September 13, 2012
Buying a home? Avoid these mistakes
The dream of home ownership is one that lives on in spite of the global economic struggles. The process of buying a home can be an emotional roller coaster ride, with feelings of excitement mixed in with exhaustion, fear and uncertainty.
Over the last several years, the real estate market has been turned upside down, and many prospective buyers have begun to question some of the conventional wisdom associated with buying a home. While such skepticism might be a healthy attitude in the current market, prospective buyers -- particularly those who have never purchased a home before -- should avoid the following mistakes that buyers make regardless of whether the market is up or down.
• Failure to get qualified beforehand. Mortgage qualification is essential when buying a home, as it gives buyers preapproval for a loan before they make any offers. Making an offer on a home before you know what the bank is willing to lend you is a waste of time for everyone involved, including you, the seller and the real estate agents involved. Some agents will not show a home if you don’t have a preapproval. Once preapproved for a loan, don’t take any steps that might put that approval in jeopardy. This includes anything that might drastically alter your credit score.
• Being blindsided by additional costs. First-time homebuyers, once they have moved into their home, often experience some sticker shock when the additional expenses associated with home ownership arise. These additional expenses include property tax and insurance costs and can be substantial. Even those buying a condominium or co-op should expect monthly maintenance fees even if their new place is brand new and needs no maintenance.
• Shooting for the moon. The ongoing recession is in part the result of predatory lending that saw banks grant excessive loans to applicants who, in hindsight, could not actually afford all that they were approved to borrow. The result was many people buying homes they could not afford, and then suffering some steep consequences, including foreclosure, when the first mortgage payment came due or the interest rate rose. First-time and even veteran buyers must avoid shooting for the moon when it comes to buying a home, and instead only buy one they know they can afford. What the banks says you can afford isn’t always the same as what you know you can afford. Only buy a home you know you can afford, regardless of whether the bank has approved you for a larger loan.
• Pigeonholing yourself into an inadequate living situation. Just like buyers shouldn’t go overboard, they also must avoid compromising on the things that are most important to them. For example, many of today’s buyers, fully aware of the rash of foreclosures and all the housing horror stories of the last several years, are reticent to commit to a home, and might compromise with a condo or co-op. But if a home is what you really want, and another living situation that mirrors apartment life is going to make you miserable, don’t settle for that situation for the sake of security. Doing so could cost you financially, especially when you realize the situation isn’t what you’d hoped for and look to sell earlier than is ideal.
• Skimping on the cost of an inspector. An inspector is your last chance to find out if a home is your dream home or a money pit. Even if a house appears to be everything you want, don’t close on the sale until the house has been thoroughly inspected. The old adage that advises against judging a book by its cover certainly applies to buying a home, and prospective buyers should enlist the services of a qualified inspector before closing on the sale of a home.