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10 Big home buying mistakes

By | Published: Oct 14, 2009 | 65 Comments

Buying a home is a big step and a tricky process, with lots of obstacles to trip you up. Avoid these classic home-buying mistakes when purchasing your next place, so hopefully your buying experience will be a trouble-free one.

  1. Moving too fast

    Purchasing a home can be an exciting experience, but many home buyers rush into it. A home is something you're likely to have for several years, but all too often, people only look at a few places, and fall in love with -- and buy -- one of the very first properties they've seen.

    That's a mistake. Rushing through things, you'll miss out on other homes that may suit your needs -- or your pocketbook -- better. Worse, you could end up with a house that's a bad fit for you.

    If the circumstances allow, take your time and visit as many homes for sale as you can. Keep a list, noting each home you've seen and what you liked and didn't like about each. Take the time to revisit homes high on your list, so you have a clear picture about each home's pluses and minuses. You'll find that moving more slowly and deliberately will help you make a smarter purchase.

  2. Not researching

    Too often, house hunters simply search the local real estate listings, find a home they like and buy it, knowing very little about local market conditions, the history of the home they're buying and the surrounding community.

    That's unfortunate, because such information can help you find the right home, know how much to offer when bidding for a home, and even avoid purchasing the wrong house.

    Trulia offers lots of real estate information, so use it. Trulia's Stats and Trends allows you to see how much homes are selling for in your area, how many properties are on the market, where prices are rising or falling, and even community information like the quality of the local schools and a neighborhood's safety. (Check out Stats & Trends for San Francisco, to see an example.) Trulia's Advice & Opinions allows you to see what other people are saying about the community and reach out to others for real estate advice.

    You can also look up individual homes for sale that interest you and find out information like when a home was last sold and for how much, its size and when it was built. The more you know about a particular property and its surrounding community, the more likely you'll make a smart purchase when it comes time to buy.

  3. Skipping a home inspection

    Having a home inspected before buying seems like another step in a long and sometimes confusing process, but getting a home inspection is well worth it. A good home inspector can alert you to major home defects -- like a leaky roof, termite infestations and a shoddy foundation -- that could cause many a headache and financial hurt should the property become yours. Getting a quality inspection done can alert you to homes that are a great buy, may need a little work, or are money pits that should be avoided all together.

  4. Choosing the wrong house

    It's possible to fall in love with a home that looks perfect, but in actuality, is not the right property for you. Say, that home with the grand foyer and imposing stairs looks impressive, but once you move in with your 2-year-old, you discover that those stairs give you a fright whenever he climbs them. Or, that open floor plan looked so inviting when you toured the home, but once you move in, you can't figure out where to put the furniture in the home's non-defined spaces.

    You get a view of how the owner lives in the home when house-hunting, but take the time to consider how you'd occupy the space, and whether it'd truly work for you.

  5. Ignoring your surroundings

    When you buy a home, you're not only getting the walls around you -- you're gaining neighbors and a community as well. It's a mistake to fall in love with a home without thinking about where it's situated and who your neighbors might be -- because even if the home suits you well, it could turn out that its environment doesn't.

  6. Buying too much house

    When looking to buy a home, many of us aim for the biggest house we can afford. But is biggest always better? Think about whether you really need all that space, and whether you can truly afford it in terms of the mortgage payments and the cost to maintain a home. A home might not be truly enjoyable when you're struggling to keep up with it financially.

    Take a look at your monthly costs (food, debt, utilities, etc.), and try not to have your monthly debts (including your mortgage) be more than 36 percent of your income before taxes. Don't assume your income will go up and your expenses will remain steady -- you want some leeway in case your income goes down and your daily living expenses increase.

  7. Getting the priciest home on the block

    Another temptation is to buy the most expensive house on the block. If you can afford it, and you never have to re-sell it, then why not? But most of us change homes at least once or twice in our lifetimes. That's when buying the best house on the block isn't a good idea. When it comes time to resell the house, you may find that your asking price far exceeds the price range of other homes in your area and that buyer interest in it will be limited.

  8. Not getting pre-qualified/approved

    Getting pre-qualified for a loan gives you an idea of how much you can afford to borrow. If you start house hunting without this pre-approval, you may waste time and energy on homes you can't afford.

    The next step is getting pre-approved for a loan -- this gives you an edge once you find that house you want to purchase. A pre-approval letter from a lender shows a seller that a lender has agreed to lend you a specified amount. Without this approval, you will be at a disadvantage when bidding on a home -- buyers with financing in place are more attractive to sellers than those without financing. Also, by having pre-approval, you'll avoid being beat out by another buyer who gets his financing together quicker.

  9. Making an unconditional offer

    Putting in an offer without any contingencies may seem like a hassle-free way to purchase a house (and a way to win over a seller who has multiple offers), but it's actually not a very smart move. A contingency protects you should you have to back out of an offer. Without a contingency, you may be penalized should you have to break a contract and not follow through with the purchase. Among the contingencies you should think of adding to your contract are:

    • Make your offer contingent on your ability to get mortgage financing. That is, if you don't get financing, your contract is null and void.

    • Ask for the right to conduct a home inspection. Make your offer contingent on your acceptance of the home inspection's findings. This gives you the opportunity to ask the seller for fixes, or to back out of the contract should the home be in need of severe repair.

    • If you have a house you need to sell before your next home purchase, make the purchase of your next home contingent upon being able to sell the first. That way, if you can't find a buyer for your home, you're not roped into going through the purchase of a new one.

  10. Not getting everything in writing

    You may think that the stainless-steel fridge comes with your new house, but the home's seller may have other ideas. So it's best to put into writing everything that will and won't be included with the sale of the home, just so you won't have any surprises when you move in.


By Liz Michael,  Thu Nov 5 2009, 12:08
This article has a lot of very valuable information in it!! I do have a somewhat different opinion about moving too quickly.

I agree you should take your time to a certain extent---however, there is such a thing as "analysis paralysis". With the information available on the internet, most buyers begin their search for a home sooner than they use to. They are able to check out many places before actually "seeing" in person. This process has contributed to being able to speed up the process. I have had clients who have found the house they want early on in their search but were not wanting to make an offer because they felt it was too soon in their search to decide. The house was then sold to someone else and they have been looking for a better house since with no luck. It WAS the house for them. I think that buyers should be very cautious however there are more and more people who are able to find the house they are looking for in a shorter amount of time due to technology.

I would be honored to help you find your house! I can help you find an agent to meet your needs all over the world.
By Chris Cliff,  Thu Dec 3 2009, 04:33
I will 100% agree with Liz on point number one. My wife Jacquie Cliff is a real estate agent here in the Seattle area, and she has one client that has missed out on several good homes because he is afraid to pull the trigger. Buyers do need to shop enough to learn what is available, but be ready to put pen to paper when the right home presents itself.

If any agent out there lets their buyers skip #3, the inspection, they need to be slapped. Even with new construction, things get missed or put together wrong. NEVER, ever skip the inspection.

One other point is to be flexible on where you shop. Many times I see buyers get fixated on one area, but don't have the income to purchase a home there, which leads to a lot of frustration. Your agent should be able to find you areas that are near the things you want, that are in the price you need, but that you may not have originally considered.

Lastly, get a good agent! Finding a good agent is probably harder and more important than finding the right house, but they will save you money, headaches and heartaches if you do.
By .,  Wed Dec 9 2009, 20:22
I showed a guy like 50 houses and contracted 15 of them in 11/2 to 2 year time. He was happy that he took his time.
By Canolli,  Mon Dec 14 2009, 16:42
How can I found information/ history about the house I will like to buy?
By Dave Sutton,  Mon Jan 11 2010, 23:53
Skipping an inspection would be a big mistake, but at least in California most buyers wait to spend the money on an inspection until after their offer has been accepted, with an inspection contingency. Then you're not spending money to inspect a home that someone else gets to buy.
By Anthony Perez,  Sat Jan 30 2010, 00:28
I agree with Dave I've found a lot of big issues in, around and under structures that were unknown by the seller.

By Ximena Stroubakis,  Sun Mar 14 2010, 03:43
Liz I like your offer. We are looking for a good agent in the Winchester, Va area.
Can you recommend somebody?
By Quest Inspection Services,  Thu Jun 24 2010, 07:18
Dave said it very clearly and effectively.
There is so much value in having an inspection,yet, people will often get the cheapest( worst ) one or none at all. When a property has no disclosure and has been sitting; why would not want to at lest be informed of its condition! The buyers contingency is a beautiful thing and yet the emotion of buying a house seems to sometimes cloud a buyers sensibilities and they feel " its as is so we'll just deal with it later" and so forth...be a smart buyer and get a great,narrative inspection; not a cheapie checklist!
By Eneri Rose,  Sun Jun 27 2010, 12:54
About #4, Choosing the Wrong House - I hate open floor plans, but that's all that's out there in newer houses. I my currrent house, we've installed doors to separate our living room from the foyer, our dining room from the kitchen and the den from the foyer. We also built knee walls in the upper hall so that it is partially blocked from the foyer.
By Tom ORourke,  Mon Jul 12 2010, 09:45
#1 ought to be Overpaying. ala 2000-till present.

What AMAZES me still is how RE "professionals" have no clue how the the securitization market effects the flow of funds for RE. Simply it is the source.

The top 3 players were Bear Stearns bust March 2008, Lehman Brothers bust September 2008 and Merrill Lynch now part of Bank of America.

Residential and commercial RE values have no where to go but south for at least a decade.
By Joe,  Sat Sep 11 2010, 13:18
What I always suggest to my clients is not what you qualify for it’s what you’re conferable with. Also the neighborhood that you may be buying may look nice and pretty during the daytime, but what does it look like at night? I always advise my clients once our offer gets accepted is to do a steak-out, buy yourself some snacks and a few drinks, and just park your car on a weekend around 11pm-1am and monitor the neighborhood. Another service I give my clients I actually go door knocking around the neighborhood with my client and ask how they like the neighborhood.
By Joaquin Zabala,  Sun Sep 26 2010, 20:10
Vale la pena tener en cuenta los comentarios a la hora de hacer una eleccion para comprar una casa.
By Linda M Sale,  Tue Oct 5 2010, 11:42
An Inspection is a small price to pay when you consider the cost of over looking something majorly defective. Even if the Inpection reveals bad news, you can still purchase it but at least you have then made an educated decision. Knowledge is power.
By Donna Donovan,  Mon Nov 22 2010, 11:03
So which way do you all suggest to go? Inspection before offer and risk losing it or can you have the inspection done and if it is not a good result is there a way to loophole the potential purchase?

I have seen places for sale lately with info that had to come from a home inspection and wonder who paid for it. It would kill me to pay for an inspection for a place that I end up not purchasing.

What is the average cost of an inspection for a condo? How about closing costs....is there an average cost? The units I am looking at are between 14k to 25k if that makes a difference. Florida is full of those right now.

I am a very serious potential buyer and although I will have a real estate pro and real estate atty I still like to think ahead.
By Dennis,  Tue Feb 15 2011, 19:15
what are the rules when you put offer on a house and then someone else puts a offer on it. do they deal with you first or do they show seller both at same time and let the two of you bid till someone gives up. in wa.
By Karen Parsons Fiddler,  Mon Mar 7 2011, 11:36
Great general post....for specific answers, it's great to post them in your area in the general advice section, or reach out to an agent in your city.


Karen Fiddler
Mission Viejo California Broker/Associate
By Ronn Huth,  Wed Mar 9 2011, 12:35
This is a great list for buyers to consider. I find many buyers don't know how to do the research on their own. Maybe another big mistake is buying without an agent who is representing the buyer and protecting the buyer's financial interest.

Ronn Huth
By Tamara Schuster,  Fri Apr 1 2011, 14:03
This is a great easy list for buyers to use. Buyers also need an agent who is representing them and of course an attorney.
By Mariam Khugiani,  Mon Jun 20 2011, 15:21
I agree 100% with Liz
By Wayne Northcutt,  Thu Jul 21 2011, 13:30
Who your neighbors are can make or break enjoying any home. Loud, inconsiderate, dirty neighbors can turn any palace into your own personal hell. I say check the neighborhood VERY well.
Neighbors are like in-laws...most of us don't consider their level of influence until we are stuck with them.
By Aaron Schreiner,  Thu Jul 28 2011, 17:22
A home inspection is worth every penny. It seems funny to me that buy used cars only after taking it to their mechanic but will avoid a home inspection on a $200,000+ investment.
By Jose Basabe Erika Hinton,  Tue Aug 2 2011, 13:47
I always recommend my clients to do the inspection even if the property seems in mint condition. And some prospects approach us without getting pre-approved first.
By Agarepci,  Sat Aug 6 2011, 11:26
I do not mind spending money for home inspection. We were gonna buy a house in a very nice neighborhood, easy access to everything, we are also willing to upgrade when we learned that the roof and the A/C was almost at the end of its life spun. Or else we were buying a lemon.
By Toohappy,  Thu Sep 1 2011, 06:10
I agree, be sure and know the surroundings. We purchased a home that was perfect for us but we didnt consider the Paper Mill that is a few miles from our home and It release a horrible smell and Chemicals into the air. I am highly allergic but stuck with this "perfect" home till another one is found!
By Rebecka Williams,  Mon Sep 12 2011, 07:59
I will be looking to purchase a house sometime late next month. This will be our first, not wanting to be stuck with a mortgage and blessed enough to be able to buy something within our means with cash....I'm curious to know more about getting an agent. How much extra does that usually cost? How do I find the right agent for our needs? Really nieve here....is the agent completely on my side, or do they benefit from making a sale as quickly and expensively as possible? Thanks!
By Christina Morabito,  Fri Oct 7 2011, 13:10
Rebecka- The Seller pays the Real Estate Agents at closing, usually. Ask around at work or friends/family in the area. See who they liked or if they have anyone that knows of anyone. Word of mouth is great.
You could also look online and call around. Interview a few, pick an agent that you get along with and one you feel you can trust.
Good luck! That is awesome you are able to pay with Cash!! Cash is KING.
By Shawn Ryan Rosa,  Mon Dec 12 2011, 09:57
Dont buy what you qualify for...buy what you can afford!
By Shawn Ryan Rosa,  Tue Dec 13 2011, 10:48
few people skip the home inspection
By Adrian Provost,  Mon Feb 27 2012, 16:37
Very good post!
By Taj Weldon,  Sat Mar 17 2012, 23:27
Love it. liz has valid points too.
By Najat Marden,  Wed May 16 2012, 07:53
Shared with my clients and fellow Realtors :)
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By Adam Krzesniak,  Wed Jul 11 2012, 07:37
I will definitely share that with my buyers!
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By Desiree Martinez,  Fri Jul 20 2012, 21:59
Wow thank you so much for this helpful advice.
By wtwebtrekker,  Thu Sep 13 2012, 20:44
While seeking a home to purchase, find out what the CURRENT appraisal is for that home. It is now 2012, find out what the fair and just market value for the home is. I've seen people "rush" into buying, and they paid too much. Way over the fair and just market value. You don't want to spend $10,000.00, $20,000.00, $30,000.00 over the fair and just value, do you? If the house has had major renovations within that year, consider paying a little bit more than the fair and just market value. The previous buyer might have struck a deal, and rehabbed, and put it on the market. Hope this helps buyers save money.
By Jennifer Fivelsdal,  Sun Sep 30 2012, 21:15
The inspection is certainly a step that should not be overlooked it could be very costly if you miss some major issue.
By Charlene Placko,  Sun Oct 14 2012, 23:44
Liz is absolutely correct about analysis paralysis. You can look and look and look. Pretty soon all the houses start to blend together and you forget what it is that you actually wanted in the first place.

Also, the market around our area is beginning to pick up and if you sit on the sidelines too long while you contemplate a very nice house that has everything you've been looking for, but you're just "not sure" and you think you MIGHT find something just as nice for 10K less (which is only about $50/month in a mortgage payment)... well chances are good that other buyers are also looking at this house and have very similar needs as you do and they think this house is a great place at a reasonable price (which is why you looked at it to begin with). So, the other buyers write an offer the day they look at it and they get it accepted before you even decide to call your agent back and tell them you'd "like to make an offer on that cute little house you showed us last week." Sorry. But that house is already pending. This has happened to me so many times with buyers. Well, sadly they end up missing out on homes that would have been perfect for their families. They end up settling for a house that isn't their first choice, but it works. My advice: When you find the house you really love and it meets all your needs AND is within your budget, don't wait. Write the offer. It's ok to sleep on it but call your agent the next day and write up your BEST offer. You'll be happy you did!!
By Carmen Brodeur, JD,  Tue Oct 16 2012, 10:36
Numbers 3 and 10 are VERY important. Every buyer should get a professional home inspection because even the best homes can have hidden faults that should be tended to.

I'm a very firm believer in getting absolutely everything in writing during the negotiations and escrow process. It shocks me that people will accept verbal confirmation for anything in this industry.
By Erin Taffin,  Fri Jan 4 2013, 17:57
As the story goes buying and selling a home in any market is scary especially when the market has had a bubble & burst as in 2005-2010. When I show homes, both to a buyer or a seller, we have a written checklist on each listing in order to keep the details clear. It is also so important to have all parties involved (adult) in the shopping process so that does not lead to buyers remorse or divorce.
By Ivy Beitner,  Wed May 29 2013, 13:52
I Completely Agree with @Liz Michael. For some clients, taking it slow is the right thing to do but I would have to say in the current market, time is of the essence. Taking too much time to commit to a home can cause you to lose it all together.
By Walter Sarmiento,  Sat Aug 3 2013, 19:01
Great article! This is common sense advice that goes a long way in helping you make the right choice in a home purchase.

By jeromedeleon12,  Thu Aug 29 2013, 00:27
I totally agree with this. These mistakes are often done by many people and they ended up getting into more problems. Before considering a for sale by owner nsw, It's best if they know some of these mistakes to avoid them.

By Judi Monday, CRS,  Wed Oct 9 2013, 07:54
Great tips!
By S2h0a1d3e,  Fri Oct 18 2013, 15:33
For me it's a little bit strange when people make their decision just on spot without proper consideration. You buy a house not for a year or two and you are going to spend there most of your time. How can the choice be quick in such situation? Neighbours can spoil your life a lot, believe me I know it, that's why my choiceof house will be neither fast nor emotional. More than that most houses need loans, and it's not like a quick cash online which you will forget about next month. For me choice of my future house is very important and time demanding thing.
By Steven Ransom,  Mon Dec 9 2013, 05:22
Some people refuse to work with real estate brokers or agents because they think it will add unnecessary costs to acquiring the property. many times, though, for every dollar they're try to save in a real estate brokerage commission, they end up losing several dollars in real estate profits.

Note: Keep in mind that some of the listings are already sold by the time the MLS book is printed and distributed, or is available on the web.

However because most brokers' offices are computerized, you can get the most current information at the broker's office right from the computer even before listings are published in the MLS book. In fact , Internet websites listing properties for sale are proliferating at an outstanding rate and could eventually replace the Local MLS system.

I have no qualms about working with brokers or agent. They can be your eyes and ears and legs in finding investment (buying a home is an investment) opportunities. Remember, brokers and agents often have timely and computerized information available to them that you do not.. Therefore, the advantage of working with them is that they save you time, have resources to find the best (in their option) properties for your needs, and help you along the way to your purchase.
By Steven Ransom,  Mon Dec 9 2013, 05:57
And to those who made comments on being slow to making an offer; "Unless you be offering to pay cash for a home (and few of us can), you'll need to take out a mortgage." Arrange to be-approved by a lender before submitting an offer. When (only when) you are per-approved, you have a guarantee from a lender that they are willing to lend you a certain amount under specific terms and conditions.
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Sun Dec 22 2013, 12:02
Buyer beware by making sure you ALWAYS have a home inspection done. A small investment that will pay dividends as well as provide peace of mind.
By S2h0a1d3e,  Wed Dec 25 2013, 13:05
I can not even imagine a rush in a home buying process, even when choosing an apartment for rent I am very careful about most of the aspects mentioned above and I am really surprised to get to know that people can treat the important issue of their living light-mindedly.

Jull from http://www.cashloansonlinefast.com/
By Termite Tommy,  Fri Dec 27 2013, 18:20
TIP: most termite companies will give you a free inspection. In addition, a termite inspector is required to report not only termite evidence, but excessive moisture in the attic or sub area.

By Jay Taylor,  Tue Mar 4 2014, 09:54
An extremely useful article for a first time buyer with a step-by-step guide on the mistakes to avoid. The posts thereafter also enlighten the reader. Forewarned is fore armed. Happy house hunting. May you find the house of your dreams at the right price, right location and in a good state, if it is a second sale.
By karilu2012@yahoo.com,  Wed Jul 30 2014, 12:17
Great article! thank you to all of you
By Calvin James,  Wed Oct 29 2014, 19:15
Thank you for the tips. We are looking to buy our first home next spring. I am pretty nervous! It was especially helpful to hear what you said about getting everything in writing. http://webuyuglyhouseshouston.com/buy_a_house.html
By Bob,  Wed Nov 19 2014, 10:49
real estate Lawyer in Philadelphia
By Johnson Kirsten,  Thu Nov 20 2014, 19:24
Thank you for this informative post. I just want to share a good source for Real Estate templates and tutorials - PDFfiller. It has a ton of real estate templates. It helps me fill out a needed form neatly and gives me the option to esign. http://goo.gl/m9D0eC
By Gary Birtles,  Tue Dec 2 2014, 21:50
I almost moved too fast when buying a home one time. I thought I loved the place and I tried to rush everything. Right before I finalized everything, my police officer friend told me that the neighborhood was dangerous and there were always problems there. I got lucky in that case. It always pays to take time and research things beforehand. http://www.atlantacommunities.com/west-cobb
By Gary Birtles,  Tue Dec 2 2014, 21:50
I almost moved too fast when buying a home one time. I thought I loved the place and I tried to rush everything. Right before I finalized everything, my police officer friend told me that the neighborhood was dangerous and there were always problems there. I got lucky in that case. It always pays to take time and research things beforehand. http://www.atlantacommunities.com/west-cobb
By Larry M Parra,  Tue Dec 16 2014, 13:10
This article was great! You need to research and research until you know what you are buying. Buy the home with the mentality of keeping it for 30 years should you have a life changing event.
By Noah Seidenberg,  Wed Jan 14 2015, 20:38
All these tips are excellent a good guide for buyers to follow, especially first time buyers.
By Mark Saunders,  Tue Feb 3 2015, 10:33
Lots a great ideas here but you have to do what fells right to you and your pocket don't let other influence your choice
By Dawn Mastromarino,  Sun Feb 22 2015, 10:49
Always research. Most people keep their homes less then 10 years before they move. It is a good investment and you need a good representative to assist you in this search.
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By Bob,  Mon Jan 4 2016, 13:29
This is very sound advice. I can speak from experience when I first purchased a town house, I did very little research on the property. I found out after living in the property for a few weeks that the foundation was falling apart and that the property was near college students. Needless to say I moved within a years time.
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By Bob,  Tue Apr 12 2016, 14:44
Great advice, definitely a great article to read. Thanks for the post, awesome article.

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