Moving too fast
Purchasing a home can be an exciting experience, but many home buyers rush into it. A home is something you’re likely to have for several years, but all too often, people only look at a few places, and fall in love with — and buy — one of the very first properties they’ve seen.
That’s a mistake. Rushing through things, you’ll miss out on other homes that may suit your needs — or your pocketbook — better. Worse, you could end up with a house that’s a bad fit for you.
If the circumstances allow, take your time and visit as many homes for sale as you can. Keep a list, noting each home you’ve seen and what you liked and didn’t like about each. Take the time to revisit homes high on your list, so you have a clear picture about each home’s pluses and minuses. You’ll find that moving more slowly and deliberately will help you make a smarter purchase.
Too often, house hunters simply search the local real estate listings, find a home they like and buy it, knowing very little about local market conditions, the history of the home they’re buying and the surrounding community.
That’s unfortunate, because such information can help you find the right home, know how much to offer when bidding for a home, and even avoid purchasing the wrong house.
Trulia offers lots of real estate information, so use it. Trulia’s Stats and Trends allows you to see how much homes are selling for in your area, how many properties are on the market, where prices are rising or falling, and even community information like the quality of the local schools and a neighborhood’s safety. (Check out Stats & Trends for San Francisco, to see an example.) Trulia’s Advice & Opinions allows you to see what other people are saying about the community and reach out to others for real estate advice.
You can also look up individual homes for sale that interest you and find out information like when a home was last sold and for how much, its size and when it was built. The more you know about a particular property and its surrounding community, the more likely you’ll make a smart purchase when it comes time to buy.
Skipping a home inspection
Having a home inspected before buying seems like another step in a long and sometimes confusing process, but getting a home inspection is well worth it. A good home inspector can alert you to major home defects — like a leaky roof, termite infestations and a shoddy foundation — that could cause many a headache and financial hurt should the property become yours. Getting a quality inspection done can alert you to homes that are a great buy, may need a little work, or are money pits that should be avoided all together.
Choosing the wrong house
It’s possible to fall in love with a home that looks perfect, but in actuality, is not the right property for you. Say, that home with the grand foyer and imposing stairs looks impressive, but once you move in with your 2-year-old, you discover that those stairs give you a fright whenever he climbs them. Or, that open floor plan looked so inviting when you toured the home, but once you move in, you can’t figure out where to put the furniture in the home’s non-defined spaces.
You get a view of how the owner lives in the home when house-hunting, but take the time to consider how you’d occupy the space, and whether it’d truly work for you.
Ignoring your surroundings
When you buy a home, you’re not only getting the walls around you — you’re gaining neighbors and a community as well. It’s a mistake to fall in love with a home without thinking about where it’s situated and who your neighbors might be — because even if the home suits you well, it could turn out that its environment doesn’t.
Buying too much house
When looking to buy a home, many of us aim for the biggest house we can afford. But is biggest always better? Think about whether you really need all that space, and whether you can truly afford it in terms of the mortgage payments and the cost to maintain a home. A home might not be truly enjoyable when you’re struggling to keep up with it financially.
Take a look at your monthly costs (food, debt, utilities, etc.), and try not to have your monthly debts (including your mortgage) be more than 36 percent of your income before taxes. Don’t assume your income will go up and your expenses will remain steady — you want some leeway in case your income goes down and your daily living expenses increase.
Getting the priciest home on the block
Another temptation is to buy the most expensive house on the block. If you can afford it, and you never have to re-sell it, then why not? But most of us change homes at least once or twice in our lifetimes. That’s when buying the best house on the block isn’t a good idea. When it comes time to resell the house, you may find that your asking price far exceeds the price range of other homes in your area and that buyer interest in it will be limited.
Not getting pre-qualified/approved
Getting pre-qualified for a loan gives you an idea of how much you can afford to borrow. If you start house hunting without this pre-approval, you may waste time and energy on homes you can’t afford.
The next step is getting pre-approved for a loan — this gives you an edge once you find that house you want to purchase. A pre-approval letter from a lender shows a seller that a lender has agreed to lend you a specified amount. Without this approval, you will be at a disadvantage when bidding on a home — buyers with financing in place are more attractive to sellers than those without financing. Also, by having pre-approval, you’ll avoid being beat out by another buyer who gets his financing together quicker.
Making an unconditional offer
Putting in an offer without any contingencies may seem like a hassle-free way to purchase a house (and a way to win over a seller who has multiple offers), but it’s actually not a very smart move. A contingency protects you should you have to back out of an offer. Without a contingency, you may be penalized should you have to break a contract and not follow through with the purchase. Among the contingencies you should think of adding to your contract are:
- Make your offer contingent on your ability to get mortgage financing. That is, if you don’t get financing, your contract is null and void.
- Ask for the right to conduct a home inspection. Make your offer contingent on your acceptance of the home inspection’s findings. This gives you the opportunity to ask the seller for fixes, or to back out of the contract should the home be in need of severe repair.
- If you have a house you need to sell before your next home purchase, make the purchase of your next home contingent upon being able to sell the first. That way, if you can’t find a buyer for your home, you’re not roped into going through the purchase of a new one.
Not getting everything in writing
You may think that the stainless-steel fridge comes with your new house, but the home’s seller may have other ideas. So it’s best to put into writing everything that will and won’t be included with the sale of the home, just so you won’t have any surprises when you move in.