When buying their first home, many people benefit from the wisdom and experience of their parents, friends, siblings, and even well-meaning strangers. Others find themselves going it alone, excited-yet-advice-less (other than their real estate agent and mortgage broker, of course.)
While you can and should take the home purchase plunge without advice, there are things those who’ve gone through it before can tell you that will help you prepare. So whether you’ve got no well-meaning advice-givers, or too many who are giving the wrong advice, here are the things you’d learn from people who’ve been through it—the things people who own homes wish they’d been told before.
1) Make the Tour and Walk-Through Count
Many buyers, from their initial house tour to the final walk-through, pay more attention to where their couch will go and how the Thanksgiving turkey will look on the table than they do to actual issues and problems, only to find that once the home is theirs, they bit off more than they can chew. It’s very important to really look closely at things; open cabinets, flush toilets, turn on appliances—these are things you’ll want to know about and ask for in case they need to be fixed. Once you own it, they’re your problems.
2) Don’t Go It Alone
While you may not have friends or family to offer this advice, you’d better have an agent, and a good one. Buying or selling without an agent might save you a very small amount on commission, but it can cost you in the end. Buying a home is a very major purchase and the details—contracts, mortgage applications, etc.—are best left to the experts who’ve been doing it for years. Many people who did it on their own wish they had enlisted professional help.
3) Read Every Word
There will be paperwork (a lot of paperwork). It may seem tedious, and you’re probably eager to just get through it. But don’t rush through the process; read everything twice, know what it is you’re signing, and ask questions if you don’t understand something. People have regretted making serious mistakes by not reading the fine print.
4) Be Neighborly
The are plenty of nice houses with good upgrades and great details. But most homeowners will tell you that the neighborhood and the people who live in it are as important as the home itself. They impact your happiness and your resale value. So don’t just fall in love with the house—really get to know the neighborhood and the potential neighbors. They’ll make all the difference.
5) Make Smart Financial Decisions
This is often homeowners’ number one regret: not thinking the finances through. Just because you’re preapproved for a $500,000 mortgage doesn’t mean you should 100% stick to that number. Take all of your expenses (present and future) into account, and don’t leave yourself house poor. Take out a loan you can afford to pay while still paying all of your other bills and leaving plenty of room for the unexpected—because the unexpected often happens.
The best people to learn from are those who’ve been through it before. Follow these tips and work with professionals who you trust; soon, you’ll be the one offering good advice.