save, etc. 

They were always willing to hop on a call when we had questions, fully explained the stipulations of the lock period and what our options were if time ran out. We even had the option to float the rate down if rates dropped at any time between our lock start period and closing. 

While there were a few hiccups in communication when it came to the gift we had to account for, the overall process was so much easier and we felt so much more informed when making our decision. Honestly, this was a unique situation for everyone involved and the timing of when we had to do things was totally out of the norm. 

It was a little scary to go with a broker because I had heard some not so great stories about them trying to rip people off, or getting bonuses for hooking people in on higher rates. But in the end we got a much better deal than the big bank was offering us, plus they waived the appraisal requirement which was quite the relief since we were buying in such a crazy time. 

All of this to say: you know your business and situation best. And while I will always encourage you to see help from those that have gone before you – if something feels off, or not quite right for you then it’s okay to do things differently.Even if that information is coming from a trusted advisor, or a family member, or an “expert”

Which leads me into my next lesson…

Kenny Rodgers was right, you need to know when to hold ‘em, fold ‘em and walk away

All cash offers, waiving contingencies and appraisals, renting back units to the seller AFTER close of escrow when they have all their money and you’re responsible for the mortgage… ugh no thanks!

These are just a few of the shenanigans that appeared during our home buying journey. In one case we were actually the highest bidder from a monetary perspective but the other buyer waived all contingencies and therefore ended up getting their offer accepted. 

But we knew what we would and wouldn’t accept, and even though it HURT sometimes, we walked away from things that didn’t ultimately serve us, that would require us to take more risk than we were comfortable with and that’s just not something we were going to do. 

As an entrepreneur it can be really easy to get starry eyed at new opportunities, marketing methods, partnerships–you name it. But as a CEO we have to be able to discern what is going to contribute to our ultimate goals and what isn’t. 

We need to say NO to things that don’t align with our vision. That’s not to say we should always sit in our comfort zones or that we shouldn’t take any risks, we definitely need to do that.. but there’s a difference between saying no to something because we’re afraid vs. it not being the right thing for our business or the direction we want to go.

Ultimately, just because someone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. 

If It Were Easy, Everyone Would do it

This next lesson makes me cringe just thinking about saying out loud… it’s so cliche, but… if it were easy, everyone would do it. 

I’m not going to go into the depths of home ownership and how hard it is to actually get a place… but homeownership is about more than having enough money to purchase one. Its about the long-term investment, the maintenance and all the other tiny things you forget about until they actually pop-up for you. 

Just like homeownership, entrepreneurship, especially when it comes to being on online entrepreneur, has been glamorized over the last few years.  Being your own boss has been portrayed as the ultimate freedom, working from the beach in Bali, hitting 7-figures in revenue … and while it can certainly be all that, it doesn’t come without hustle, hard work and investment. 

I think a lot of people get into this game for the wrong reasons or with the wrong expectations and at the end of the day entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Sometimes we are better off as important cogs in the wheel… and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

I love entrepreneurship… this business is the best job I’ve ever had. Yes, it gives a lot more freedom in terms of my schedule and all that good stuff, but you know what else comes with that? I’m never truly out of office. 

Sure I have boundaries in place but that doesn’t mean my brain can just check out of my business. and nor do I want to,but there’s something to be said for just clocking in and clocking out or not being responsible for other people’s livelihoods.  

Ultimately, I really see two lessons here: 

  1. Be patient. This shit doesn’t happen overnight 
  2. Be intentional about the business you are building. Make sure you really want everything that comes along with the business you are creating. There’s nothing wrong with staying small if that’s what you prefer. 

Having the Right Tools makes all the difference

I already knew this… but now I REALLY know this. Aside from a short stint in my 20’s, I’ve NEVER had a washer and dryer in unit. Seriously. I grew up in apartments and had to cart my shit to the laundry room or the laundry mat. Literally my entire life. And if you’re not sure how old I am just know that they grey streak in my hair is natural. 

Additionally, I have a lot of clothes. So many clothes that I can let my laundry pile up for a long time. Like a really long time. I’ve even been known to buy things I needed because they were all in the dirty laundry pile. It’s not something I’m proud of but hey, I’m only human. 

Here’s the thing though, since we’ve been spending so much time at the new place I’ve actually been doing my laundry. It no longer feels like a chore because I can just pop in and out of the laundry room when I have a moment to switch the load. 

Of course it’s too soon to tell if this is going to stick because we haven’t officially moved in yet, but I gotta say – it’s looking good. 

The same is true for your business. There might be things you loathe doing right now or things you’re not doing well… but it could simply be because you don’t have the right tools. I know a lot of us will often put off investing in things that would make our life or business easier. We think to ourselves when I get to X revenue level, or X number of orders, etc. then I’ll get that tool, or that software, or *insert thing you’re putting off* here. 

But did you ever think that if you invested BEFORE you needed it maybe you’d get to that next level faster? Think about it. If you have the right tools, you can be more efficient, and spend more time getting your business in front of more people, effectively getting more sales, and then getting to that level you want to reach.

I know, the analogy from laundry to sales and business growth is a little thin but you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, right?!

You Can’t Do it Alone

When I think of all the questions we had, the research we did, the people involved in the process… it reminds me that there is little to nothing in this world that we truly do on our own and that is for sure the truth when it comes to entrepreneurship.

If you’re listening to this podcast, then you’re already not doing it alone and kudos to you. But don’t forget to lean on those who came before you, those who are experts or authorities in the things you’re trying to do, and those who are going through the same thing you are right now. Find a place where you feel safe to ask questions, to get feedback, learn new things, gain clarity… whatever it is you need to move forward in this process… the support is out there. 

If you’re still looking for a place like that, don’t forget to check out the Lounge, my membership for eCommerce business owners. Doors don’t open until the end of May but you can get on the waitlist hereeCommerceBadassery.com/membership

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Jessica Totillo Coster of eCommerce Badassery eating gelato on stairs in Rome Italy

Hey, I'm Jessica eCommerce & Email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry I love working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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