In our years of dealing with buyers, sellers, lenders, real estate agents, and all sorts of other professionals you’ll encounter in buying a home, we’ve compiled our Top Ten List of things you need to avoid to make your life easier and your bank balance a little fatter. Don’t throw money away or make your life miserable by making these mistakes!
1. Don’t go home shopping without getting expert advice early.
You can make all sorts of mistakes that can have major consequences if you are not careful. The earlier in the process you consult with people who can give you good advice, the better off you are. This can make the difference between getting your dream home at a screaming good buy or getting a home that is acceptable at an OK price.
If buying and selling a home is not something you do every day (and it’s not for most buyers), then find professionals (um…like us, for instance) who can coach you on all the ins and outs and keep you on the right track.
2. Get pre-approved for a loan before going home-shopping.
Don’t just start home shopping without having a pre-approval letter in hand. We can do that for you, of course. Your offer will be taken much more seriously if you are already pre-approved. Note that getting pre-qualified is not the same thing and is not as good. Go through the extra work to get the pre-approval letter. It’s worth it and will save you a lot of time and headache down the road.
3. Don’t open new credit lines or make big credit purchases right before or after your loan approval process starts.
Big no-no. Opening a new line of credit, even if it’s for strategic reasons (lowering your debt-to-credit-limit ratio, for instance) can actually hurt you. It shows to lenders that you are seeking to extend yourself and potentially spend money on credit that can affect your ability to pay your mortgage down the road. Don’t do it. Stick with the current credit accounts you have right now, and in most cases, you’ll be better off.
The same goes for making new big purchases on your credit accounts after your loan approval process starts. You may jeopardize the terms of your approval letter and it could blow the whole deal when you go to make an offer.
4. Only take out a loan you can make the payments on, even if you qualify for more.
This is a mistake a lot of buyers made during the real estate boom several years ago. Maybe you made a similar mistake. Just because someone says you qualify for a loan doesn’t mean you are able to pay for it. You are the one who will be writing that check each month, so don’t get in over your head.
5. Communicate clearly with your real estate agent about your budget, real estate, and neighborhood preferences.
Poor communication has blown many a relationship with a real estate agent. Take the time to elaborate clearly your goals and objectives in buying your home. What’s your budget? What neighborhoods are out of bounds? What are your preferred locations? What physical features (bedrooms, bathrooms, shop, water features, etc.) are important to you? Is acreage a definite? Is a homeowner’s association a deal-killer? Let your agent know all of that information!
6. Use a reputable home inspector who will accurately document the condition of the property.
Some home inspectors do a great job. Others are just there to give a cursory glance, write their report, and rubber stamp the deal. A good home inspector should not be looked at as a deal-killer, but as a valuable asset. You don’t want to invest this amount of money on a piece of property with unadvertised flaws. Find out what you’re buying buy using a reputable, hard working home inspector. We can refer you to one.
7. Take your listing agent’s advice about your home’s value.
We work with agents who will aggressively seek to get the most money possible for your home. On the other hand, most homeowners have an emotional value they attach to their home that is not necessarily what the market is suggesting it’s worth. The value of a home is subject to many factors, the greatest of which are the laws of supply and demand. Recent comparables play a big part in regulating the market to avoid unrealistic price expectations, but the bottom line is that if there are no buyers at a certain price, the price is too high at this time. That may change in time, but be prepared emotionally to take the market for what it is, not for what all of us want it to be.
8. Don’t furnish the new house on credit and jeopardize your ability to make your mortgage payments.
This is important to your long-term success as a homeowner. Living the American Dream of home ownership is exciting and rewarding, but the American Dream also allows us to get ahead of ourselves sometimes. Keep your credit spending at a minimum to make sure you can pay your house payments for many years to come.
9. Don’t assume that your ARM interest rates will stay in the single digits forever.
Low interest rates are a great thing to get into a home, but they also mean that there is really only one direction for rates to go eventually: Up. It would be nice if everything always stayed the same, but it’s wise to be prepared in the event rates rise dramatically. If you’re considering an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) ask us how much your payment would be at various prevailing rates. Be prepared in case rates do rise.
10. Don’t make an offer on a new home until your existing home is under contract.
This is a tricky one. In the hot markets of previous years, buyers could make an offer on one home and get their home on the market immediately to time the two transactions reasonably close to each other. Not anymore. Yes, it’s a pain, but be prepared to get your home sold first before you make an offer on another home. That means you may need to rent a place during the transition or stay with friends or relatives. You can also put your things in storage and stay in a hotel temporarily. Not ideal, but like it or not, that’s the best way to do it.