For Buyers

5 First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Robin Kencel|October 23, 2019

5 First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes and How to Avoid Them 

Especially if your family is expanding, keep in mind how your needs in terms of space and square footage may change in the next few years. (Getty Images)

Unless you are fortunate enough to be a first-time homebuyer that works in real estate, residential construction or interior design, purchasing a home can be a daunting process.

Of the missteps many first-time homebuyers make, they frequently fall under five common themes:

  • Not taking the time to learn about various locations and features in a town.
  • Underestimating the cost of construction, renovation or simple decorating projects.
  • Not thinking about future space or floor plan needs.
  • Letting emotion override logic.
  • Forgetting that location is key.

[Read: Will 2019 Be The Year of the Millennial Homebuyer?]

Here's what you can do to avoid these common homebuyer mistakes.

1. Not Taking the Time to Learn About Various Locations and Features in a Town

Especially if you're moving from a different part of the country and you're unfamiliar with seasonal change in an area, take time to research how the area looks different between winter and summer. In May, your home may feel private with trees surrounding the lot, but come November, when all of the tree leaves are down, what you thought was a dense woodland can reveal a busy parkway.

Unless you have lived in the town that you're considering for a period of time, you will need to rely on your real estate agent, people you know and trust and your own investigation to determine what areas best suit you. Consider what is important to you, which may take a bit of time to determine if you have never consciously thought about it.

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting.]

2. Underestimating the Cost of Construction, Renovation or Decorating Projects

When you're buying just about any home, you'll likely ask yourself, “What will I need to do to it to make it livable?” If the answer is anything other than, “Bring my toothbrush,” you'll want to bring in professionals to review your ideas and provide cost estimates, feasibility input and offer opinions on the wisdom of your ideas. A seasoned real estate agent can be particularly helpful in determining if any major changes would add value to the property, or just be for your own enjoyment.

3. Not Thinking About Future Space or Floor Plan Needs

While it is difficult to predict life changes, it may be wise to think through how any change within the next few years could impact your housing needs. Whether it is an expansion of the family, a medical need that will affect your ability to go upstairs or if you are entering a new chapter of any kind, give some thought and visualize what your space and physical needs might be or how they could change. Be sure you understand how the house will function with these possible changes, or acknowledge that you may need to change up your housing circumstances.

4. Letting Emotion Override Logic

Falling in love with the home that has the charming window boxes, romantic gardens and is decorated like a page out of Elle Decor may play on your emotions and influence your decision. Be sure to think through the basics, including whether the number of bedrooms and bathrooms works for you and if the layout meets your needs. Make a checklist of what is important in a home and be sure the property meets those needs, even if your heart is saying you have to have this home.

5. Forgetting That location is Key

When looking for the right home, don't just research neighborhoods in a single town, but expand to other nearby towns as well that may fit your needs. Consider each town carefully. What services does each town offer? How are the schools? Do they have the sorts of activities, organizations and geography that meet your interests? After all, you're not just buying a property, you're buying into a community.

[Read: What to Expect From the Housing Market in 2019.]

Finally, be sure you are comparing apples to apples between towns. To do this, look at property taxes between towns – the differences may narrow the gap between what seems like an expensive purchase in one town versus another. When you're calculating your monthly carrying cost, mortgage payment, property taxes and operating expenses need to be added together to get the true number.


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