15 Common Home-Buying Mistakes

Congratulations! You’re buying a home! It is the happiest moment of your life having your own home. Are you thinking about inviting your family and friends for wonderful times together? Those will be great times with memories that will last forever. But you need to beware of a few home-buying mistakes.

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make if not the largest one, and you cannot afford to make any mistakes and rob you of your other financial goals. You need to protect yourself and your family by knowing what not to do.

The following is a list of typical home-buying mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Buying a House When You Have Debt

Being in debt when you want to buy a house can be overwhelming. If you are comfortable meeting all your monthly financial obligations without stress or hardship, you might be in a good position for a larger commitment. That would include comfortably managing current debt payments, perhaps in the form of a car or student loan or small credit card balance, but if you’re just barely able to afford the monthly mortgage payment, you’re not ready to buy a home yet, and adding a mortgage on top of monthly debt payments will put you just one emergency away from foreclosure.

Instead, push pause on the house for now, and dump the debt that’s holding you back. Then build and maintain a full emergency fund to protect yourself from ever going back into debt.

Mistake #2: Buying a House You Can’t Afford

1. It’s outside your budget. A budget exists for a reason! Going beyond the budget means you are stretching yourself past where you previously felt financially comfortable.

2. You’re making assumptions about future income and expenses. “We’re getting a larger and more expensive house because we’ll probably make more money in the future.” This thinking is foolish and possibly disastrous.

3. You’re unable to put 20 percent down. If you couldn’t save 20 percent for a down payment, ask yourself why you think you’d comfortably make the mortgage payments now.

4. Your interest rate is high. If banks think you are a risky borrower.

5. Your decision is heavily guided by emotion. It’s perfectly fine to have certain criteria in mind when searching for a home. But affordability should be a big part of that criteria.

6. You have unusual mortgage terms. You may not qualify for a fixed-rate mortgage. When this happens, banks will often offer different kinds of loans. These can include adjustable rate mortgages, in which interest rates may start low but increase later. Or they may be negative amortization loans, in which the amount owed grows larger over time instead of shrinking.

7. You are nearing the maximum mortgage that you qualify for. When you are applying for a mortgage, banks will often tell you that you’ve been approved for a mortgage up to a certain amount. It’s important to remember that this is the maximum amount that you can borrow, not a guideline of what you should spend. In fact, the actual amount you borrow should never be close to that maximum.

8. Your payments exceed 30 percent of your monthly income. For nearly 50 years, the U.S. government has suggested that renters and homeowners pay no more than 30 percent of their income in housing costs. This is not a requirement or law, but it is a helpful guideline for determining if you may be overburdened by a mortgage or rent payment.

9. Your debt-to-income ratio is approaching 43 percent. In addition to the 30 percent guideline, the federal government also looks at another figure to determine your worthiness for a loan. When banks examine whether to approve you for a loan, they will add up all of your debt (including credit cards, auto loans, etc.) and compare it to your income. If that ratio is more than 43 percent, you may not be approved for the loan.

So, before you go looking for your dream home, figure out how much house you can afford, and ask for the professional help of your real estate agent and your loan officer.

Mistake #3: Not Saving Enough for a Down Payment

If you’re getting a mortgage, one of the worst home-buying mistakes you can make is not saving enough for a down payment. The more time you give yourself, the more you can save. And the more money you save, the less your mortgage loan will cost in the long run. Stay focused and you should be able to save a nice down payment in two to three years. Try not to take much longer than that to save for a down payment, though. Any amount less than 10% is way too low! Yet, government-insured programs (FHA, VA, USDA) are making it easier to buy a house with little to nothing down. Sounds nice, right? The problem is that you’ll be charged so much extra in interest and fees that you’ll feel like you’ll never pay off your home.

So how much should you save for a down payment? It is recommended saving at least 20% of the total house price to avoid paying PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) a type of insurance that protects your lender from losing money in case you can’t make your mortgage payments. You are responsible to check the value of your home to get rid of this insurance and order an appraisal, the lender will continue charging if not.

Mistake #4: Forgetting About Closing Costs and Moving Expenses

Another mistake is to focus so much on saving for the down payment that you forget about other home-buying expenses.

1. Earnest money – If you’re a first-time buyer, earnest money may be one of the first unexpected homebuying expenses you encounter. This is a good faith deposit made after your initial offer is accepted.

2. Appraisal fee – Before your lender can approve your mortgage, they’ll need a professional appraisal showing how much the home is worth. As the buyer, you’re responsible for paying the appraiser’s fee. This adds to the tally of unexpected home buying expenses.

3. Inspection fees

Although an inspection is not required, it’s a good idea to have one. Like the appraisal, you’ll bear the cost yourself, so this fee should be on your list of expenses not to forget when buying a home. Every homebuyer should consider at least two types of inspections (home & termite inspections).

4. Closing costs

While having to pay closing costs may come as no surprise, the amount you must pay can easily be one of the largest unexpected expenses when buying a home.

The closing costs are typically around 3 percent of the purchase price, but you may not have to pay that much out-of-pocket and you can ask the seller to offer a credit toward closing costs. The amount of seller credit may be limited based on the type of mortgage

5. Moving expenses

After closing you are moving your stuff from your old home to your new home. While you may be anticipating a move, the cost may take you by surprise and is an expense not to forget when buying a home.

Are you using a moving company? Are you renting a truck? Do you need helping hands? How much furniture do you have? How far will it need to be moved? These are all important questions to ask.

6. Utilities

You’ll need basics like electricity and running water at your new home, and you may want extras like cable TV or Internet service. Don’t forget these costs when buying a home.

Homebuyers should be aware that they may have to pay deposits for utilities if they’re establishing services for the first time. If you have poor credit, some companies may require a larger deposit, so plan for these unexpected homebuying expenses.

To avoid any service interruptions, remember to have your services transferred into your name on or before the day of closing, even if you aren’t moving in right away. Sellers will not leave these services on, so you need to plan to make sure you’re not spending a dark first night in your new home.

7. Furniture and household items

You may think you have everything you need but you might need a new microwave or other appliances if the seller decided not to leave them behind. Then there are smaller things like blinds, new light bulbs or extra cleaning supplies.

These are all important expenses not to forget when buying a home. You should also consider the costs of adding personal touches.

8. Upgrades and repairs

One final category of expenses not to forget when buying a home is renovations and repairs. An inspection can catch major flaws such as a leaky roof, but it doesn’t account for livability.

Mistake #5: Not Getting Preapproved

You found the perfect house that you love, in the perfect neighborhood and fits your budget! You shared your excitement with your family, friends, social media, and anyone that want to listen to you that you are making an offer for the full price. You hire a real estate agent to write an offer, and for your disappointment, the seller has chosen another buyer. Why? Because the other buyer included a mortgage pre-approval letter with their offer. A mortgage pre-approval letter not only tells the seller the other buyer was a serious buyer, but it also says choosing him because he was pre-approved process will move faster and you were only pre-qualify for the loan. Getting pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) gives you a leg up on the competition. It’s worth spending the time to get pre-approved. We have a mortgage broker to help you!

Mistake #6: Getting the Wrong Mortgage

There are many types of mortgages. Most of them (ARM -Adjustable Rate Mortgage, FHA – Federal House Administration, VA- Veterans Administration, USDA – United States Department of Agriculture) are designed to get you into a house no matter your financial situation. With these loans’ types cannot best the best choice in the long term as you will pay thousands of dollars more than in a conventional loan in interest and fees.

So, what’s the right kind of mortgage? The answer is a 15-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage. It saves you the most money in interest and fees overall compared to the other mortgage options. But it depends on you and your financial situation as most of the buyers would prefer 30-year-fixed-rate conventional mortgage and make double payments when they are able to. Lots of lenders will say you can afford more but stay conservative.

Mistake #7: Cosigning Your Mortgage

Getting someone to cosign on your mortgage is a serious home-buying mistake. If you can’t buy a house without a cosigner, protect your financial future by postponing your purchase.

Mistake #8: Buying Mortgage Points

Paying points to get a lower rate on a mortgage is almost always a losing proposition.

That’s because most homeowners don’t keep their mortgages long enough to do more than recoup the up-front cost of paying points.
A point is 1% of your loan amount. If you take out a $250,000 mortgage, 1-point equals $2,500.
In the mortgage world, there are two types of mortgage points:
Origination points are a fee you must pay a bank or mortgage company to give you a loan.
Discount points lower the interest rate on your loan and reduce your monthly payments.
Borrowers get a lower rate for paying discount mortgage points because they’re prepaying a portion of the interest on their loan.
Indeed, discount points are tax-deductible, just like the interest you pay with each monthly mortgage payment.

Mistake #9: Not Using a Real Estate Agent

Every home buyer is legally allowed to purchase a home without a real estate agent. A better question might be whether you want to use an agent or not. With all the high-tech real estate apps and websites available, you might think no one needs a real estate agent to buy a house these days.  That it is not the case! In fact, nearly 90% of buyers who purchased a home last year used a real estate professional.

That’s because an experienced agent helps you to:

You may think that I was a real estate agent merely looks at a list of homes, picks out a few, shows them to you and sells you on one of them. In a broad sense, that’s true, but there is much more. Besides looking through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for available homes that fit your needs, as an agent, I will pre-inspects each home, discusses the home with the listing agent to find out what is motivating the seller, reviews the neighborhood and schools and much more. As your agent, I will do everything you would do to responsibly investigate the home but do it much faster and more effectively than you can, because I know the neighborhood and have played the game a many times before.

As your real estate agent, I am here not just to find your new home, but to protect your interests in the transaction as well, and in most cases, the seller covers the commission for your agent. So you get all the benefits for free! I know what a loss it can be to try and buy a house without an agent.

When your agent in this case me if I represent you make an offer, I know exactly what to include in the offer and what to exclude. I know what terms you must include to protect yourself, and what disclosures the seller must provide.

As professional real estate agents we know the area where you are buying very well and understands the nuances of the neighborhood and the quality of the schools. The person should know every home that has been listed and sold in the neighborhood recently, and everything important about each one.

Real estate agents, we have relationships with the professionals whose help you will need to complete your transaction and maintain your home. These professionals include title insurance officers, escrow officers, property and pest inspection companies and home warranty companies, among others.

As your real estate agent, I am here not just to find your new home, but to protect your interests in the transaction as well.

The listing broker has an agreement with the seller and is paid by the seller. If I am representing you as your real estate agent (I will be called the “selling agent”) and I will find a home for you that is listed by another agent, then the listing agent splits his commission with my brokerage. The money comes from the seller’s proceeds in escrow.

Mistake #10: Focusing on Style Over Structure

Picky buyers may turn up their noses at less attractive homes, which may cause them to overlook a diamond in the rough. So-called problems you should ignore when house-hunting, including an ugly paint color (either on the exterior or interior of the home), dated furniture or style (unless you’re buying the home furnished, you’ll be decorating it to your own taste), and even certain easily altered architectural details, like a lack of crown moldings.

While minor cosmetic issues shouldn’t cause you to automatically say no to a home, be wary of superficial problems are also paired with signs of neglect, like a lawn that hasn’t been cared for, unusual odors, or mold.

Mistake #11: Ignoring Resale Value

Good resale value is never a promise. It is almost impossible to guarantee that a home will retain its full resale value, as the local market and economic factors have a large effect on the housing market.

Resale value is anybody’s guess if the economy tanks. But there are some indicators to watch for that could be the difference between barely squeaking by or coming out ahead. As you hit the house-hunting trail, look for these promising signs that suggest your investment will be a smart one.

1. Pay attention to your surroundings when house hunting. Is the neighborhood walkable? Or is a trip to the grocery store so onerous it requires snacks for the road? Meanwhile, are there restaurants nearby for those nights you simply just can’t? If you buy in an area that is not well-developed and doesn’t have good infrastructure, you will not have a high rate of return on the home. The more amenities, the higher the chances the home will sell faster and for more money.

2. You want a gorgeous kitchen, you need five three or more bedrooms, and amenities as a car repair place, small hotel for in-laws, and other amenities close by but not in your backyard.

I will recommend not buying on a busy street or purchasing a home surrounded by commercial properties nearby as it will be more difficult at the time of selling.

3. Will the home sell for more than you paid? You must factor in how much you’ll spend on the home while living there. If the home’s vital components are falling apart, you’ll be spending a lot.

Your inspector can give you a rundown of your future home’s health, but keep a close eye on the roof, water heater, HVAC system, windows, and foundation. Pay attention to the plumbing and electrical, too. A problem with any one of these major systems can require a costly repair—and take a bite out of your payday.

4. The schools are great. Even if buyers personally don’t have children, for resale it is imperative that they buy in a great school zone. Just make sure to do your research and determine where the home sits in relation to the school district boundaries.

5. Whether you’re shopping for a condo or house, visit the property at different times of the day to see how the light affects the space.

6. Look for a home with a floor plan that will appeal to families. And always pay attention to the number of bathrooms. You want enough to avoid fights in the morning.

7. The community is restrictive. Homeowners associations can be expensive and very difficult to deal with and many buyers need to review the CCR’s before to consider putting an offer in that neighborhood. But an HOA can be helpful, at least when it comes to resale value. That’s because HOAs usually keep everyone in line, preventing your neighbors from letting weeds take over their lawn, painting their houses bright pink, or permanently parking an RV in the middle of your street all things that could ding the value of your home.

Of course, purchasing an HOA-regulated home isn’t for everyone. But if you’re seriously concerned about the resale value of your new home, covenants and restrictions could keep you flush.

Mistake #12: Buying Without a Home Inspection

It is one of the biggest mistakes a homeowner could possibly make.  A buyer NEEDS to learn about the home they are buying. Good inspectors promote themselves to their clients by investing in education. The more you learn about the home, the more information you will have in the end to make a conscious decision if you continue with the purchase.

I would recommend to any and all my clients to hire a home inspector as soon the offer is accepted. The money that you will spend on the home inspection it is money well-spent if it helps you to avoid potential disasters after closing. An inspection includes a thorough review of the home’s structural elements and electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems. The inspector’s report gives you the information you need to decide to buy the home as-is or to negotiate with the seller to fix the problems or reduce the price.

Mistake #13: Not Walking Away from a Bad Deal

Sometimes is recommendable that a new home buyer walks away from a bad deal.

A few examples are:

How Much of a Fixer Up? If you don’t have a comfort level dealing with renovation or the renovation doesn’t make the purchase economical, you may want to walk away.

Were there Issues with the Home Inspection?
No matter the cost of a home, experts always advise getting a home inspection. To protect your interests, any offer should be contingent on a satisfactory home inspection. That way, if there are issues, you can go back to the seller and negotiate. If you’re starting to get into something where it’s more than 2% to 3% of the purchase price, you should think about it. If you’re dealing with structural things, consider how much you want to do. Anything that’s not fixed can affect your resale value.

Do-it-yourself additions.
It is economical to convert a garage to living space yourself, work that’s not done to code can be expensive to fix and lower the value of the home since there’s no car shelter. One way to know if the addition was done with permits is to check the city tax records.

Always ask who built a deck and when. A freestanding deck can be impossible to fix and may have to be rebuilt so it can hold all the weight and be safe.

Noticeable structural problems.
If doors and windows don’t open and close properly or crack along the outside of the home don’t follow the mortar, there could be structural settling in the house. Check for cracks on concrete floors if one side is lower than the other as well. Issues with the foundation can be very costly to fix.

Excessive termite or pest damage.
Insect damage can be hard to find and may require opening the walls. If the studs have been chewed through, that’s compromising the structure.

Water damage.
Moisture or water stains in the basement may be signs of a drainage issue. If you find any worrisome evidence, an inspector should be able to tell you the extent of the damage. Since water can cause some failure of the foundation, be sure to determine if the home is in a flood zone and whether it’s ever been flooded.

Faulty electrical work or old wiring.
The home may not be designed to handle the additional electrical work that’s been added over the years. Knob and tube wiring or aluminum wiring found in older homes can be very expensive to replace.

Asbestos and mold.  
It is not recommendable purchasing a home with asbestos or mold issues. These are expensive to remedy as they must be removed by companies specializing in mold or asbestos removal. Once removed, the homeowner must show proof that the home is mold free.

Mistake #14: Taking on Credit While Closing

One day, you apply for a mortgage. A few weeks later, you close, or finalize, the loan and get the keys to the house. The period between is critical: You want to leave your credit alone as much as possible. It’s a mistake to get a new credit card, buy furniture or appliances on credit, or take out an auto loan before the mortgage closes.

Wait until after closing to open new credit accounts or charge big expenses to your credit cards.

Here’s why: The lender’s mortgage decision is based on your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio, which is the percentage of your income that goes toward monthly debt payments. Applying for credit can reduce your credit score a few points. Getting a new loan, or adding to your monthly debt payments, will increase your debt-to-income ratio. Neither of those is good from the mortgage lender’s perspective.

Within about a week of the closing, the lender will check your credit one last time. If your credit score has fallen, or if your debt-to-income ratio has gone up, the lender might change the interest rate or fees on the mortgage. It could cause a delay in your closing, or even result in a canceled mortgage.

How to avoid this mistake: Wait until after closing to open new credit accounts or to charge furniture, appliances or tools to your credit cards. It’s OK to have all those things picked out ahead of time; just don’t buy them on credit until after you have the keys in hand.

Mistake #15: Forgetting About Insurance

You will need two types of insurance

1. Owner’s title insurance

Owner’s title insurance provides protection to the homeowner if someone sues and says they have a claim against the home from before the homeowner purchased it.

When you purchase your home, you receive a document most often called a deed, which shows the seller transferred their legal ownership, or “title” to their home, to you. Title insurance can protect you if someone later sues and says they have a claim against the home from before you purchased it. Common claims come from a previous owner’s failure to pay taxes or from contractors who say they were not paid for work done on the home before you purchased it.

Most lenders require you to purchase a lender’s title insurance policy, which protects the amount they lend. You may want to buy an owner’s title insurance policy, which can help protect your financial investment in the home.

You can usually shop for your title insurance provider separately from your mortgage. If you shop for title insurance, you may be able to save money. If you choose to buy owner’s title insurance, the total cost will usually be lower if you use the same provider for both the lender’s policy and the owner’s policy, compared to buying them separately.

2. Homeowners’ Insurance

You’re a first-time homebuyer, and you’ve searched for the perfect house for months. The homeowner accepts your offer, and now you must learn about a topic that might not be as fun as home-shopping, but it is vital – home insurance.

Your mortgage lender will likely require you to carry some level of home insurance. Don’t rely on the most basic coverage. Make sure that your home insurance protects you from financial disaster.

If you’re buying your first home, you may have experience with condo or renter’s insurance. There are some similarities with home insurance, such as personal property coverage, but there’s a lot more to home insurance. That’s because there is a lot more to lose when you own a home.

What homeowner’s insurance covers

The most basic home insurance policy usually covers at least five coverage areas:

Dwelling coverage — this is what covers your home.
Other property
— this is what covers detached structures on your property.
Personal property coverage
— this is what covers the property within your home
Liability coverage
— this is what covers you in case a visitor suffers a serious injury and sues you.
Additional living expenses
— this is what covers you in case your home is uninhabitable, and you need to live elsewhere.

Other important information to know about homeowner’s insurance policies:

Home’s replacement cost
What your policy doesn’t cover
Home insurance discounts
How your credit score affects your rates
What is a CLUE report? (claims’ history)
Homeowners insurance deductibles
Does home insurance cover flooding?
Do you need earthquake insurance?
Trusted homeowner insurers
Shopping for homeowner’s insurance
Homeowners insurance rates by company and state

Thinking about buying? Let me help make your home buying success or if you’re ready to begin the buying process, give me a call today!

Stella Bonin
Associate Broker

480.797.4884 / 619.250.6214


Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage (Arizona)
Burke Real Estate Consultants (California)

http://www.CallStellaBonin.com (AZ MLS Search)

Follow me on Twitter: @StellaBRealtor

Join my Facebook International Real Estate Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/irealestate/


I am licensed in California and Arizona and we have a great team to serve you with members around the world.

California Bureau of Real Estate Lic. # 01222569
Arizona Department of Real Estate Lic. # BR550696000

“Equal Housing Opportunity”

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