If you’re thinking about buying a home, you need a game plan. House hunting is about more than visiting a few open houses and choosing the house you like the best. A smart search means you’ll save time, money and your sanity during your home-buying process. Here, Realtor.com presents some classic mistakes to avoid.
Not arming yourself with a mortgage pre-approval
Sellers will think you’re not serious if you begin looking at houses without being pre-approved for a mortgage. In fact, a seller is unlikely to entertain an offer without a pre-approval. And, in hot markets, that means you can forget about that promising property because there are plenty of other buyers with pre-approvals in hand. In addition to improving your odds of making a winning offer, a pre-approval also lets you know exactly how much mortgage you qualify for, so you won’t spend time looking at properties you can’t afford.
House hunting without an agent
In a tight market, the best way to find a house is to get a jump on the competition. An agent will be the first to see when new listings arise, and if they’re well-networked, they likely will know about listings that haven’t hit the market. A buyer’s agent also can help you avoid costly negotiating mistakes when it comes time to make an offer.
Not knowing what you want
Be sure to make a wish list before you begin shopping, because looking at different types of properties will slow the process. It’s fine to consider many types of properties at first to get a sense of your options, but try to narrow them down before you fill your weekends with home tours.
Waiting too long to see a home
In a tight market, do whatever you can to see a property right away if your real estate agent calls you about a new listing. Sometimes, waiting even a day can make the difference between getting the house or not.
Inviting outspoken (and uneducated) advisers
Although it can be wise to get an unbiased second opinion, beware the desire to get too many opinions. Often, those making suggestions are offering observations based on their own living situations. In other words, they think a huge backyard is heaven, but you’re the one who has to mow it.
Speeding through an open house
While you’ll eventually have an inspection, use the open house to note any red flags: Look beyond the fancy sheers hanging on the windows to make sure the windows themselves are hanging straight; flip light switches to check their upkeep; inspect the floors and foundation to make sure they’re up to par; and open closets and pantry cabinets to ensure you have checked out every nook and cranny.
Becoming distracted by sparkly new features
Does a house seem amazing at first glance? Sometimes you have to look a little closer. During your house hunt, look carefully for signs that indicate a rush job (gaps between new flooring and the walls, and paint spatters on light switches, outlets and windows, for instance). Also note the brands and materials used because they could be lower-quality options that won’t stand the test of time.
If you’re hoping to find the perfect-sized house in the perfect neighborhood with the main-floor laundry room you want and the best schools, at a price you can afford, think again. Have a priority list and refer to it; it’s rare to get everything you want, so focus on what’s most important to you.
Falling in love with the decor—not the home
So, you’re dazzled as soon as you walk in the door. But is it the house that’s winning you over or the decor? It’s a home stager’s job to make you fall in love with a home, and unless you can ask the stager for tips, you’re probably not going to be able to replicate the look. Envision yourself in the home and falling in love with the house itself, not the house the way it’s staged.
Ignoring the neighborhood
When you tour a home, make sure you save some time to check out the neighborhood as well. Once you’ve checked for any red flags, take some time to get the overall vibe of the community and make sure it’s right for you. Notice whether the neighborhood is quiet or bustling; whether it attracts families or singles; and if neighbors congregate on their porches or keep to themselves. Also check for local shops, restaurants or parks if amenities are important to you, as well as access to freeways and public transportation.