Making that first home purchase can feel overwhelming – there is a lot of new information to think about and consider, and you might be feeling a bit dazed. We’ve been there!
Here are 10 tips that we wish we’d have known when we were making that first offer on a house – because hindsight is 20/20.
10. Take advice with a grain of salt
It seems inevitable – as soon as you mention that you’re thinking of buying a house, your loved ones all have (well-intentioned) advice for you. Remember that the things that were true when your great-uncle bought his house aren’t necessarily still true in today’s ever-changing property market. You can do your own research, and don’t be afraid to ask your Realtor for opinions and advice! Your Realtor does this every day, and is a great source for myth-busting that wisdom coming from your best friend’s aunt’s cousin.
9. Do your due diligence on your walk-through
When you’re walking through a home, take some extra time to really get a good feel for the condition of the house. Sniff for mold or animal odors, and knock on walls to see if they sound hollow (a potential sign of poor insulation). Take a peek at the washer/dryer and dishwasher – you don’t want to find out later that pests have made their home inside! Flush the toilets and run the sinks to be sure that they are working properly. Turn on the shower for a second to test the water pressure – and see how long it takes for the water to heat up. Is the fireplace flue functioning? Do the heating and air conditioning work? You’ll feel more confident when the time comes to make an offer if you have a good feel for how well-maintained the house is, and if there are any obvious concerns that you want to know more about before agreeing to purchase the home.
8. Choose an Experienced Home Inspector
When it comes time to have a home inspection performed, hire the most thorough, licensed home inspector you can find! Don’t be afraid to check your options online, and read reviews. Your home inspector is the one who is looking for any problems that could potentially become later repairs! Let your inspector know of any concerns that you have based on your walkthrough so that you can get a more detailed analysis of whether it’s really an issue, or if all is well.
7. Listen to your head, not your heart. But trust your gut.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a financial transaction – one of the biggest purchases you make in your life. If something isn’t going well, don’t be afraid to walk away. There will always be other properties, and you can always keep looking! If there are issues that concern you, you can always walk away. When you purchase a home, you’re signing on to all of the associated repairs/maintenance that come along with it – even years later – so be sure you’re making a sound decision based on logic, not because you fell in love with the newly remodeled kitchen.
6. Negotiate a deal you’re comfortable with
You should feel in control of the process when it’s time to negotiate a purchase price or any contingencies. Your realtor is a great resource for this, and can help you analyze the purchase price as well as whether there are any contingencies you haven’t thought of based on your walkthrough of the property. Remember that buying a home is a big financial commitment – so only make an offer that you’re comfortable with. If the seller isn’t agreeable, then it probably isn’t the right house for you – don’t be afraid to walk away and keep looking for your dream home.
5. Don’t rush the process
It’s easy to get excited, or to feel pressure to snatch up the “perfect” home before it’s sold. But don’t go there! Buying a house is a big purchase that has real-world impact on your life (and finances!), so take your time and think things through from all angles. If you’re feeling rushed, or if you’re pressuring yourself to make a decision quickly, back away. Time is on your side – and there are always more properties to look at. Only buy a house that you’re fully comfortable with on all fronts – the house itself, the inspection results, the purchase price, any necessary repairs, etc.
4. Set your budget carefully and intentionally
When you’re going through the loan pre-approval process, it’s tempting to set your budget at the maximum amount you’re allowed to borrow. But don’t use that number willy-nilly, look at the amount that you can afford to pay per month, and factor in other associated costs (like an “emergency repairs” fund to handle home maintenance as it comes up, additional closing costs and down payment, any increases in taxes/insurance/utilities, etc). Your maximum spend per month should determine your purchase price maximum, not the highest amount you’re approved to borrow.
3. Don’t count on increased income in the future
It’s tempting for buyers to think that, even though the house cost will mean your budget is tight for a year or two, you’ll be getting that promotion at work soon and it’ll get easier. Trust us, we’ve been there! But life happens – and even as your income increases, you’ll find that other expenses in your life will likely increase as well (keeping that budget tight!). Needing a new car, having a child, wanting or needing to travel – all of these things can add to your budget stress. Set your purchase price maximum based on how much you can afford to spend right now, while still allowing room in your budget for the lifestyle you want to have.
2. Yards and Gardens are lovely – and a lot of work
Having a beautiful lawn, a gorgeous garden full of beautiful flowers, that perfect veggie patch – these are all big selling points when you’re looking to buy a home. But, lovely as these may be, are you really ready to maintain your outdoor spaces? If you don’t want to spend your weekends weeding and mowing, do you have room in your budget to hire a service to take care of this for you? Make sure that the home you’re considering is one that you’re really able to maintain – otherwise, that stunning yard that you fell in love with will quickly feel like a jungle you can’t keep up with!
1. Be patient. This may take some time!
Remember that finding and purchasing the house you’ve always wanted can take some time. Don’t feel pressure to operate on someone else’s timeline, and don’t commit to anything that will be a burden if your house hunting takes a few months longer than you thought it would. Keep an open mind, and remember that you are working on making the best possible financial decision that you can. This may mean viewing a lot of properties before you find one you’re really interested in. It may also mean walking away from a home if the inspection found major problems that you’re not willing to correct. It’s normal for this process to take some time.