Becoming a first-time homebuyer is an exciting and often complex process. Summer is the busiest season for home sales, and new shoppers can easily get caught up in the thrilling pursuit of their dream home, which often leads to overlooking potential problems along the way.
In a race to get to the finish line, inexperienced buyers can become distracted by some of the flashier amenities available on the market today.
Cosmetic upgrades such as granite counter tops, outdoor pools, raised vegetable gardens and spa bathtubs can camouflage some serious red flags and easily lead a new homebuyer to overspend or overlook structural issues.
The key to being a savvy first-time homeshopper is recognizing some common mistakes, understanding where to look out for them and knowing how to fix them.
1. Making an emotional purchase
Homeshoppers often have an emotional attachment to a house they’re looking to purchase. Maybe it was their childhood home, or it’s located in a favorite neighborhood where they often dreamed of raising a family.
One of the most important things to remember when house hunting is to buy with the head, not the heart. Although a choice based on emotion might initially make homeshoppers happy, they could begin to regret a hasty decision and find flaws they’re unable to overlook.
Letting nostalgia guide the homebuying journey could lead homeshoppers right into one of the biggest house hunting missteps: stretching the budget too far.
To avoid this, it’s important to take a step back and look at the home objectively. Create a checklist of the most important home qualities — do these match up with what this house has to offer?
Decide beforehand which features are wants and which are needs. Stay as true to the list as the established budget allows.
First-time shoppers are especially prone to the rookie mistake of overspending. Before hunting for a home, it’s crucial create a realistic budget.
While building the budget, homeshoppers must remember to factor in the cost of extras including furnishings, home improvement upgrades, monthly utility payments and property taxes.
It’s easy to get swept up in a beautiful house — however, once the bills start rolling in, homeshoppers quickly realize that they are in over their heads. They might be able to manage a mortgage payment, but this likely comes at the expense of disposable income and can ultimately jeopardize their financial goals.
Before pulling the trigger on buying a home, homeshoppers should look at the house they are leaving behind.
Did they meet their monthly payments? If so, will they still be able to do so assuming the costs increase? Homeshoppers should be sure to meet with a lender to get pre-approved for an amount they can afford to spend on a home.
Once they understand their financial boundaries, then, and only then, should they begin the homeshopping process.
3. Failing to ‘investigate’ the neighborhood
Not all neighborhoods are created equal. Although homeshoppers can do some preliminary digging online to learn a little bit about the prospective home’s location, the real estate agent will be the most knowledgeable source.
Outside of typical questions about the safety of the neighborhood, homeshoppers should be sure to ask about its economic standing, any hidden surprises, etc.
Also, homeshoppers should take it upon themselves to visit the neighborhood on a weekend night. If they hear anything unusual or discover the most popular fraternity is located within a few blocks, they should be encouraged to look at another option if a quiet neighborhood is on their list of needs.
4. Buying furniture without a test run
When it comes to larger items such as couches, bureaus and beds, homebuyers should test out their furniture before purchasing.
Returns aren’t always possible, and exchanges are often a huge hassle that can waste precious time and add pressure to an already stressful moving process.
Keep a tape measure handy, as well. Having accurate dimensions of a new space is key to making sure everything will fit. This simple task will make the process much easier and prevent owners from having to create a makeshift pulley system to drag a couch up to the second floor of the house through a window!
Luckily, technology is on our side, and it is easy to use a virtual staging platform that creates a 3-D rendering of a home.
An interactive home design program allows users to drag and drop rendered furnishings. This will provide a realistic view of what a home would look like fully furnished, and it allows users to develop their own staging with just a few clicks of a mouse or swipes on a mobile device.
5. Always looking for a better deal
All of the above tips encourage consumers to err on the side of caution when homeshopping. To add a little perspective, it’s important to check off as many boxes as possible, but it’s not necessarily a smart idea to perpetually hold out for the “perfect” home.
It’s extremely difficult to find an option that has everything a homeshopper is looking for — in fact, it’s often impossible.
Making a tiered list of top priorities will help homeshoppers narrow down a few options to find one that fits best. A list of needs and a list of wants can help them easily prioritize if a particular home will work for their needs.
Is a kitchen island a big want but an extremely safe neighborhood a definite need? Needs should always come first when making a decision that fits within the established budget.
At some point, almost everyone encounters the daunting task of purchasing a home for the first time. But among all the uncertainty and hesitation, it’s important to remember that homeshopping is a bit of give-and-take — knowing what to give and what to take is where the pros set themselves apart from the rookies.
Following these tips will help any shopper avoid making common mistakes that can ruin an otherwise thrilling experience!