7 Top Home-Buying Mistakes People Often Make

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Insanely low mortgage interest rates—and the knowledge that they’ll probably go up again—make a lot of people feel like it’s time to buy a house right now. And maybe it is … if you go about it the right way.

Buying a home is a major purchase (to put it mildly), and there are plenty of ways to trip up. But don’t worry—we’ve got your primer right here.

1. Don’t … buy a house if you’re planning to move again soon.

If you’re a renter, it can be frustrating to write that rent check every month and have no home equity to show for it at the end of the year. But if you aren’t certain that you’re going to stay put for a few years, it’s probably not the right time to buy—equity or no equity. “Some people tend to buy a house knowing that they’re going to be relocating after a few years,” says LearnVest Planning Services certified financial planner Ellen Derrick. “Don’t buy property and automatically assume that you’ll be able to rent it out or sell it when you move.”

What to do: If you aren’t in an area with a strong rental market that might allow you to cover the mortgage on your home if you move elsewhere, then consider sticking with a rental for now.

2. Don’t … bust your budget.

Shopping for houses can make you a little giddy. Look at this one! And this one! For a little bit more, you could get granite countertops, plus an office nook! You’re dealing with such large numbers when you’re browsing real estate that it might not seem like such a huge deal to stretch another $10,000 or $15,000 to get the home you really love. But that’s probably not a game you want to play. “People look at the top end of their affordable monthly payment, and they don’t really think about what happens if their income goes down or they have to change jobs,” says Derrick. (If you’re wondering what percent of your budget should go toward housing, check out the 50/20/30 Rule.)

What to do: Get preapproved for a mortgage. Not only will this help prove that you’re serious to your realtor and to home sellers, but it can also give you an idea of your upper limit. “Remember that the lender is there to make you a loan, and the more money you borrow, the better it is for them,” Derrick says. “They probably want you to max out. I would take the pre-approval number and cut about 20% off.”

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buying a home

3. Don’t … forget about added costs.

Buying a home isn’t just a matter of replacing a rental payment with a mortgage payment. There are also maintenance costs, utilities (which will likely cost more) and property taxes. “People tend to forget about both property taxes and insurance when they’re thinking about how much house they can afford,” Derrick says. “The actual monthly payment could end up being well out of your price range when you figure those things in.”

What to do: Ask the homeowners about their average utility costs and property taxes, get a homeowner’s insurance quote and think about budgeting about one percent of the home’s purchase price for annual maintenance. Then run the numbers to see if you can afford the home. (And don’t forget about closing costs. The average cost to close on a $200,000 mortgage is about $3,754, according to Bankrate.com, but your broker should be able to give you an estimate.)

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  • Victor

    No way should you ask your agent for a recommendation of an inspector. Pick one off the internet that’s ASHI certified who will work in your best interests and not your agent. Same goes for a mortgage broker. I made that mistake once, and now I’m wiser for it.

  • Shannon

    In Texas, it is illegal for a Realtor top refer you to an inspector. You can give the buyer a list of the licensed inspectors in the state and let them choose from the list. Not all inspectors are as good as others. Some inspectors will blow the deal for you by just having to write something or misrepresenting the requirements for GFCI outlets and GF’s in the bedrooms. Remember, the inspector is working for you. Make him/her explain the laws and rules and regulations about what he is writing down. It is your money that they are providing for your inspections. I have had both good and bad inspectors. I would recommend that you interview the inspector to see if you have good or bad vibes from the individual. Trust your gut feelings and ask for recommendations from your friends that have used inspectors when they purchased their homes. I interview Mortgage Brokers as well as inspectors to make sure I feel good about who & what they represent.

  • Liliana Rawks

    Um, the buyer’s property taxes won’t be the same as the seller’s unless he paid the same amount for the home that the seller did. Don’t bother asking the seller how much she pays, it doesn’t matter.