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31 House Hunting and Home Buying Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

House hunting is an anxiety-filled process, but it goes a lot smoother when prepared. See what to avoid with this house-hunting checklist.

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rent or buying a houseGustavo Frazao/Shutterstock

Buying When You Should Rent

Buying a house isn’t always the best option. If you’re not planning on staying in a home for more than a couple years, renting may be a better option. You’ll also need to consider your personal finances—you may be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments but can you afford unexpected repairs such as a flooded basement or damaged roof?

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buying a house billsFabrika Simf/Shutterstock

You Max Out Your Budget

Just because you’ve been approved for a $300,000 mortgage doesn’t mean you should buy a $300,000 home. You’ll need to consider expenses for closing costs, taxes, insurance, repairs and monthly bills.

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neighborhood homesVincent noel/Shutterstock

You Don’t Know the Area


You shouldn’t just love the home, you should also love the neighborhood. Not knowing the area and feeling unsure about the neighborhood can be red flags for home buyers.

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buying a house paymentHelloRF Zcool/Shutterstock

Appreciation Isn’t Guaranteed


Since housing markets go up and down, it doesn’t mean that when you’re ready to sell you’ll make money. Appreciation isn’t guaranteed when it comes to residential real estate, so consider the long-term when buying.

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home inspection contractor Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

You Skip the Home Inspection


If the home looks flawless, it may be tempting to pocket that $500 you’d spend on an inspection, but home inspections are worth the investment. Home inspections can flag problems you may not otherwise see and give buyers peace of mind.

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home pre-approval karen roach/Shutterstock

You’re Not Pre-Approved


If you want to be taken seriously in your home search, you need to be pre-approved by a lender. This will tell sellers that you’ve taken the necessary steps financially to qualify for a mortgage. In some markets, Realtors won’t even work with buyers who haven’t been pre-approved.

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0% downpayment buying a houseFaiz Zaki/Shutterstock

Down Payment 101


The days of putting zero down are gone. At minimum, depending on your lender, you’ll likely need 5 percent of the selling price as a down payment. Also, consider the fact you’ll want to keep some money on hand for closing costs and for an emergency fund. If you can’t put 20 percent down when buying a house, you may need to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) so it’s best to understand the down payment terms.

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realtor buying a house Dragon Images/Shutterstock

It Was Love at First Sight


It’s important to look at a few houses so you can compare pros and cons. If you love the first home that’s great, but look at multiple homes. When you look at more homes, you’ll get a better understanding of your options, likes and dislikes.

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putting up siding Bonita R. Cheshier/Shutterstock

Know Your DIY Limits


When it comes to buying a house that needs repairs, consider what you’re willing to deal with and what you’re not. Perhaps you feel comfortable purchasing a home with an old roof, but lead paint isn’t an option for you. If the home needs some work, understand the costs associated with the needed repairs.

10 / 31
buying a house realtor Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Get a Second Opinion


Sometimes it’s best to get a second (or third) opinion when looking at a home. A friend or family member may be able to point out things you didn’t see, such as a yard drainage issue or that mold in the corner of the basement.

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washing dishes mother and daughter Halfpoint/Shutterstock

Know What You Can Live With and What You Can’t


If this is your first home, consider what you can live with and what you can’t. Perhaps the kitchen isn’t ideal, but you know a few appliance upgrades will do the trick. You wanted two full bathrooms, but can you live with one and a half? Know your must-haves.

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imagine buying a houseAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Keep Emotions in Check


Buying a house is stressful, and buying in a competitive market will make it even more so. It’s important to keep your emotions in check, as you may end up overlooking some costly issues and overpaying for a home if your feelings cloud your judgment.

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Buying in the Wrong SeasonFamily Handyman

Buying in the Wrong Season

Any real estate agent will tell you that making an offer in early spring or summer will result in a higher price for your home, but there are often many more variables to buying in the right season. If you do choose to search and purchase in the winter when most eligible home buyers are snuggled in front of their fireplace, you'll likely have less competition. However, you'll also find fewer homes to choose from due to less inventory in the low season. If you buy in the high season, you'll have many more homes to choose from, but will fight stiff competition as everyone dons their flip flops for whole days of open houses. Follow these eight steps if your looking to buy your first home.

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Judging a Book by its CoverFamily Handyman

Judging a Book by its Cover

Let's face it, some homes show horribly. Some have old carpet, some have peeling paint, and some just downright stink. But just because a house looks bad, doesn't mean that its current condition isn't merely cosmetic damage. While you're checking out a property, make sure to take a peek under carpets to check for original hardwood flooring and other historical details like crown molding. If you're lucky enough to have a friend in construction, have them take a look at the house's foundation to determine if it'll still be standing upright in another 100 years. Determining if a house has good bones will help you look past the cover image on an otherwise dingy dust jacket. Get some remodel inspiration! Check out these 10 tips for a happy kitchen remodel. Photo: Russ Widstrand

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Jumping the Gun After One ViewingFamily Handyman

Jumping the Gun After One Viewing

If you find a home you like and you have time to consider an offer (think: viewing during the low season when you have less competition), it's important to visit the house several times before you make your decision. If you can, check out the house on a sunny day to determine if the windows let in natural light. Then race over when it's raining to confirm that the basement doesn't leak. These thorough viewings will let you know what it will be like to live in the house year-round. Keep in mind that some water issues are easy to fix, while others can be costly. Learn more about getting better yard drainage here.

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Going SoloFamily Handyman

Going Solo

If you're on the buying end of real estate, there's no real reason not to hire a real estate agent. This person is a professional who will not only schedule and accompany you on showings, but is a well of information on the entire buying process. Plus, their commission fees are generally paid for through the sale of the home, which means that their services, to you, are free. Nothing to lose. Get tips on doing your own home inspection here.

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Skipping the InspectionFamily Handyman

Skipping the Inspection

When deciding on a house, nothing is more important than the condition of the property. And the best way to confirm that you're not investing in a money pit? Get an inspection. From a real inspector. Don't call your uncle's friend who happens to be a contractor or your coworker's cousin who used to be a plumber. Get a real inspector who is certified through the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Your real estate agent can help you hire the right person, though finding an unbiased, third-party inspector you can trust is a better option. You can even do some preliminary work on your own. Build your own DIY home inspection toolkit here.

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Ignoring Old PaintFamily Handyman

Ignoring Old Paint

Despite the fact that sellers are required to fill out a lead-pair disclosure form in most states, if the home you're considering was built before 1978, you should seriously consider its potential for lead-based paint. On one of your showings, take a lead-paint test kit with you to swab a few areas that seem suspicious (flaking, zebra-like chips). You can buy tests for a few bucks at your local health department. If you have time and the ability, also test the water to ensure the tap water doesn't contain lead as well. Get full instructions on how to test for lead paint here.

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Skipping the Final Walk-ThroughFamily Handyman

Skipping the Final Walk-Through

Most purchase agreements allow for a final walk-through of the property to ensure that the house is still in good condition. This might not seem necessary, but if you're purchasing a foreclosed property or displacing disgruntled renters, you may need to ensure that no last-minute damage was done (think writing on walls, stolen appliances, etc.). Find out how to get the most out of a home inspection.

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Not Being NeighborlyFamily Handyman

Not Being Neighborly

In some communities, neighbors can make or break your home purchase. In a friendly neighbor, you can have a friend, a confidant and sometimes even a babysitter. Neighbors, if they've lived near your potential home for a few years, can also contain knowledge about previous owners or tenants and any damage they might have done. Were there ever bats in the attic? Was there lead remediation? Radon problems? Your neighbors might know all of the dirty details. So don't be afraid to get friendly, and just ask. You can still maintain your privacy in the home after purchase — check out this project on how to build a patio privacy screen.

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Trying to Make it WorkFamily Handyman

Trying to Make it Work

When you're excited about buying a home, it's easy to envision yourself living in a home you just like—even if it's really not the right property for you. Don't try to squeeze your family into a house without the right amount of bedrooms, for instance, just because you like the neighborhood. The right home will come along eventually, and when it does, you'll be ready. Make sure you don't regret anything when you buy a house.

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For sale sign house buying a home Sharon Day/Shutterstock

Forgetting About Future Development

When you have a specific house in mind, think about potential developments. For example: If the home is near a busy road, will there be expansion in the near future? If there is a lot of open space around the home, will more homes be built in the area soon? If there are several homes for sale in the neighborhood, are they selling quickly and who’s moving in? It may be difficult to find concrete information about future developments, but keeping some what-ifs in mind as you look can help you find your ideal home. Also, keep in mind the potential resale value of your future home because no one knows what the future holds and you may need to sell earlier than you imagined.

Learn about some of the best and worst projects to improve resale value.

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car traffic long commutestockfotoart/Shutterstock

Finding Out the Commute is Too Long

At a certain point, a commute becomes a burden. If your commute is taking valuable time away from your family or personal goals, look for a home closer to your work. It may be worth it to downsize to a smaller home instead of losing too many hours out of every workday.

Plus: 10 car problems you can easily fix yourself

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Roof LeaksFamily Handyman

Roof Leaks

Home inspectors can find a lot of things wrong with a house but they can't catch everything all the time. Most home inspectors won't climb on a roof to inspect so it's important to have things they won't always check thoroughly viewed by an expert. Home inspectors typically don't inspect underground pipes, septic tanks or wells, all of which are particularly expensive to repair or replace. You can protect yourself by finding a home inspector who carries "Errors and Omissions" coverage. Find out how to fix a roof.

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WiringFamily Handyman

Wiring

Homes built in the mid-'60s or '70s might have aluminum wiring and if so it should be determined if everything has been retrofitted properly. If it hasn't, it could be a fire hazard and wiring replacement can run thousands of dollars. Avoid these common National Electric Code violations DIYers make.

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Not Doing Enough ResearchSteve Heap/Shutterstock

Not Doing Enough Research

Nearly half of the respondents in a NerdWallet survey said they'd do something different if they could. Near the top of the list of things they'd do better the second time was doing more research. A total of 41 percent of people who applied for a mortgage felt they weren't aware of all of their loan options. Tied into that is many first-time homebuyers aren’t aware of all of the costs associated with buying a house, especially the closing costs. Learn 10 things you should know about buying a home.

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Not Saving Enough108Photo/Shutterstock

Not Saving Enough

A NerdWallet survey of 2,200 home buyers and mortgage applicants found that the biggest regret for millennial buyers was they wished they'd save more money before buying a house. More than 10 percent of respondents no longer felt financially secure after they bought their home. Learn more about down payments and how they affect mortgage payments.

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The Experience of People Around YouMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

The Experience of People Around You

When you start looking for a home, the first thing you find is people with a lot of opinions. It's important to ignore everyone except those who provide grounded advice. Family and friends who have bought one house in their lives probably don't know all of the important details of today's home-buying process. People who have worked in real estate, home improvement and title industries for years probably do know their stuff, so listen to them. When you pick a Realtor, pick one that comes with solid recommendations from around the area and years of successful representation among buyers: It's far too easy to find a Realtor that's just in it for a quick buck.

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Which Way do the Windows FaceMopic/shutterstock

Which Way do the Windows Face

A small but surprisingly important detail, this dictates how much sun the house gets, when it gets sun (morning or afternoon) and how hot it will get if you leave all the windows open. It's a basic but important facet of proper house management, and it will also give you a clue how to maintain siding and the lawn.

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Homeowner's Association DetailsJames R. Martin/shutterstock

Homeowner's Association Details

Find out quickly if there is an HOA or any similar type of association. If there is, read through their requirements (any competent Realtor will be able to get those very quickly), and note any fees and what they may cover. If there is anything you want to change about a house, see if it is allowed. If you want to park a vehicle or trailer at your home, see if it is allowed. HOAs can have a lot of rules in addition to monthly fees.

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The Age of AppliancesJoyseulay/shutterstock

The Age of Appliances

Appliances are some of the most expensive portions of the home and deserve a closer look. Generally, if an appliance is more than 10 years old, the time is coming for a replacement. This applies to ovens, refrigerators and other important fixtures. Also, always make sure that the appliances you see will actually be staying in the house after you buy it (some sellers can be very sneaky about this). And keep this article nearby after you buy a home, in case you need to make appliance repairs!