#10: Get Pre-Approved Before You Begin
Why get your hopes up looking at $500,000 homes, when your buying power puts you in the market for a $300,000 home? Before you start house hunting, know your price range or limits by getting pre-approved. Shop for a lender or mortgage broker you can trust, if you're having trouble we have several we can recommend. A mortgage or lending specialist will review your credit, income, assets and debts and recommend a mortgage with monthly payments that fit your budget. Remember that even if you get approved for an amount, consider whether or not you really want to push that limit or set money aside for a rainy day. The result is a good-faith estimate and a document that spells out the possible terms of your loan. This would include the interest rate and other closing costs. Not only does this let you know how much house you can afford, it also lets sellers know that you're serious about buying.
• Discover the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval in our glossary
#9: Think Ahead, Way Ahead
Your new purchase should feel like home to you and your family but it's also important to remember that it's a big investment. When shopping for a home, it's always a good idea to think about resale down the road. Search for homes in sought-after locations and look for features that future buyers may want, like central air-conditioning and lots of storage space. We know, what house doesn't come with A/C? You'd be surprised but we just want to get you thinking.
• Learn the ingredients of a great real estate investment
#8: Do Your Homework
There's a Test Later What good is having your dream home, if you don't like the community it's located within? Before shopping for a home, shop the neighborhood, talk to neighbors. Make sure it's a good fit for your lifestyle — decide how long you want your work commute to be, how close you need to be to amenities like shopping, nightlife or your fitness club, and which school districts are the best. Even if you don't have children, living near good schools keeps your property value. Visit the neighborhood several times and at different times of the day. The biggest incentive for finding a quality community: a great neighborhood will increase your home's value, while a bad one will drag it down.
#7: Shop 'Til Ya Drop
Some homebuyers are so insistent on finding a bargain, they overlook the fact that buying a home that needs repairs can be an expensive undertaking—not to mention stressful. Before buying a fix'r-upper, get estimates on all the necessary repairs and updates and make sure they'll pay for themselves with an increased property value. If, and only if, the market analysis shows that the repairs bring you up to today's market value. The foreclosure market is also full of opportunities, but it's important to be aware of the potential pitfalls before buying a foreclosed property.
• Read up on what you should know before buying a fixer-upper
• Learn the pros and cons of buying a foreclosure in FrontDoor's Foreclosure Guide
Mistake #6: Buying a house you can't afford
Just because a lender is willing to loan you a fortune doesn't mean you should take it. Buying more home than you can afford will quickly lead to financial trouble. As a rule of thumb, your mortgage payment should be, at the least, less than 28 percent of your gross monthly income. Besides your mortgage payment, be prepared for the additional costs of homeownership, such as insurance, property taxes, utilities, maintenance and emergencies. You may want to scale back the size of the home you're looking for in order to bring your dream in line with your budget.
Mistake #5: Falling for love at first sight
Buying the first house you like is a lot like marrying the first person you go on a date with: probably not a good idea. If you don't shop around and see what else is out there you could miss out on a good deal or potentially regret your purchase, ack, buyer's remorse. While you don't need to visit every home in the neighborhood, you should compare at least three homes before you make a decision to ensure that you're getting the right house for a price you are comfortable with.
Mistake #4: Forgoing a home inspection
Even if a home looks flawless, it's a mistake to assume that it's actually problem-free. All homes have defects -- even brand-new ones -- so getting a professional inspection before making the commitment to buy is crucial. Then be sure to meet with the inspector after their review so they can go over ant issues there may be while they are fresh in their mind.
Mistake #3: Not reading the fine print
If you did your homework, you had your trustworthy real estate attorney review all your paperwork and discuss it with you so you don't get a nasty surprise at closing. Let's be realistic -- you probably don't have time to read that six-inch stack of legal documents at the closing table. Fortunately, there are a select few documents and items that are truly critical, and you can request a copy of these in advance. This gives you time to review them and ask questions before closing.
Mistake #2: Making an offer without contingencies
Having a back-out plan is a must for smart home buying. If the home has an irresolvable flaw, it doesn't appraise for the purchase price, or your lender refuses to fund your loan, having contingencies on your contract gives you the right to cancel the transaction. Think about it this way: would you spend $100 in a store that doesn't have a 30-day return policy? If your answer is no, you wouldn't want to put hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line without the right to bail.
• Learn what contingencies you must have
• Find out why you should have your home thoroughly inspected
Mistake #1: Waiting for the market to improve or not buying at all
No one can predict precisely where the market is going, so trying to time your home purchase with the bottom of the market is futile. If you're financially and emotionally ready to be a homeowner, it's always a good time to buy. Just think: all the time you spend procrastinating on purchasing a home, you could be building equity, getting tax deductions and enjoying the many other benefits of homeownership!
• Answer these questions to determine if it's the right time for you to buy