The Peggy Patenaude Team's Blog
Buying your first home is undoubtedly a long and complex process for someone who has little to no experience in the subject. Your average first-time homeowner learns as they go, with the help of their real estate agent and mortgage lender.
But, even so, first-time buyers often make many mistakes along the way that they could have avoided with prior knowledge and preparation.
In today’s article, we’re going to cover 5 of the most common mistakes that first-time homebuyers make when purchasing a home. From the first house you look at up until closing on your first home, we’ll cover common mistakes from each step of the way to give you the knowledge you need to make the best home buying decisions.
1. Shopping for homes preemptively
Once you decide that you’re interested in potentially buying a home in the near future, it’s tempting to hop online and start looking at listings. But, searching for your dream home at this stage is a poor use of your time.
It’s best to use this time to start thinking about the bigger picture. Have you secured financial aspects of owning a home, such as a down payment, a solid credit score, and two years of steady employment history?
You’ll also need to have a clear picture of what you want your life to look like for the next 5-7 years. Will you still want to live in the same area, or will your job lead you elsewhere?
These are all questions to ask yourself before you start house hunting that will inform your process along the way and make your hunt a lot easier.
2. Not knowing your budget
It’s a common mistake for first-time buyers to go into the house hunting process without a clearly mapped budget. You want to make sure that after all of your expenses (mortgage payment, utilities, bills, debt, etc.) that you still have leftover income for savings, retirement, and an emergency fund.
Make a detailed spreadsheet of your expenses and determine how much you can afford each month before you start shopping for mortgages.
3. Borrowing the maximum amount
While it may be tempting to buy the most expensive house you can get approved for, there are a number of reasons this might be a bad idea for you, financially. Stretching your budget each month is putting yourself at risk for not being able to contribute to savings, retirement, and emergency funds.
Furthermore, you may find that the extra square-footage you purchased wasn’t worth having to cut corners in other areas of your life, like hobbies, entertainment, and dining out.
4. Forgetting important expenses
If you’re currently renting an apartment, you might be unaware of some of the lesser-known costs of homeownership. Your chosen lender will provide you with an estimate of the closing costs, which you’ll have to budget for.
However, there are also maintenance, repairs, utilities, and other bills that you’ll have to figure into your monthly budget.
5. Waiving contingencies or giving the benefit of the doubt
While it may seem like an act of goodwill to give the seller the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like home inspections, it’s usually a bad idea to waive contingencies.
The process of purchasing a home, along with a purchase contract, have been designed to protect both your interests and the seller’s interests. It isn’t selfish to want to know exactly what you’re getting into when making a purchase as significant as a home.
If this is your first time buying a home, you might be worried that you aren’t asking enough questions. Or maybe you’re concerned you’re not asking the right questions--the things that matter the most when making a financial decision as important and life-changing as buying a home.
While everyone’s situation is unique when buying a home, there are some questions that all buyers could benefit from asking. These questions will help you learn more about the home, how competitive the house is, and how much work you’ll need to put into it.
Since time is usually of the essence for people buying a home, it makes sense to ask questions early on so that you don’t waste too much time exploring an option that isn’t ideal for your situation.
In this article, we’re going to give you 5 important questions to ask when you talk to a seller and their agent so that you can be prepared to make the best decision for you or your family.
1. How flexible is the asking price?
While few sellers or agents will outright tell you if they’d accept a lower offer, it’s still a good idea to ask this question, as it will open up a conversation about the seller’s feelings toward the home and whether they’re pricing high with the hopes of receiving slightly lower offers.
2. How many offers has the home received?
It may seem counterintuitive, but most agents and sellers will be quite happy to tell you if they’ve received other offers. They know that once you know the current offer you’ll have to either come up with a higher offer or move on. It’s a win-win for you and the seller, as it equips both of you with information you need to make the best choice.
3. Why are the sellers moving away?
This question can be personal, so if you receive an answer that suggests it’s a family matter, don’t press for too many details. However, some sellers and agents will let you know exactly why the house is for sale. From this simple question, you can learn the seller’s timeline for making the sale, details about the schools or neighborhoods, and any other reason that might drive someone to move out of the neighborhood.
4. Are there any problems with the house that you know of?
Although you’ll have an inspection contingency in your contract if you do decide to make an offer on the home, it’s better to know if there are any issues with the home before going through the bidding process.
Most sellers understand this and will be upfront about any problems with the home, including repairs that need to be made now or will need to be made soon after you move in.
5. What is the average cost of utilities?
Buying a home comes with a lot of added costs and fees. However, many people forget about the changes in the cost of utilities that comes with buying a home--especially if you’re moving from an apartment where some utilities may have been included.
The seller will be able to give you a good estimate on the cost of electricity, garbage removal, internet, heat, and more.
You know you want to pursue a home, and as such, likely plan to attend lots of house showings in the near future. Before you check out a residence in-person, however, it generally is a good idea to prepare as much as possible. That way, you can use a home showing to learn about a residence, evaluate a house's pros and cons and determine if a particular home is right for you.
Ultimately, there are many factors to consider before you attend a home showing, and these factors include:
1. Your Home Must-Haves
It often helps to make a list of "must-haves" prior to launching a house search. With this list at your disposal, you can narrow your home search and schedule showings for residences that offer the features you want.
You may want to put together a list of preferred cities and towns, too. This list will help you hone your house search to residences in cities and towns where you want to live. Then, you can set up showings to view residences in these areas.
2. Your Homebuying Budget
You likely have only a finite amount of money you can spend on a residence. If you start a house search with a budget in hand, you can search for homes that fall in line with your finances and schedule property showings accordingly.
Typically, it helps to get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you can learn about different home financing options. You then can select a mortgage and start to schedule showings for residences that correspond to your budget.
3. Your Homebuying Timeline
If you want to buy a house as quickly as possible, you may want to start scheduling home showings right away. This will enable you to find and relocate to a new home without delay.
On the other hand, if you can afford to be patient, you may want to take a wait-and-see approach to home showings. In this scenario, you may want to keep a close eye on the housing sector in your preferred cities and towns. Because if you do so, you can pounce at opportunities to view quality residences as soon as they become available.
As you get ready to pursue your ideal residence, you may want to hire a real estate agent as well. A real estate agent can set up home showings and offer tips and recommendations to help you streamline your house search. In addition, if you ever have questions during the homebuying journey, a real estate agent can instantly respond to them.
When it comes to home showings, it may be beneficial to prepare. If you consider the aforementioned factors prior to a house showing, you may boost the likelihood of finding your dream house. Perhaps best of all, you could speed up your home search and discover a great residence that you can enjoy for years to come.
If you intend to buy a house, you probably will check out a lot of home listings over the next few days and weeks. However, it is important to note that not all home listings are created equal, and how you analyze home listings may dictate your homebuying success.
Ultimately, there are several factors that homebuyers need to consider as they assess home listings, and these factors include:
The price of a home is one of the key factors – if not the most important factor – that a homebuyer needs to consider in a home listing. Because if you ignore a home's price, you risk wasting precious time and resources as you pursue a home that falls outside your price range.
When it comes to buying a home, it pays to develop a budget ahead of time. That way, you'll know how much you can spend on a residence and can tailor your home search to fit your budget.
You may want to get pre-approved for a mortgage prior to looking at home listings as well. By doing so, you can enter the housing market with a budget in hand and explore available residences that won't force you to spend beyond your means.
Are you looking for a fixer-upper or a brand-new residence? Take a look at a home's condition, and you can determine whether a particular residence is right for you.
Oftentimes, a decades-old residence may require myriad upgrades. This means you may need to allocate significant time and resources to enhance the condition of an old house after you finalize your home purchase.
On the other hand, it is essential to remember that a new house may prove to be more expensive than an old residence. And if you're on the lookout for a bargain, you may want to shy away from listings for brand-new houses.
Creating a list of must-have home features is ideal, as this will enable you to narrow your search for your dream residence.
For instance, if you want a home that has a big swimming pool, you can browse home listings accordingly. Or, if you would like to buy a house that is located near some of the nation's best schools, you can focus on home listings in cities and towns that feature top-rated schools.
If you want to streamline your home search, it usually helps to look beyond home listings. Fortunately, real estate agents are available to help you accelerate your search for the perfect residence.
A real estate agent understands the ins and outs of the housing market. He or she will learn about your homebuying goals and provide you with the latest home listings. Then, a real estate agent will work with you to simplify your home search and ensure that you can discover a terrific residence at an unbeatable price.
Take the guesswork out of reviewing home listings – use the aforementioned tips, and you can quickly evaluate a wide range of home listings and find your dream house.
If you intend to buy a house in the foreseeable future, it pays to prepare. That way, you can enter the real estate market as an "extraordinary" homebuyer, i.e. someone who knows exactly what it takes to find a great house at an outstanding price.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help any homebuyer go from ordinary to extraordinary.
1. Learn the Ins and Outs of the Housing Sector
The real estate market is complex, particularly for someone who is pursuing a house for the first time. Fortunately, plenty of housing market data is available that can help you gain the insights that you need to make an informed home purchase.
Take a look at homes that are currently available in your city or town. By doing so, you can better understand the prices of houses that match your expectations. Then, you can tailor your home search accordingly.
Furthermore, don't forget to assess the prices of recently sold residences in your area. This housing market data will help you determine whether you're about to enter a real estate market that favors buyers or sellers.
2. Get Your Finances in Order
Meet with banks and credit unions to learn about your mortgage options – you'll be glad you did. If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you can begin your home search with a budget in hand, thereby reducing the temptation to spend too much on a house.
Lenders are happy to provide you with information about a broad range of mortgage options. Also, if you ever have mortgage questions, lenders employ friendly, professionally trained mortgage specialists who are ready to respond to your queries.
In addition, it usually is a good idea to evaluate your credit score prior to applying for a mortgage.
You can obtain a free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). If you review your credit report closely, you can identify and resolve any potential credit problems and increase the likelihood that you can obtain a favorable mortgage.
3. Work with a Real Estate Agent
When it comes to becoming an extraordinary homebuyer, it is important to note that it can be difficult for even the most diligent homebuyer to succeed on his or her own. However, if you employ an expert real estate agent, you can streamline the process of acquiring your dream residence.
A real estate agent is committed to your homebuying success, and as such, will do everything possible to help you find the perfect residence.
Typically, a real estate agent will set up home showings, negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf and provide honest, unbiased homebuying recommendations. This housing market professional will even help you alleviate homebuying stress and ensure that you can quickly go from homebuyer to homeowner.
Ready to embark on the homebuying journey? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can become an extraordinary homebuyer in no time at all.