Sheryl Simon's Blog
Buying your first home is undoubtedly a long and complex process for someone who has little to no experience in the subject. Your average first-time homeowner learns as they go, with the help of their real estate agent and mortgage lender.
But, even so, first-time buyers often make many mistakes along the way that they could have avoided with prior knowledge and preparation.
In today’s article, we’re going to cover 5 of the most common mistakes that first-time homebuyers make when purchasing a home. From the first house you look at up until closing on your first home, we’ll cover common mistakes from each step of the way to give you the knowledge you need to make the best home buying decisions.
1. Shopping for homes preemptively
Once you decide that you’re interested in potentially buying a home in the near future, it’s tempting to hop online and start looking at listings. But, searching for your dream home at this stage is a poor use of your time.
It’s best to use this time to start thinking about the bigger picture. Have you secured financial aspects of owning a home, such as a down payment, a solid credit score, and two years of steady employment history?
You’ll also need to have a clear picture of what you want your life to look like for the next 5-7 years. Will you still want to live in the same area, or will your job lead you elsewhere?
These are all questions to ask yourself before you start house hunting that will inform your process along the way and make your hunt a lot easier.
2. Not knowing your budget
It’s a common mistake for first-time buyers to go into the house hunting process without a clearly mapped budget. You want to make sure that after all of your expenses (mortgage payment, utilities, bills, debt, etc.) that you still have leftover income for savings, retirement, and an emergency fund.
Make a detailed spreadsheet of your expenses and determine how much you can afford each month before you start shopping for mortgages.
3. Borrowing the maximum amount
While it may be tempting to buy the most expensive house you can get approved for, there are a number of reasons this might be a bad idea for you, financially. Stretching your budget each month is putting yourself at risk for not being able to contribute to savings, retirement, and emergency funds.
Furthermore, you may find that the extra square-footage you purchased wasn’t worth having to cut corners in other areas of your life, like hobbies, entertainment, and dining out.
4. Forgetting important expenses
If you’re currently renting an apartment, you might be unaware of some of the lesser-known costs of homeownership. Your chosen lender will provide you with an estimate of the closing costs, which you’ll have to budget for.
However, there are also maintenance, repairs, utilities, and other bills that you’ll have to figure into your monthly budget.
5. Waiving contingencies or giving the benefit of the doubt
While it may seem like an act of goodwill to give the seller the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like home inspections, it’s usually a bad idea to waive contingencies.
The process of purchasing a home, along with a purchase contract, have been designed to protect both your interests and the seller’s interests. It isn’t selfish to want to know exactly what you’re getting into when making a purchase as significant as a home.
Buying a home is a complicated process with a lot of opportunities to make costly mistakes. There’s no high school class to prepare you for buying a home but there probably should be. If you’re a first time homebuyer and you came across this article looking for advice, congratulations--you’re already doing the most important thing you can when making a big financial decision: the research.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common mistakes that first time homebuyers make when entering the real estate market. We’ll break it down by the three main phases of home-buying: saving for a home, hunting for a home, and signing a mortgage.
Saving for a home
One of the first lessons that all first time homeowners quickly learn is that being able to afford your monthly mortgage payments doesn’t mean you can afford a home. Many first time buyers are often coming from living situations where certain utilities are included (water, heat, electricity, etc.). Aside from those obvious expenses, there are also things like property tax and home insurance to budget for, both of which may increase. Finally, when you’re living in an apartment and your faucet breaks, you simply call the landlord. When you own a home, especially an older home, be prepared to spend on repairs and to start learning basic maintenance skills that will save you money.
The hunt for your first home
Now that you’re aware of the costs, it might be tempting to jump in and start looking at homes. Another common mistake first time homebuyers make is to waste time looking at homes before they’ve met with a real estate agent or have gotten pre-approved for a loan. Start there, then once you know the scope of your home search, you’ll have a much more relaxing hunt for your new home.
Another mistake that first time homebuyers make is to underestimate the time and commitment it takes to find a home. When you work with a real estate agent, make sure you are available at all times. Keep your phone nearby, stick to your schedule for viewing homes, and keep a list of each home you’re considering. Showing initiative and dedication won’t just help you stay organized, it will also show your agent and the home seller that you are worth their time.
One of the most common mistakes that buyers make when it comes to their mortgage is to fail to shop around for a lender. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that only half of all buyers considered more than one lender for their home.
Buyers, first time and repeat, often think their credit report is set in stone. What they don’t realize is that the three main credit Bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) can all make mistakes on your credit. Check your detailed credit reports and fix any errors long before applying for a mortgage to increase your chances of getting a good rate.
If you avoid these common mistakes and continue to do your research along the way, you should be able to save yourself some headaches and some money in the long term.
Newlywed life is such an exciting time! It’s also a time many couples decide to buy their first home together. And therefore aside from having a wedding, it’s the first major financial decision couples make together. Hit the ground running together with these tips:
Co-managing money: If they haven’t already combined finances before the big day many couples choose to do so after marriage. Learning how to manage money on your own is a task unto itself but managing it together is a vital skill for newlyweds. You can avoid unnecessary fights over money down the road by getting on the same page financially now. Get really honest with each other. Put everything on the table, especially various debts you each may hold, from credit cards to school loans it’s all important to get a true snapshot of your combined finances.
Create a budget for your life together. Calculate your combined expenses. Consider where you can cut back on services and habits to save money and what you need to add to your budget. Be sure to consider: savings for a nest egg, vacations, car repairs, and unexpected medical emergencies. You may also want to begin saving up to start a family or plan for retirement. When you have a complete picture of your finances you can then look at what’s left over. What kind of down payment and/or monthly payments will you be able to realistically make with this amount?
You’ll also want to talk to each other about your lifestyle goals. If you’ve always dreamed of living in the city or a small tightly-knit town. Perhaps you’ve always imagined a large, spacious home while your partner is thinking of something smaller to focus more on traveling. Do you want a garage, a big yard, a pool or to be close to family? Getting clear on what you each expect from your ideal home will help you find the perfect middle ground where you will both be happy.
It’s best to be able to make at least 20% of the house cost for a down payment. The higher the down payment you can make the better as you’ll have lower monthly payments and won’t get hit with extra fees from your insurance. If you can’t save up this amount, look into first-time buyer loans which allow new buyers to make a smaller down payment.
Be prepared. Remember to plan and budget for closing costs on your home. You don’t want this price tag to catch you off guard. Other things to be financially prepared for throughout the year are property taxes, homeowner’s insurance as well as maintenance and upkeep.
Being newlyweds is an exciting time where you have the rest of your life together to look forward to. And buying a new home, in a lot of ways, can feel like the first major step in laying down the foundation for a long, happy life together.
Buying a home is one of the more complicated purchases that you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s not something that you can just open your wallet, pull out a wad of cash and buy. There’s a warm-up period for a house hunt. You need to prepare before you even start the process of the purchase. There’s a lot of different things that you should do to ready yourself to buy a home. You’ll need to organize your finances, find a real estate agent and ready yourself. If you’re looking to buy a home in the near future, it’s time to get busy!
Keep Your Credit Score In Check
Your credit score is so important for so many reasons. The highest your credit score can be is 850 and the lowest it can be is 300. You’ll get a really good interest rate on a home if your credit score is 740 or above. A lower interest rate can save you a lot of money over a year’s time.
The good news is that you can spend time repairing your score. This will include paying down debt, asking for credit limits to be raised and correcting errors that may be on your credit report. You want to be sure that you’re using 30% or less of your total available credit. As always, if your bills are paid on time, it will help you to keep that score up. Also, stay away from opening new credit cards, as this can bring your score down due to frequent credit checks.
Put Gifts To Good Use
Whenever you get a financial gift, whether it be for a wedding, a Christmas bonus, or a birthday gift, make sure that you save it for your home purchase. You’ll need quite a bit of capital between closing costs, fees and down payments. You’ll be glad you saved the money once you start the home buying process. You’ll also want to make sure that you have and emergency fund built up. You don’t want to buy a home without some sort of a financial cushion behind you.
Research Real Estate Agents
Your real estate agent will be your right hand person when it is time to buying a home. You’ll want to know that your agent is knowledgable and can help you in this big decision. Your real estate agent is the person who will help you reach your goals, and you want to feel comfortable with them. Ask for recommendations and do your research.
Sellers love buyers who have been preapproved. This shows that they’re reliable and financially able to buy a home. A preapproval can be done a few months in advance of buying a home. It will take an in-depth look at your finances including:
- Proof of mortgage or rent payments over the last year
- W2 forms for the past 2 years
- Paycheck stubs for the past 2 months
- List of all debts including loans and court settlements
- List of all assets including car titles, investment accounts and any other real estate you may own.
Buying a home is a big deal but with the right preparation, you’ll be on the road to success and ready to secure a home purchase.