Top 5 Biggest Mistakes Made By First-Time Homebuyers

First Time Homebuyers 5 Mistakes (Source: Flickr User Sarebear:) )

When first-time homebuyers enter the market, there is often a good deal of excitement involved. And rightfully so! Becoming a homeowner for the first time is monumental occasion with many benefits.

However, many first-time homebuyers fall victim to 5 prime house-hunting mistakes. Shows like House Hunters don't really help these notions, as they provide many misconceptions about the process in general, but they are easily overcome with a little research and preparation.

Here are the 5 house-hunting mistakes you can avoid as a first time homebuyer.

1. Focusing on Appearance

Many first-time homeowners get excited about (or repulsed by) the initial look of a property. In fact, smart home sellers stage their home in an effort to capitalize on your first impression of the property.

Remember that first looks can be quite misleading. If you walk in a space that has clearly been inhabited by hoarders, houses 12 different fish tanks, and has an overwhelming purple patterned wallpaper throughout the entire home, we get it. It isn't the way you'd live in the space. However, your negative first reaction to the property based on looks alone can blind you to the true potential of the place.

Cosmetics alone are quite easy - and inexpensive - to tackle on your own. If this property is in the neighborhood you like, in your price range, has all the bedrooms and bathrooms you'd like, and is structurally sound... the ugly green shag carpet is a minor setback which is easily remedied. 

2. Focusing on Extras

Ah, the extras. Yes, it is very easy to get hung up on the extras - say, a dishwasher or double vanity - when looking at a home.

Many first-timers fail to separate the "must-haves" from the "really-wants" on their priority list. Must-haves are those things which cannot be easily changed: a neighborhood, square footage of a home, inclusion of a yard. Really-wants are typically item-based desires which can be changed in time - stainless steel appliances, in-unit washer/dryer, a pool.

Note: There are some gray areas to the rule. For example, adding central air to a home without it may be a challenging and expensive endeavor, so if this is truly something you cannot bear to be without, consider adding it to your "must-have" list. On the opposite side, maybe adding that extra bedroom to the home you love wouldn't be as expensive based upon the price of the home.

3. Ignoring the Foundation

Floor slightly uneven? Unaligned doors? Buyers beware. Fixing a foundational error of a home can be significantly expensive. We're talking $15,000 to $100,000 here. Saying "you'll live with it" is a dangerous game to play, as foundational errors become more severe over time, and even if you learn to live with it, it is difficult to sell a home with a foundational error in the future should you want to sell.

Keep in mind, you aren't a structural engineer. Only a professional can tell you if the slop of a home is safe and expected settling or is a serious structural issue. Have a home inspector and/or contractor come in to evaluate the property and give you a price point for repairs. This will give you a good idea if it really is worth it to buy a home with this problem.

4. Skipping a Home Inspection

Speaking of home inspections, another huge mistake that first-timers make is skipping one in order to save a couple hundred dollars. This decision has haunted many a homeowner, as there are plenty of problems with a home that aren't visible to the naked eye. It is usually the problems that aren't visible to the naked eye that are the most expensive - i.e. mold, major plumbing disrepair, termite infestations, etc.

As an added tip, make sure you have a GOOD home inspector take a look at your home, vetted for thoroughness and recommended by many. One needs only read the true story of the $450,000 home in Missouri infested with 6,000+ brown recluse spiders, which the homebuyers discovered only after purchasing the home, to underline the need for a really good home inspection before purchase. (Our apologies for the nightmares.)

5. Fear of Home Pricing

The real estate process is tricky. If your budget for a home maxes out at $250,000, many homeowners refuse to look at a home which narrowly surpasses the price range - say, $259,000. On paper, it looks like this home is out of your price range. In reality, there are many likely reasons that you can reasonably make a lower offer that could be accepted. For example, a home seller could be highly motivated to accept a lower offer should the home have already been on the market for a number of months. Similarly, they may have priced it with negotiation room "built in" and are expecting to get your $250,000 for the home. We don't encourage home sellers to price this way, as they miss good candidates like you, but that's an article for another time.

It doesn't hurt to make a lower offer. What does hurt is never seeing the property to begin with.

Questions? Need help finding your first home? We'd love to help you! Don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call.

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