Common Home Buyer Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

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1. Thinking you’re buying a new house when you’re actually buying a used house. The Sellers owe you the home in the same condition it was in when you bought it – they don’t owe you a perfect home with no issues. Trust us…every home will have problems you weren’t expecting when you move in.
2. Not looking under the hood. While a scratched floor probably won’t change your decision to buy a home, it’s nice to know before you move in. Don’t spend more time shopping for a new pair of shoes than exploring your new potential home.
3. Not being ready to jump on the right house. Make sure to have your financial ducks in a row and be ready to make a quick decision when you find the right home.
4. Not being fully approved for a mortgage before you start the search. Forget about online mortgage tools and bank pre-approvals – you need a full commitment from a lender to ensure your financing doesn’t fall through. They’ll want to check your credit, verify your employment and your down payment – so be ready. If you don’t know a good mortgage lender, we’d be happy to put you in touch with the people we trust.
5. Trolling homes you can’t afford. This is simply a recipe for heartbreak.
6. Not being flexible in your choice of neighborhood. There are tons of great neighborhoods in Hampton Roads and being flexible about where you live will help you land the home of your dreams within your budget. 
7. Not getting a home inspection or not reading the one you got. A home inspection is like a physical for your house, and a DNA test rolled into one – it diagnoses current issues and acts as an early-detection system for what might go wrong in the future. So don’t skip over this important step and make sure to READ IT ALL. Ask questions when you don’t understand something. 
8. Expecting the Seller to pay for all things uncovered in a home inspection. This doesn’t happen every time. Get a home inspection to get informed and help you decide if you want to buy the house – but don’t always expect to be able to bargain the price down if the inspector uncovers something.
9. Trusting a pre-listing home inspection from a random person. If you’re buying in a hot market and multiple offers are common, you might be provided with a home inspection that the Seller ordered before putting their home on the market. Be careful – it’s always best to get your own inspection, but if you decide to use the Seller’s, make sure it was completed by a trusted inspector at a trusted company who values their reputation.
10. Low-balling in a hot market. Putting in an offer that’s below market value (which may or may not be different than the asking price) is a recipe for a disaster on a newly listed home. All it will do is encourage the Sellers to go hunting for an offer to compete with you, and you’ll probably lose the home. Know the market you’re in and offer accordingly – your REALTOR can help.
11. Not anticipating the closing costs. You’ll need to pay land transfer tax and your lawyer fees, but there may also be other costs. You can read more about closing costs here.
12. Not understanding the taxes you’ll need to pay. From provincial and city land transfer taxes that you pay on closing to the municipal property taxes that get paid annually, to HST on legal and real estate services and capital gains taxes on investments, there are a LOT of taxes. 
13. Falling in love with the staging and not the home. It’s easy to get sidelined into looking at the pretty furniture and pillows. Staging exists for that very purpose – to make you fall in love. But make sure to imagine YOUR furniture and look past the staging.
14. Getting too excited and losing sight of what you wanted/needed. If a gorgeous yard wasn’t on your initial must-have list, don’t fall for the flowers and forget that what you really needed was a finished basement or office. It’s normal for some of your wants and needs to change throughout the house hunting process, but don’t lose sight of your original goals.
15. Not researching your school district before buying. In the long run, this may cause you to move again once you have school age children. 
16. Buying your first home first, when it might be a better ideal to buy your second home first. Buying and selling real estate is expensive, so make sure you buy as much home as you’re comfortable with in the beginning, so you won’t have to move in a few years. 
17. Being short-sighted in a hot market. If you’re buying at a time when prices are increasing, recognize that you’ll likely need to pay MORE than the last comparable price…and the extra $1,000 you aren’t willing to pay tonight will become the starting price for the next comparable property. Think of an increasing market like a set of stairs, with each new sale moving everybody up a step.
18. Expecting to see a home with super short notice. Most showings are scheduled with a day or two notice, and Sellers aren’t usually receptive to only having one hour to prep their home. In a hot market, you can probably get in to see a home quickly (and that might be a big strategic advantage). If the home you want to see is currently tenanted, the owner is legally obligated to give the Tenant 24 hours notice of any showing.
19. Not being respectful of the Sellers and their home. It’s not cool to go into a home and make fun of the decor or how the Sellers live. It’s not OK to take photos of the bear on their bed and mock them on social media. It’s not OK to keep your muddy shoes on and traipse through their home. It’s not OK to be late for a showing or just not show up.
20. Naively thinking the Seller isn’t videotaping or recording you in their home. These days, many Sellers have cameras installed and are watching what’s happening during a showing. Don’t discuss your motivations, how much you love/hate the house or how much you’re prepared to pay while in the home.
21. Not being ready to compromise. Almost nobody gets everything they want in a house (except maybe Drake). You’ll likely need to compromise on at least one of these three things: location, size or condition.
22. Failing to understand what the bank appraisal is and how it might affect you. Almost every home that will need a mortgage will be appraised by the lender…so make sure you understand what happens if the bank appraises your home for less than you agreed to pay for it. Ask your REALTOR. 
23. Not filing your income taxes. Banks will require your income taxes to be filed and up to date before they’ll advance you a mortgage, so if you’ve been avoiding filing, get on it right now.
24. Buying with the listing agent. I know, you think the listing agent knows the most about the property (and they usually do). But they’re working for the Seller! Their job is to get the best price and conditions for the Seller, not for you.
25. Scheduling too many showings in one day. Looking at homes is fun – but if you see more than 6-8 in a day, you’ll be exhausted and probably forget what you saw.
26. Buying the most expensive home on the street and not understanding the ramifications of that. The cheapest home on the street is more valuable because of its neighbors, and unfortunately, the most expensive home’s value is brought down by its neighbors too.
27. Driving your own car while house hunting with your REALTOR. There’s so much you can learn about the buying process from your agent while you’re navigating traffic and parking.
28. Not reading what you’re signing and understanding the legal paperwork. Make sure you have your Realtor explain everything you do not understand.
29. Thinking you don’t need an agent to represent you. Sure, you can find homes online yourself and visit open houses, but there’s a lot more to a REALTOR’s job than that. 
30. Not going into the scary unfinished basement. Your REALTOR will help with scary basements, but it’s important that you explore the whole house, not just the sexy kitchen. Look for evidence of pests, water problems and take a peek at the electrical panel.
31. Not wanting to commit to one agent by signing a Buyer’s Representation Agreement. Having an agent commit to working for you has many advantages, not the least of which is having somebody represent your interests at no cost to you (the Seller pays the Buyer’s agent). 
32. Not budgeting for all the repairs you’ll inevitably have to make as a homeowner. You’ll be surprised by all the little and big stuff that you’ll be responsible for as a Buyer. Budget, budget and then budget some more.
33. Not informing yourself about the unsexy stuff: the age of the roof, the kind of electrical wiring, how old the drains are, whether or not there’s up-to-date plumbing, etc. Work with an agent who asks all the questions and reports back to you.
34. Not talking to a home insurance person in advance of buying. Your mortgage will be conditional on getting home insurance, so make sure there aren’t any issues with the home (or with your insurance history) that it make it uninsurable.
35. Not having serious conversations with your spouse before embarking on the house hunting adventure. Does either of you have a dark secret in your credit history? Are you planning on having kids? How far are you comfortable commuting to work? 

36. Not walking around the outside of the house. Look for cracks in the bricks and evidence of water penetration. Go into the garage. Check out the fence. Take the time to walk through the whole yard; don’t just peek out from the window.
37. Not comparing mortgage interest rates and terms. Sure, you love your bank…but you might save thousands of dollars a year by getting a mortgage at a competing bank. Do your homework, and remember that interest rate isn’t the only important thing…the terms and conditions are important too. Can you port your mortgage if you sell and buy something else? What kind of pre-payment options and penalties come with that mortgage?
38. Refusing to pay the asking price, on principle. Sure, it’s fun to negotiate – but the house might be accurately priced or even priced low, in an attempt to generate a bidding war. Don’t base your offer strategy on principle, base it on fact.
39. Not trusting your REALTOR. OK, this one is only true if you’ve hired an awesome agent who doesn’t BS you, but if you’ve asked all the right questions and hired based on experience, skills and knowledge, trust your agent. They’ll guide you towards picking the right home in the right neighborhood and paying the right amount. If it feels like you need to lie to your agent because you don’t think they have your best interests at heart, find another agent.
40. Not testing all the appliances and mechanics on the day of close. Run a load through the dishwasher, wash and dry some clothes. Test the furnace and the A/C. Your offer likely required that everything be in working condition on the day of close – but if you don’t discover the furnace doesn’t work until Day 7, the assumption will be that it broke while you owned it. Test, test and test some more. Find something that doesn’t work on closing day? Document it and talk to your closing agent right away.
41. Following the crowd. Buyers all seem to search for houses at the same time of the year, which means it can get really competitive…and then Buyers all seem to ‘take a break’ at the same time. That’s when you want to go hard and fast with your search, during those weeks and months when your competitors are taking a break. A good agent can help you identify the times of opportunity.
42. Overlooking the ugly house. Sometimes, ugly houses get overlooked, and they might be a prime opportunity for you to get into a neighborhood you otherwise might not afford.
43. Not taking notes while you’re house hunting. Trust me: you’ll forget a lot of details by the end of a day of showings. Take notes on your phone about anything that’s important to you.
44. Not taking advantage of government programs for first-time Buyers!!!! From tax credits to reduced land transfer taxes and the Home Buyer RSP Plan, get informed. 
45. Not upgrading enough during a move-up. If you currently own your home and are looking to make a move up, make sure you make a big enough move up, so you don’t find yourself in this same situation in 2 years. If you’re looking for more space, aim for more than you think you need right now, not just an extra 100 square feet. Lateral moves are expensive.
46. Borrowing all the money the bank is willing to give you. While your lender uses standard qualifying ratios to determine how much mortgage you can afford, they aren’t taking into account the rest of your life. Do you love to travel? Have an expensive hobby? Make a personal budget at the same time as a house budget. Nobody wants to work just to pay the mortgage. 
47. Not anticipating how your life might change. Give some serious thought to how your lifestyle might change before you sign on the dotted line. Looking to start a family and twins run in your family? Aim for a three-bedroom instead of a two-bedroom home. Are things getting serious with your girlfriend? Involve her in the house hunting if you think you might move into together. Are the kids in middle school? Get a finished basement so they’ve got somewhere to hang with their friends through the teen years.
48. If you’re buying a house that’s been renovated and flipped, look very carefully. Sometimes, flippers cut corners in order to make a bigger profit. Are the appliances, furnace and A/C new? Did they waterproof before refinishing the basement? 
49. Forgetting to ask to see the utility bills. While your agent should do this for you, it’s important to know how much the current owner has been paying for heat and hydro.
50. Not hiring The Crist Team to help you buy your next home. We’re a team of experienced and passionate agents, and we can help you avoid all these mistakes and more. Contact us to get started.