Is there anything more exciting than buying a home for the very first time? Everything is new and exciting, it’s the most important purchase of your life, you’ve been saving it for it for years, and now it’s finally time to look for your dream home.
However, the excitement and lack of experience can also work to your detriment. Young buyers are prone to overlooking important details, shooting higher than their budget allows, or prioritizing what they want over what they really need.
Here are the most common mistakes first time home buyers make and how you can avoid them for a seamless first-time home buying process.
They get too attached
When you’ve shopped for homes before, you know better than to get attached. The real estate market can be vicious, and chances are that you will be looking for a longer time than anticipated. You will fall in love with a home, put in an offer, only to be rejected. Then you’ll do it again, and again, and again.
Buyers are often advised by real estate agents to not get attached to the home they’re putting an offer on. It seems impossible - after all, this is your potential home - but it’s going to take a few offers and a few lost homes before you find yours.
First-time buyers don’t have this experience and they often make the mistake of getting too excited and too attached envisioning their life in a potential home. When they’re outbid and the property goes to someone else, they’re devastated. Avoid heartbreak by keeping your head in the game and remembering that this is a financial transaction and stay detached, until you’re in the final stages of the process.
They look at homes out of their budget
Another frequent issue is the temptation to view homes that are outside your budget. Buyers often think there’s no harm in looking, right? You’re just seeing what’s out there. Of course, what they don’t yet know is the danger of falling in love with a property that you absolutely cannot afford.
It happens time and time again - you see a beautiful property and tell yourself you’re “only looking”, but quickly realize it’s your dream home. Except you can’t afford it, but now every other cheaper property is getting compared to the one that’s unattainable. That sets you up for disappointment and a long, frustrating search for “the one”.
Spare yourself the disappointment and don’t spoil your own search. Limit yourself to homes within your budget, and preferably under - that’s going to give you some wiggle room to overbid, should it come to a bidding war, as it often does.
They have unrealistic expectations
We’ve all been through this - it’s your first home, so you get excited, you spend months curating your “dream home” Pinterest, save pictures, make moodboards, and know everything you want in this property.
The bad news is that expectations are not often in line with reality. Most first-time buyers will not end up with their dream home, their budget will not stretch far enough to buy as much space as they want, and the home will not be a perfectly set up, turnkey ready home.
It’s normal to get excited but try to temper your expectations. If you dream too big, you run the risk of having a very harsh wake-up call that can really put a damper on your home search experience. Start out cautiously optimistic, but don’t expect to hit every single thing on your Pinterest wishlist.
They don’t check the homes thoroughly
Before you make any major purchase, especially a long-term purchase of this magnitude, it’s important to take the time to check it thoroughly. That means very attentive walkthroughs, but also expert checks. As a first-time buyer, you may be tempted to waive the home inspection to save money and expedite the process, but that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
Especially as an inexperienced buyer, you should be taking all the professional expertise and validation you can get. If you get caught up in the excitement of owning a home and turn a blind eye to potential issues, you may be paying for them - literally - for the rest of your time owning the property.
They prioritize wants over needs
When you have a couple of home searches under your belt, you know that there are things you can’t compromise on and things you must compromise on. You also know that what you want in a house and what you need in a house can oftentimes be different.
The mistake novice home buyers make is that they prioritize what they want over what they need, which is a recipe for an unhappy, impractical purchase. Your ultimate priorities should be budget, location, space, and essential amenities. You can’t spend money you don’t have, the location is often non-negotiable, and you can’t magically fit a 5-member family in a 1-bedroom house.
Compromises must be made. You won’t get the high ceilings you want this time, but you get to stay in the neighborhood of your choice and enjoy the added value to your property. You don’t get a huge home office, but you get high-speed internet so you can still easily work from home. You may need to settle for a fixer-upper, but you can add your favorite features in time.
They don’t factor in repairs & remodels into the price
And speaking of fixer-uppers, it seems like a great way to get the house you want on a smaller budget, and it is - if you remember that the remodel doesn’t come for free. In all the excitement, a first-time buyer will often overlook the fact that to get their dream house, they have to factor in the cost of repairs, remodels, and upgrades.
The price of a home may be affordable, but is it still affordable once you factor in the roof repair, window replacement, and knocking down the kitchen walls to create an open plan living room? Remember to do the math at every step of the way so you don’t get stuck with a home you don’t like because you can’t afford to transform it.
They skip the real estate agent
When you’ve never searched for a home before, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and effort that goes into it. Young buyers view it as an exciting project, and they’re often on a budget, so skipping the real estate agent seems like a good solution to save some money.
However, as is often the case, first-time buyers don’t know what they don’t know. When you hire a real estate agent, what you’re paying for is their time and effort, but also their experience, their expertise, and insider knowledge you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Real estate agents know all the homes in the area, all the other agents, they get first dibs on viewings, and they will know how to steer you to get you the best home at the best price. The best investment you can make is in someone who is on your side and has industry knowledge.
Owning a home for the first time is one of the biggest and most awaited milestones in a person’s life. Making your list of must-haves, putting together inspiration images, searching for your dream home; it’s all very exciting.
However, if you’re not careful, you can end up making a lot of very common mistakes - some small, some bigger - that can take a lot of time and money to undo or can ultimately lead to a bad purchase. As a first-time buyer, you should pay attention to your budget, your non-negotiable features, and the state of the home. And don’t forget to hire a topnotch real estate agent to maximize your chances at a successful purchase and avoiding common traps for inexperienced buyers.