Mistake #10: Not getting pre-approved before house hunting
Why get your hopes up looking at $500,000 homes, when you can really only afford a $300,000 home? Before you start house hunting, narrow down your price range by getting pre-approved. Shop for a lender or mortgage broker you can trust. The mortgage pro will review your credit, income, assets and debts, and recommend a mortgage with monthly payments that fit your budget. The result is a good faith estimate, a document that spells out the likely terms of your loan, including the interest rate and closing costs. Not only does this let you know how much house you can afford, it also lets sellers know that you're serious about buying.
Mistake #9: Thinking short-term
The house you purchase should be a place that feels like home to you and your family, but it's important to remember that it's also a huge investment. When shopping for a home, it pays to think about resale down the road. Search for homes in sought-after locations, and look for features that future buyers will want, such as central air conditioning and lots of storage space.
Mistake #8: Not researching the neighborhood
What good is having your dream home, if you don't like the community where it's located? Before shopping for a home, shop for a neighborhood. Make sure it's a good fit for your lifestyle -- figure out how long you want your work commute to be, how close you want to be to amenities like shopping and nightlife, and which school districts are the best. Even if you don't have children, living near good schools raises your property value. Visit the neighborhood several times and at different times of the day. The biggest incentive for finding a quality community: a great neighborhood will increase your home's value, while a bad one will drag it down.
Mistake #7: Buying a foreclosure or fixer-upper without doing your research
Some homebuyers are so set on finding a bargain, they overlook the fact that buying a home that needs repairs can be a stressful and expensive endeavor. Before buying a fixer-upper, get estimates on any necessary repairs and renovations and make sure they will pay for themselves in increased property value. The foreclosure market is also full of opportunities, but it's important to be aware of the potential pitfalls before buying a foreclosed property.
Mistake #6: Buying a house you can't afford
Just because a lender is willing to loan you a fortune doesn't mean you should take it. Buying more home than you can afford can quickly lead to financial trouble. As a rule of thumb, your mortgage payment should be less than 28 percent of your gross monthly income. Besides your mortgage payment, be prepared for the additional costs of homeownership, such as insurance, property taxes, utilities and maintenance. You may want to scale back the size of the home you're looking for in order to bring the whole package in line with your budget.
Mistake #5: Falling for love at first sight
Buying the first house you like is kind of like marrying the first person you go on a date with: not necessarily a good idea. If you don't shop around and see what else is out there, you could miss out on a good deal or potentially regret your purchase. While you don't need to visit every home in the neighborhood, you should compare at least three homes before you make a decision to ensure that you're getting the right house at the right price.
Mistake #4: Forgoing a home inspection
Even if a home looks flawless, it's a mistake to assume that it's actually problem-free. All homes have defects -- even brand new ones -- so getting a professional inspection before making the commitment to buy is crucial. Be sure to attend the inspection so the inspector can explain any issues.
Mistake #3: Not reading the fine print
If you did your homework, you had your trustworthy real estate attorney review all your paperwork and discuss it with you so you don't get a nasty surprise at closing. Let's face it -- you won't have time to read that six-inch stack of legal documents at the closing table. Fortunately, there are a select few documents and items that are truly critical, and you can request a copy of these in advance. This gives you time to review them and ask questions before closing.
Mistake #2: Making an offer without contingencies
Having a back-out plan is a must for smart home buying. If the home has an irresolvable flaw, it doesn't appraise for the purchase price, or your lender refuses to fund your loan, having contingencies on your contract gives you the right to cancel the transaction. Think about it this way: would you spend $100 in a store that doesn't have a 30-day return policy? If your answer is no, you wouldn't want to put hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line without the right to bail.
Mistake #1: Waiting for the market to improve or not buying at all
No one can predict precisely where the market is going, so trying to time your home purchase with the bottom of the market is futile. If you're financially and emotionally ready to be a homeowner, it's always a good time to buy. Just think: all the time you spend procrastinating on purchasing a home, you could be building equity, getting tax deductions and enjoying the many other benefits of homeownership!
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