Buying a home represents the most significant financial decision most people will ever make during their lifetime. From a person’s first home, which often establishes the foundation for future home purchases, to the purchase of the home where they’ll spend their senior years, there are definite pitfalls to avoid and suggested steps to take to assist one in making the right decisions.
One of the first mistakes people make is not getting pre-approved or pre-qualified by a bank or lending institution. Sellers and their agents are often skeptical of a prospective buyer’s ability to obtain a mortgage loan when the buyer has not been pre-qualified. When choosing between two comparable offers, or when contemplating countering a buyer’s offer, a seller will always look more favorably upon the pre-qualified buyer.
Employing the services of a realtor makes great sense, since navigating through the home purchase process is both complex and fraught with financial dangers. However, as the buyer, you should have your own realtor who will be fully committed to representing your best interests. The seller’s realtor will often favor the interests of the seller, with an eye to the commission involved. Your agent will be inclined to do a “comparative market analysis”, which will establish property values and selling prices of homes in the area of your targeted purchase.
Take your time! It happens all too frequently that people rush into signing a contract to purchase a particular home and then for any number of reasons, regret their hasty decision. Remember… if you enter into a contract to buy a home, your chances of rescinding that contract are very slim. It doesn’t help that you’ve found another home you prefer, when you’re under contract to make a purchase you’re expected to follow through and buy it.
In addition to finding a home they like better than the one they’ve contracted to buy, another reason people try to cancel a contract is that they realize too late that they’ve over-purchased. The mere fact that you can qualify to purchase a particular property doesn’t speak the full story. Being “house poor” is the pits. Putting the bulk of your earnings into your mortgage payment obviously detracts from your quality of life. Things you used to enjoy, such as vacation trips, going out to dinner or splurging on an expensive piece of clothing will have to be curtailed.
Some people have specific requirements for their dream home and unfortunately sometimes wait too long for that home to present itself. While waiting for utopia, people pass up excellent homes that are good bargains and would fulfill a majority of their demands. Also, in many cases, market prices and mortgage rates continue to rise.
The potential buyer should be aware that there are many types of mortgages being offered by lenders; therefore, they should explore all of their options before “locking in.” Interest only loans allow the buyer to pay only the interest on their mortgage for a period of usually up to five years. This is an attractive option for young buyers who want to establish themselves in a home of their own, but have not reached their full earning potential. Hopefully and assumedly, at the end of the prescribed 1-5 year period the buyers will be better able to meet full mortgage payments. All other options should be explored as well.
Failing to require a comprehensive home inspection, or relying on the knowledge of a friend, is a penny-wise/pound-foolish thing to do. The relatively minor expense of the full inspection is definitely cost-effective. The inspection should include a review of electrical system, condition of the roof, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, septic system, water quality, etc. etc. etc. This is a very important process that can save untold heartache in the future.
When selecting a home, don’t forget that your quality of life in that home extends into the surrounding community. Your new home can be a showplace, but if it’s surrounded by run down properties and neighbors who don’t fit into your preferred social structure, you aren’t going to be happy. Be sure that the school system meets with your approval; inquire about the crime rate and consider the quality of the stores and services available in the area.
Sometimes it’s hard to look into the future, but when buying a home it’s good to think about resale value. Not that this should be the final consideration, but when touring your prospective new home you should look for things that would be a deterrent to another buyer.
Finally, before signing the contract you should be aware of any restrictions imposed by your new community association. Such restrictions can include: fencing guidelines, parking restrictions (no RV’s in the driveway), no boats in the yard, landscaping requirements, and even certain occupancy restrictions. Blindly buying into a heavily restricted community is a very common mistake.