If you are in the process of buying a home, you’ve probably heard all the recommended “Do’s,” but you probably haven’t been warned about the “Don’ts.” Here’s my list of 7 mistakes for homebuyers to avoid.
- Falling For the Lipstick on a Pig
It’s so easy to be impressed by fresh paint, flooring, and light fixtures. And without the experience or expertise, it’s easy to be wooed by bad craftsmanship and not even realize it’s a crap job! So before falling in love and having all of your emotions invested in a home, ask those with more knowledge (your realtor perhaps?): What do we know about the house’s structure and major systems (like HVAC, plumbing, and electric)? Do you see any signs that the craftsmanship is DIY or subpar?
A “flip home” or remodeled home isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be a great thing! You want to keep your feelings in check enough to make sure that the “look” of the home does indeed match the quality you are hoping for.
- Not Doing a Home Inspection
Statistically speaking, purchasing a house is probably the most significant asset you will ever purchase. And you should absolutely know whether the house is safe and structurally sound before becoming its owner. There are many reasons home buyers can be persuaded not to have a home inspection. So don’t be manipulated! Even if it is a hot market where you need to waive your Inspection Contingency, it doesn’t mean you can’t have an inspection. It will mean you can’t back out of the contract for property condition without some sort of penalty, but don’t let that penalty stop you from finding out if the home needs $40,000 in foundation repair or $25,000 for electrical rewiring. Most of the time, you won’t find out something huge like that, and the home will be just fine.
- Being Rigid on Needs and Wants List
When I first meet with new home buyers, we always discuss their Needs and Wants list. It’s essential to have a plan when shopping for a home so that you don’t get lost in the hundreds of possibilities that are for sale.
However, I’ve often experienced home buyers that become so attached to their Needs and Wants that they forget the overall goal: to become a homeowner. Whether it’s your first home or your fifteenth, develop your list of Needs and Wants, and think about the bigger picture. For example, is it more important to have the fourth bedroom or a walk-in closet in the primary bedroom? Does the school district trump the size of the home? Is it more important to have an updated, move-in ready home or have a swimming pool?
It’s easy to become stressed and upset when we aren’t finding all the things we “Need” in a home. Usually, this means we need to reexamine our Needs, as maybe it doesn’t fit our budget or perhaps there just aren’t enough homes like that in the area you are looking for. Sometimes, we can find exactly the home we want but don’t even know it with a minor tweak to our list!
- Avoiding Fixer-Uppers
This one isn’t for everyone; however, one of your most significant opportunities to get into that great neighborhood and build huge equity is by being willing to purchase the Ugly Duckling. Do you remember the story about the funky duckling that turned out to be a beautiful swan? Find the swan!
Not all fixer-uppers are created equal. The ideal ones are in a great neighborhood and mostly need cosmetic work instead of structural work. However, in my experience, it’s almost impossible to find a home that doesn’t need at least one major fix (examples: roof, HVAC, retaining wall, deck replacement). If you can afford it both financially and emotionally, buying a home that needs work can really open up what homes and neighborhoods are available to you in your budget.
- Refusing to View the Homes with Bad Pictures
Please don’t take it out on the house; blame the listing agent! What do I mean? It isn’t the home’s fault that someone (IE., the listing agent) decided to shoot their pictures using an iPhone and had no idea about lighting, composition, editing, etc. Poor marketing doesn’t mean it’s a bad home. Don’t skip these properties because it could be your opportunity to 1. Find your perfect house, and 2. Have less competition because others missed it too.
- Being Too Set on a Specific Community
Location, location, location! We’ve all heard it a million times. And yes, what area you choose to purchase a home in is essential. However, there are times when our dream neighborhood and our budget don’t line up. No matter how good your real estate agent is, no one is magic, and they can’t make a home come up for sale that matches everything you want in your favorite neighborhood if it doesn’t align with what others are willing to pay to be there. Trust me; I wish I could make it happen!
Here’s my tip: Remember the overarching reasons why you want to live in that community and then find something that has a similar feel. Is it the good schools? The cool cafes? Once you know why you are most interested in that community or neighborhood, you can focus your energy on finding a community that offers that same feel but at a lesser cost. It may not be perfect, but you’ll own a home and be building equity that can be used toward your next home that hopefully will be in that dream neighborhood.
- Walking Away Because the House Isn’t Perfect
I’ve seen it happen so many times: A home buyer finally finds “The One,” gets into contract on the home, does home inspections…and then panics! Usually, it’s because the home inspection report is 40+ pages long and includes EVERYTHING that could/should be upgraded. A real estate agent may refer to this as the “Honey-Do” list, but it’s easy for a home buyer to be overwhelmed and think the house is falling down.
My recommendation: take a deep breath and have your real estate agent and home inspector walk you through the most critical items for health and safety that need to be addressed quickly. Then negotiate with the seller to fix those items or compensate you for them.
Here’s where home buyers get confused. Sometimes they believe a seller is supposed to fix everything on the list. And that just isn’t true or reasonable. So instead of dwelling on the fact that the house isn’t perfect, remember why you loved the home in the first place. Often you’ll realize that you still really want to be in that house in that neighborhood and will be willing to fix the items needed to bring it up to your standards.
Please note, I’m not suggesting that you have to purchase the home that ACTUALLY is falling down or has several hidden problems that really do compromise the home’s integrity.
The Big Picture
Buying a home is a whirlwind! Google may tell you otherwise, but it really is an intricate and ever-changing process, meaning it’s always best to have a knowledgeable advisor by your side. Need a recommendation on who can help you through the home buying process? Call me – I might know an excellent real estate agent 😉
There are tons of articles out there that give information on what a home buyer should be doing to set themselves up for success. But what we rarely see are articles on what a home buyer absolutely should avoid doing to be able to buy their dream home. Having helped many people find their next home, I can say from experience that some of the tips outlined below can be deal-breakers – as in, I’ve had buyers lose the home because they couldn’t follow a couple of basic guidelines. Some of the other tips just plain make it easier for you to get through the process.
Open New Lines of Credit
It is so tempting to get that new refrigerator (or washer/dryer or furniture) for your new home and open up one of those big box store credit cards to take advantage of the extra discount they offer. However, this could be the downfall of your home purchase, and wouldn’t it be terrible to have that fridge with no home to put it in? So please, do not open a new line of credit when you are trying to purchase a home. This is especially important between the time you get an offer accepted and closing on your new home. But really, this is important from the moment you get pre-approved for your mortgage.
Let me explain…Your mortgage pre-approval is based on your income and your debts. A mortgage lender looks closely at what money you reliably make on a monthly and yearly basis, and then they compare this to what you owe. Every lender and loan type has different guidelines as to what is an acceptable debt-to-income ratio, and if you change your ratios during the purchase process, you may actually no longer qualify. Yikes!
At a minimum, consult with your real estate agent and mortgage lender before opening a new line of credit to make sure it won’t mess anything up.
Buy a New Car
I don’t know what it is about a new home that makes people want to run out and get a new (or new to them) vehicle. Maybe it’s the new neighborhood? Or a new garage? Whatever the reason, now is not the time.
The reasoning is about the same as above, with one additional component. Yes, taking out a new auto loan can mess with your debt-to-income ratio. But also, auto purchases usually require a down payment, and if this is pulled from your savings, you could accidentally lower your reserves to the point that you no longer qualify for a loan (or at least at the amount you need). This is because mortgage lenders pay attention to how much savings you’ll have after the home purchase transaction finishes, and those savings are called reserves. Each lender and loan type has different guidelines regarding reserves, so make sure you understand what they are in order to stay compliant.
Procrastinate On Turning in Paperwork
As a real estate agent, I understand this is such a stressful time! However, it doesn’t mean we can let things like signing important documents and turning in paperwork move to the backburner. In fact, buying a house means you need to up your paperwork game!
Once a seller has agreed to your offer, you are in a binding contract. And part of that contract are timeframes that you are obligated to follow. The consequences of not following the time frames could be as dire as losing out on the home of your dreams. No one wants that for you!
So please, when your real estate agent or mortgage lender asks you to sign a disclosure or turn in some financial documents, please make it a priority to do so. Of course, you can ask questions to make sure you understand what you are signing and why, but let’s be prompt to get those answers.
Skip the Home Inspections
There seem to be three reasons that home buyers decide to skip home inspections.
- They are in the construction industry and believe they can do it themselves.
- They are tight on money and think it’ll be ok.
- The market is so crazy hot and competitive that they think it’s the only way to win the home.
Regardless of why you are considering skipping the home inspections, please don’t! A home could be absolutely gorgeous and recently remodeled but still have issues with its major plumbing, electrical, roof, and HVAC systems.
Most of the time, the home inspection will inform you of what should be on your to-do list to keep the home comfortable and performing at its best. That often includes a few larger items that you may want addressed before owning the home. Sometimes though, during the inspections, you may find some significant causes of concern about whether you actually want to purchase the house (like finding out it needs a $50,000 foundation fix – eek!). And believe me, I’d rather you be able to walk away from a money pit and lose a bit of money now instead of a ton later.
Most people don’t consider that inspection reports are actually leverage. Without the inspector’s report, it becomes difficult (if not impossible) to negotiate with the seller for repairs to be done.
Panic When the Home Isn’t Perfect
We all know there is no such thing as perfect. And yet, when it comes to buying a home, I’ve often seen my clients become panicked or angered when they find out something is “wrong” with the house.
I’ll comment on brand new homes in a moment, but to begin, let’s assume you are purchasing a house that has been lived in by someone else (we call this a resale home). When you viewed the home initially, it was clean and shiny and looked like a perfect home to you. But then you did the home inspection (thank you!) and found out that some parts of the home aren’t up to today’s building codes and that there is a leaky faucet, or the floor isn’t relatively level, etc. Every house has something that needs to be fixed, quirky, or isn’t up to today’s codes. That’s just the way it is. Building codes change all the time, and homeowners aren’t expected to change things every time a code changes. Homeowners generally aren’t DIY wizards either and often overlook something that a home inspector may deem “wrong” because they don’t even know it’s incorrect.
Almost everything can be fixed. Some things are more expensive or unsafe than others, and that’s when you may want to negotiate for it to be repaired. For the things that may be harder to fix but aren’t necessarily unsafe (like the slightly unlevel floor), you just have to decide if it’s something you can live with. I personally like to think of those things as the home’s personality quirks. Like your dog’s snoring, it annoys you, but you also love it!
A quick note on New Build Homes: You will have an opportunity to do a walk-through with the foreman. Make sure to really look at everything in depth. Most new home builders are very good at addressing any fixes (cosmetic or otherwise) before closing the sale. Most new home companies also offer extended warranties on workmanship and parts, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them down the road when something stops working the way it should.
Ready to Own a Home?
I hope this article will help you on your journey to homeownership! If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s how to help my clients avoid accidentally missing their opportunity to own the home that’s right for them. Have questions about the path to homeownership? Give me a call today – I’d love to help.