Top 8 House-Hunting Mistakes
Mistake 1: Falling In Love
Once you’ve fallen in love with a particular home, it’s hard to go back. To avoid the temptation to get in over your head financially, or the disappointment of feeling like you’re settling for less than you deserve, it’s best to only look at homes in your price range. Start your search at the low end of your price range – if what you find there satisfies you, there’s no need to go higher.
Mistake 2: Being Inflexible
Unless you are a high-end buyer looking at custom homes, chances are that for any home you find that you like, there are quite a few others that are nearly identical to it. Most neighborhoods have multiple homes that are the same model. Further, most neighborhoods are full of homes that were all constructed by the same builder, so even if you can’t find an identical model for sale, you can probably find a house with many of the same features. If you’re considering a condo or townhouse, the odds are also in your favor.
Even when you have a long list of must-haves, there are probably several homes out there that can meet your needs. Another house in the same area might be similar enough to meet your needs but be less expensive. Likewise, you could find a similar model with more of the upgrades you’re looking for at a similar price.
Mistake 3: Getting Desperate
When you’ve been looking for a while and you’re not seeing anything you like – or worse, you’re getting outbid on the houses you do want – it’s easy to start thinking that what you really want simply won’t happen. If you move into a house you’ll end up hating, the transaction costs to get rid of it will be costly. You’ll also deal with the hassle and expense of moving yet again.
Mistake 4: Ignoring Flaws
For any of the three reasons we just discussed, you might be tempted to ignore major problems with the house that will be difficult, expensive or impossible to change. Carefully consider your options before you make a commitment, and consider waiting until something better comes along. New houses come on the market every day.
Mistake 5: Playing Handyman
Don’t buy a fixer-upper that’s more than you can handle in terms of time, money or ability. For example, if you think you can do the work yourself then realize you can’t once you get started, any repairs or upgrades you were planning to make will probably cost twice as much once you factor in the labor – and that may not be in your budget. Not to mention the costs involved to fix anything you may have started and the fees to replace the materials you wasted. Honestly evaluate your abilities, your budget and how soon you need to move before purchasing a property that isn’t move-in ready.
Mistake 6: Making A Premature Offer
In a hot market (or even a hot submarket, with dirt-cheap, bank-owned properties during a housing slump) it may be necessary to pull the trigger very quickly if you find a home you like. However, you have to balance the need to make a quick decision with the need to make sure the home will be right for you. Don’t neglect important steps like making sure the neighborhood feels safe at night as well as during the day, and investigating possible noise issues like a nearby train.
Ideally you’ll be able to take at least a night to sleep on the decision. How well you sleep that night and how you feel about the home in the morning will tell you a lot about whether the decision you’re about to make is the right one. Taking the time to consider the decision also gives you a chance to research how much the property is really worth and offer an appropriate price.
Mistake 7: Waiting Too Long
It’s a tough balancing act to make sure you make a careful decision yet don’t take too long to make it. Losing out on a property that you were almost ready to make an offer on because someone beat you to it can be heartbreaking. It can also have economic consequences.
If you don’t pull the trigger quickly, someone else might, and you’ll have to keep looking. Don’t underestimate how time-consuming and routine-disrupting house shopping can be. (A small business can increase your disposable income.
Mistake 8: Offering Too Much
If there’s a lot of competition in your market and you find a place you really like, it’s all too easy to get sucked into a bidding war – or to try to preempt a bidding war by offering a high price in the first place. There are a couple of potential problems with this. First, if the house doesn’t appraise at or above the amount of your offer, the bank won’t give you the loan unless the seller reduces the price or you pay cash for the difference.
12 House-Hunting Tips to Help You Make the Right Choice
1. Set your priorities. Before taking a look at any houses, sit down and write out everything you want in a home, with input from all members of the household. Then choose your top five, or even top three, must-haves.
Once you start looking, all sorts of charming features are bound to sway you; keeping your priorities list close at hand can help you stay on track.
2. Make a comparison chart. After you have seen a dozen or more houses, it becomes very difficult to keep track of the features in each one. Make things a little easier by creating your own comparison chart or checklist to bring along to each home, and make notes on it during or immediately after each tour.
Beyond the basics (beds and baths) consider including notes on landscaping, the condition of the roof and exterior, natural light in each room, storage space and cost per square foot. Consider this chart a personal tool — something you can look back on to help guide your decision making, not a substitute for a good home inspection.
3. Walk through once and let yourself soak it all in. When you tour a home for the first time, the excitement can make it difficult to focus on … well, anything at all. So I say, just go with it. Have fun, wander around and mentally note your first impressions of the space. Once the butterflies have died down, it’s time to get to work.
4. Then go back to the beginning and start again. Walk back to the front of the house and literally begin your tour again. This time, pull out your clipboard and pen, take your time and approach the home as if you were an inspector rather then a potential buyer.
5. Bring furniture measurements. Jumping the gun? Maybe. A deal breaker? Probably not. But if every room in the house presents problems with your current furniture situation, you could effectively be adding thousands of dollars to the price if you have to purchase new furniture — something that is probably better to know sooner rather than later.
6. Sketch a floor plan. You do not need to have any real drawing skills to make a superbasic floor plan on paper, and having it to refer to later is priceless. Just do your best. Starting at the front door, draw boxes for rooms and mark doors, windows, stairways and openings roughly where they are.
7. Ask to take photos (or even a video). It’s amazing how quickly memory fades. Make sure you have backup by creating a floor plan and taking photos or a short video tour if possible — it will really give you a full picture of what the house looks like. Be sure to ask the Realtor for permission before taking any photos or video. And even then, it is assumed that they are for personal use, so don’t post them to your Facebook page or blog … at least not until you own the house.
8. Open the closets and cupboards. Proper storage is a really important factor in how a home looks and feels when you are living in it. Note the number and size of cupboards and closets throughout the house, and don’t be afraid to peek inside. If the current homeowner has them packed to the gills, that may be a sign that the house doesn’t have enough storage for its size.
9. Lift up the rugs. While this is not something you necessarily want to do during a busy open house, if you are back for a second look and are really considering making an offer, it is important to know what you are getting into. Rugs (and even furniture) can be used to conceal damaged flooring, so you have a right to see what’s going on under there. Just let the Realtor know what you want to see, and he or she should accommodate you.
10. Look high and look low. It is important to get a good look at the house that could be your new home, so make a point of focusing on things outside your usual line of vision. Check out the ceilings, walls, floors, trim, windows, roof and under the sinks.
11. Check out the property at different times of day. If you do come back for a second showing, make it during a different time of day from the open house or first tour. In the evening, notice not only the changes in light, but the atmosphere in the neighborhood. Are people out sitting on porches? Are kids playing outside? Is it noisy? You are bound to learn and discover different things about the house each time.
12. Take a moment to envision how you would use the space. Just because the current owner (or staging company) has the second bedroom set up for guests doesn’t mean you can’t use it as an office, a home gym or a nursery. Paint colors, furniture arrangements and window treatments can also all be swapped out, so use your imagination and really put yourself in the home.