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Avoid These 7 Common Pitfalls When Purchasing Your First Home


Purchasing your first home is easily one of the biggest milestones in your life. Home ownership is a significant investment, so it’s not surprising that many first-time home buyers feel a bit overwhelmed. However, you can rest assured that the process will go smoothly if you avoid these seven common pitfalls:

1. Not being prepared.

This is one of the most common mistakes, and it can really have a negative impact on your experience. When you start looking for your first home, be sure you’re completely prepared to jump into the process. This means contacting a licensed lending officer to discuss your budget and getting prequalified for a loan. This important first step ensures you’re ready to make a competitive offer when you find a house you love.

If you jump into the house-hunting process before getting prequalified, you risk missing out on fantastic homes. That’s because many markets are increasingly competitive, and sellers will opt for buyers who have already prequalified for financing. Otherwise, they risk taking a chance with a first-time buyer whose financing might fall through, and in the meantime they could miss out on other strong buyers.

2. Thinking too long-term.

On average, first-time homeowners will own their home for about 11 years. However, you never know what changes are on the horizon, from getting a new job in another state to having to care for a family member who falls ill, and everything in between. While it’s important to plan for the future, thinking too far down the path can be limiting.

With your first home, be sure to keep an open mind about the next 5 or 10 years. Of course, you want the home’s value to appreciate over time so that it’s a good investment, but sometimes life requires you to put your house on the market sooner than planned. Be sure to consider a short-term plan—one that accounts for the next few years—in case you need to sell earlier than expected.

3. Waiting too long.

It’s okay to be selective when buying your first home, but time is always of the essence in real estate. If you’re in a position to buy your first home, don’t wait too long. Rising home values, limited inventories, and gradually increasing interest rates may price you out of the market.

4. Focusing on a single feature.

When touring homes, it can be tempting to zero in on the negative. But be careful not to discount a home because of a single not-so-perfect feature, especially when it’s something fixable, like the current wall color or carpet choice.

You also want to avoid the urge to rule out a home because it lacks a single feature that you’re dead set on finding. We’ve seen this with so many first-time homeowners, some of whom insist on a very specific square footage, a must-have a garden tub, or a “can’t-do-without” pool. But a little flexibility goes a long way in home buying—especially with your first home. For most people, this isn’t the time to make your ultimate dream home a reality; it’s a chance to find a house that’s within budget, is a good investment and fits most of your needs.

With every home you tour, keep an open mind, even about your “must haves.” You might be surprised to find that your perfect first home is a little different from what you envisioned. Be ready to compromise on at least some things, or you’ll risk missing out on something great.

5. Not considering new construction.

Many first-time home buyers assume they can’t afford a brand-new house. But you could find a great deal on a newly built home, especially when you take into account builder incentives. Plus, most new homes feature energy-saving construction materials and appliances, which can save you more money in the long run. And buying in fast-growing new communities can help to increase your home’s value more quickly than if you buy in some older areas.

6. Working without an agent.

Although real estate websites like Redfin and Zillow have made it easier for buyers to find potential homes, they’ll never replace a hardworking real estate agent or mortgage professional. Without an agent, the homebuying process can be downright bewildering. An agent’s experience and connections are invaluable for understanding the local market and finding the best communities and homes, and only a professional can help you negotiate your contract and survive the financing process.

Remember, the stakes are high when you’re shopping for a home. A real estate or mortgage professional can help you save time, money, and headaches.

7. Rushing the process.

When you find a home you love, you’ll want to act quickly. But be sure to take the time to read and understand all the documentation that comes your way. If you have questions, ask your real estate or mortgage professional; that person is there to ensure the process goes smoothly and that you get exactly what you’re looking for.

Ready to start searching for your first home? Use our Mortgage Calculator to estimate how much home you can afford.