8 Worst First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes
Are you gearing up to buy your first place? Shopping for a home is exciting, exhausting and a little bit scary. In the end, your aim is to end up with a home you love at a price you can afford. Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, many people make mistakes that prevent them from achieving this simple dream. Arm yourself with these tips to get the most out of your purchase and avoid making 10 of the most costly mistakes that could put a hold on that sold sign.
1. Not Knowing What You Can Afford
As we’ve all learned from the subprime mortgage mess, what the bank says you can afford and what you know you can afford or are comfortable with paying are not necessarily the same. If you don’t already have a budget, make a list of all your monthly expenses (excluding rent), including vehicle costs, student loan payments, credit card payments, groceries, health insurance, retirement savings and so on. Don’t forget major expenses that only occur once a year, like any insurance premiums you pay annually or annual vacations. Subtract this total from your take-home pay and you’ll know how much you can spend on your new home each month.
If you end up looking at homes that are outside your price range, you’ll end up lusting after something you can’t afford, which can put you in the dangerous position of trying to stretch beyond your means financially or cause you to feel unsatisfied with what you actually can afford. You may even learn that you can’t afford the type or size of home that you desire and that you need to work on reducing your monthly expenses and/or increasing your income before you even start looking.
2. Skipping Mortgage Qualification
What you think you can afford and what the bank is willing to lend you may not match up, especially if you have poor credit or unstable income, so make sure to get pre-approved for a loan before placing an offer on a home. If you don’t, you’ll be wasting the seller’s time, the seller’s agent’s time, and your agent’s time if you sign a contract and then discover later that the bank won’t lend you what you need, or that it’s only willing to give you a mortgage that you find unacceptable.
Be aware that even if you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, your loan can fall through at the last minute if you do something to alter your credit score, like finance a car purchase. If you cause the deal to fall through, you may have to forfeit the several thousand dollars that you put up when you went under contract.
3. Failing to Consider Additional Expenses
Once you’re a homeowner, you’ll have additional expenses on top of your monthly payment. Unlike when you were a renter, you’ll be responsible for paying property taxes, insuring your home against disasters and making any repairs the house needs.
4. Being Too Picky
Go ahead and put everything you can think of on your new home wish list, but don’t be so inflexible that you end up continuing to rent for significantly longer than you really want to. First-time homebuyers often have to compromise on something because their funds are limited. You may have to consider holding off on some of the upgrades that you would like, some amenities, such as granite counter tops, ceramic tile, etc.. can always be done at a later date. Of course, you can always choose to continue renting until you can afford everything on your list – you’ll just have to decide how important it is for you to become a homeowner now rather than in a couple of years.
5. Lacking Vision
You must be open-minded when you are house hunting, and you should always keep in mind WANTS vs. NEEDS. Lacking vision could cost you the house of your dreams. If the home lacks a few upgrades that you would like but, otherwise meets your needs in terms of the big things that are difficult to change, such as location and size, don’t let physical imperfections turn you away.
6. Being Swept Away
The price of foreclosures may seem like a great deal, but you should look beyond that low price tag, and make a detailed list of items that would need to be repaired (with the cost of the repair). Sometimes if it seems to good to be true…..
7. Compromising on the Important Things
Don’t get a two-bedroom home when you know you’re planning to have kids and will want three bedrooms. By the same token, don’t buy a condo just because it’s cheaper when one of the main reasons you’re over apartment life is because you hate sharing walls with neighbors. It’s true that you’ll probably have to make some compromises to be able to afford your first home, but don’t make a compromise that will be a major strain.
8. Not Thinking About the Future
It’s impossible to perfectly predict the future of your chosen neighborhood, but paying attention to the information that is available to you now can help you avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.