When we were buying a home for the first time, everyone told us that we were going to learn so much from homeownership. While that remains true, I didn’t think the home-buying process would be such a big learning experience as well. As first-time buyers, we did many things wrong. And while these are great to know for the future, we aren’t buying another home anytime soon. But maybe our lessons can help you.
1. Do not accept opinions in your disclosure.
When we got the disclosures, the only problem thing listed on them was a “small” leak in the basement that only happened during heavy rains. We figured a small leak couldn’t be that bad. In fact, we even came over to the house during heavy rain and inspected the basement. We didn’t see any problem. However, we found out about a month after buying the home that a “small” leak to the previous homeowner was one that left puddles of water in the basement. And even though it was obvious the previous homeowner lied about the leak being “small,” we didn’t have much to stand on since someone’s opinion of “small” can differ from our own. Never take any generic description or opinion-based words as truth on your disclosures.
2. Don’t use the inspector your real estate agent suggests/works with.
If I could do it all over again, I do not think I would have used the inspector my real estate agent suggested. I was happy that the home passed inspection, but I feel like there were a few things he completely missed that we are now dealing with – one of those being the aforementioned “small” leak. While I do not think my real estate agent had anything to do with that, you just never know what people will do to make a sale go through. And you never know what kind of incentives a real estate business may be offering to the inspector to OK the home so they can earn a commission. Just find your own inspector so you aren’t left second-guessing the inspection.
3. If the sellers won’t take an FHA loan, proceed with caution.
FHA loans are government-insured loans. That means there are going to be stricter guidelines that a home must meet before the loan can go through. That includes the condition of the home. If a seller absolutely will not take an FHA loan, be wary. There may be something wrong with the home – something that probably would not pass an inspection.
4. Consider all of the costs.
When we figured that we had enough money to buy a home, we really only took into consideration the costs of purchasing the home – the appraisal and inspection fees, the down payment, and the closing costs of our loan. What we did not take into consideration were the other costs associated with a new home. One of the big ones being moving costs, which included renting a Uhaul and purchasing moving boxes. We also didn’t consider that more room required more furniture and décor. We were lucky not to have to update the home at all, but many times, people will need to at least buy paint and other small home improvement items. Aside from whatever the inspector finds, the home may have a few quirks that require fixing, which we also didn’t consider. These small expenses can really add up quick.
5. Do your own inspection and research.
When you’ve walked through more than 20 homes, they all start to blur together. You start to get antsy and the walkthrough becomes routine, so you begin to inspect every inch of the homes a little less. Then, you walk into a home you love and you are too excited to inspect every element of it. Stainless steel appliances in the kitchen! Spacious bedrooms! Hardwood floors! An updated bathroom! When it comes to buying a home, love is not blind.
A few actions I would suggest taking before buying a home:
– Check for water damage everywhere, but especially in the basement.
– Check for foundation issues including cracks in the walls and corners.
– Make sure permits were pulled for any add-ons in the home.
– Research the city. Are there parks? Restaurants? Dog breed restrictions? What are the neighboring areas like?
Head vs. Heart: Final Piece of Advice
You may be looking at this list and saying “duh.” But remember, we were first time homebuyers. And sometimes it can be hard to be rational when, after looking at more than 20 houses, you think you’ve found the one. My best advice is to let your brain deal with the most of the process of buying the home, and once you’ve found it, let your heart pick out the décor.