The 7 Most Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make

First-time home buyers, beware! 

Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make, illustration of homes
Photo: Miguel Navarro/Getty Images

The more experience you have with buying real estate, the more you'll learn about this complicated process. Between confusing terminology and the logistics of buying a house, it's all-too-easy to make the wrong move or wind up with an unwise investment. If you're a first-time home buyer, bypass buyer's remorse by knowing the most common pitfalls and how to avoid them. We consulted Tracie Rigione and Vicki Ihlefeld—vice presidents of sales at Al Filippone Associates/William Raveis Real Estate in Fairfield, Connecticut—for their best tips.

01 of 07

Not Getting Pre-Approved Before You Shop

Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make, illustration of homes
Miguel Navarro/Getty Images

The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a house you can’t afford. To prevent that, before you do anything, get pre-approved for a mortgage.You need to know what you can afford and what the monthly payments look like,” says Ihlefeld. “A good mortgage broker will figure this out for you. And while a bank will usually pre-approve you for a higher amount, you don’t want to overextend yourself. Be realistic about what you can actually afford.” You're a stronger buyer if you're already pre-approved when you make an offer on a house.

02 of 07

Not Seeking Advice From an Experienced Professional

Despite so much information available online, you should still seek the advice of an experienced professional early-on in the home-buying process. “Realtors educate people about the process, who they need to consult, if they need an attorney, [and] when they’ll have to have their down payment ready,” says Rigione. "And we can give valuable insights into the neighborhoods you’re looking at." An added bonus: Sometimes real estate agents have access to a property before it goes on the market.

Finding a real estate agent to work with is important, so take your time to find one who's a good match for your personality and preferences. As Rigione points out: "You’re going to be spending a lot of time together throughout the process!”

03 of 07

Not Making an Informed Offer

A common home-buying mistake is letting your emotions dictate the offer. Instead, only make an offer if you’re really serious about buying a property, and make sure it’s based on comparable sales rather than just how much you like the house. “Ultimately the price should reflect the market value of the home. The ideal negotiation is when the buyer and seller both feel like they’ve won," says Rigione. "The negotiations between your opening offer and your ideal number is where working with a real estate pro really comes in handy."

04 of 07

Not Being Able to See the House Beyond Its Current Condition

This is potentially a two-pronged issue, and both can be problematic. This first scenario is finding a house updated with beautiful finishes, fixtures, and décor. “We call it eye candy,” explains Ihlefeld. “People get so busy looking at superficial details and forget about things that they can’t change about the house like the location, the yard, or that it’s on a busy road.”

On the other hand, shoppers may overlook a home that needs paint and cosmetic updates, but has great bones and a good location. When shopping for a house, be cognizant of cosmetic details that can be altered easily, as well as issues that are expensive or impossible to fix.

05 of 07

Making an Emotional Rather Than a Business Decision

You never want to fall so in love with a house that you’re emotionally invested in the purchase. “If you love it so much that you feel like you’ll do anything to get a property, you can end up overpaying for the home,” warns Rigione. “That can lead to buyer’s remorse and feeling like you didn’t get the best deal. The buying process is emotional enough, and that’s why you want someone on your side that can keep your emotions in check through the close. We’ve seen deals fall apart from something as small as a missing light fixture!” Stay levelheaded and remember that this is a serious commitment that you’ll have to live with for years to come.

06 of 07

Only Looking at Mortgage Rates From One Lender

Ensure you do your due diligence when it comes to your mortgage. Speak to an experienced loan officer who'll find the best rates and mortgage products. “Talk to your loan officer about your personal needs so they can help steer you toward the best mortgage for you and your family,” says Ihlefeld. "You can save a lot of money that way, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer.”

07 of 07

Applying for Lines of Credit or Making Large Credit Purchases

Buying a house is a big enough purchase, so just focus on that: You shouldn’t simultaneously be shopping for a car, buying furniture, or opening a new credit card. “Your credit score gets dinged when you open a new line of credit. It can impact your pre-approval, mortgage approval, and create a big mess for the underwriter,” says Rigione. "It can even delay your closing. Once you’ve closed on the house, then make your next buying decision."

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