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Buying Your First Home: Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid these first-time homebuyer goofs so you can get the best deal on the right house for you (and make the process easier too).

Mistake #1: Going it alone

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Buying your first home is a big deal. It’s a major (really major) financial transaction, and it has a big emotional component too. This is where you’ll live, and love, and shelter your family! So protect yourself by working with a pro, who will help you steer clear of many of the mistakes on this list. A buyer’s agent guides you through the process of how to buy your first home, and typically, you don’t pay for her services (the seller does). In some cities and states, you must be represented by a real estate lawyer; and again, you’ll want and need professional help to navigate the complicated waters of negotiating a deal and financing a home purchase. These are the 15 essential questions for first-time homebuyers.

Mistake #2: Not giving yourself enough credit


You probably know that you’ll need a good credit rating to secure a home loan and that you should check out what your rating is before you start talking to lenders. But many first-time homebuyers don’t realize that it can be worthwhile to delay a purchase in order to boost that credit rating. “Waiting an extra 60 days could improve your credit enough to lower your monthly payment,” says Elizabeth Mendenhall, the 2018 president of the National Association of Realtors and the CEO of Re/Max Boone Realty in Columbia, Missouri. “Talk to a lender ahead of time and find out. It could be worth it to wait if you’ll save money in the long-term,” she says.

Once you do have a loan in place and a home under contract, don’t celebrate too early by taking out a new car loan or charging a bunch of furniture on your credit card. Your lender will re-check your credit report just before closing, and any changes to your financial status won’t be welcome.

Mistake #3: Not knowing the real cost of your purchase


When buying your first home, it’s easy to compare a mortgage payment vs. your rent and think, “Yep! I’m ready to shop!” But there are hidden costs to purchasing and owning a property. “First-time homebuyers don’t always factor in an increase in their expenses when they go from renting to owning,” says Daniel Rodriguez, a money coach at Dr. Budgets in San Diego. “If they purchase a bigger house, there are increases in heating or cooling costs. And homes need maintenance; when you’re renting, if the water heater or the furnace goes out, you don’t have to pay for it; your landlord does.” Rodriguez also reminds would-be homeowners to remember there are costs for cleaning, yard work, insurance, transportation (how does the new home affect your commute to work?), homeowners’ association dues, and of course, property taxes. So think about your total monthly budget, not just your monthly mortgage payment, before you start your search. Make sure you’re not putting money into these 32 home upgrades that are a huge waste.

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