When buyers are in the market for a new home, people come out of the woodwork with laundry lists of advice on things the buyers should do. While purchasing a home entails many decisions and steps, some of the key aspects can be boiled down into a short list of things you should not do when buying a home. Keep the process simple by following this list of “don’ts” as you assess properties. I worked with John Moel of Indiana Mortgage Lenders, and we think our list can speed up the process of choosing ones that are worthy of making your short list of potential buying candidates.
1. Never use the same real estate agent as the home seller
The seller is paying the agent’s commission, so the agent is working in the seller’s best interests, not yours. Beware if the seller’s agent tries to pressure you into using them. They will likely tell you both parties will benefit by using one agent. The only advantage is that one agent can take control over the entire transaction, and there is a very good chance this will not work in your favor. Some experts say that you would be better off with no agent, rather than letting the seller’s agent represent your interests.
2. Don’t expect to find a home that has every single feature you want
Assess new home prospects with a prioritized list of things that are important to you, and know which ones you can let go and which ones are non-negotiable. Holding out for a house that has everything on your list may keep you in home shopping mode forever. Meanwhile, you could be bypassing some really great properties.
3. Don’t focus your home-buying search in too narrow of an area
Many people want to buy homes close to their job or a great school. Others want a certain neighborhood because of the types of homes or neighbor demographics it contains. Unless you have months or years to wait for the right property, you could benefit from exploring other areas that meet most of your criteria. Finding a great home involves certain trade-offs, and if your focus stays too narrow, you could miss a property that has other features you find important and desirable.
4. Don’t become too hung up on a home’s aesthetics
Focus on the integrity of its structure and its basic architecture. Unappealing paint colors, poor landscaping and rust-colored shag carpet are aesthetic features that might turn you off initially, but learn to look past them. Take advantage of great homes with poor aesthetics that can be improved for a relatively small amount. These gems are the ones that many other buyers pass over, and choosing one could wind up becoming a great bargain.
5. Don’t breeze through all of the contracts and documents because you are excited about your purchase
Review each one carefully, and work with someone who has experience and serves as your advocate. This is usually your agent, which re-emphasizes the point of not using the seller’s agent. An agent working for the seller is not likely to point out language in the contracts that is not in your favor. Hiring an attorney is not usually necessary, although it is not a bad idea to have a real estate attorney review each contract. If your transaction involves complexities such as an illegal guest house built in the home’s backyard with a tenant that you would like to evict, this situation is beyond the scope of a real estate agent and you should seek legal advice.
6. Don’t make an offer so low that you insult the seller
According to real estate agent Karen Monsour of Exit Realty Properties based in Coral Springs, Florida, offers made at 25 percent below the offering price are too low. Other agents think 15 percent below the offering price is the cutoff point. Either way, an upset home seller can shut off negotiations completely with a potential buyer that bids too low. The key is to keep the lines of communication open. Every seller has different needs, and some may be more open to “lowball” offers than others.
7. Don’t buy a home that is out of your price range
Some people scrape every last dime together to buy a new home, only to have trouble making the mortgage payments or paying for the home’s upkeep. Home ownership requires many other expenses besides the mortgage, and that does not even consider a homeowner that suffers a job loss or other financial difficulties. Buying a home that is well within your means allows for a margin of safety in your personal finances. Choose an affordable home that has the most important features you want and need.
Buying a new home, especially for first-timers, can be very exciting and frustrating at the same time. Each transaction requires a lot of work, but the rewards are worth the effort. Many homes are the largest investments in peoples’ financial portfolios. Going into the home buying process with an open mind, realistic expectations and at least one knowledgeable person working as your advocate can take you a long way towards finding the house that becomes your perfect home.
Home buying is a complex process with many potential issues for the inexperienced buyer. While many real estate agents and home sellers conduct business ethically, there are those who do not. While shopping for a new home, protect yourself and increase your chances of a successful transaction with the following tips.