Advice for First-Time Home Buyers

The experience is simultaneously exhilerating and terrifying.  For most of us, the purchase of our first home is a blind leap into the unknown.  It's a huge financial commitment that has the potential to ruin us financially, and at least on some level, we have no idea what we're doing.

Take a breath.  It's worth it.  Owning your own home is a huge responsibility, but it's also incredibly rewarding.

  • Your home builds wealth.  Instead paying rent and having nothing to show for it, you'll accumulate equity in your home that you get back when you sell.  And when tax time comes around, you might be surprised at how much that mortgage interest deduction is worth.
  • Being a homeowner will make you more confident and decisive.  There's something about managing a large asset that changes the way you see the world, and makes you stronger.
  • Owning your home provides a kind of freedom that you've never had before.  You're no longer at the mercy of your landlord coming into your space to "inspect" the property.  You can alter your home however you like.  You can put in nicer fixtures and appliances.  You can plant a garden.  Your home will truly be yours.

There's very little anyone can do to make your home buying experience any less nerve-wracking, but if you take it one step at a time, you will do fine.  Here are five tips to avoid the most common pitfalls of first time home buyers.

1. Look past the the surface

Paint and carpet are easily replaced.  If they're bad now, you might be able to get a good deal on a home and then have them replaced before you move in.  If they're fresh, that's great, but be sure to look past the surface to the bones of the house.  Freshened up surfaces can distract from the overall condition of a home.  Your home inspector is trained to look past the surface condition of the home and assess the condition of the things that are more difficult to replace.

2. Consider your long-term plans for the house

Are you getting married?  Starting a family?  In-laws moving in?  If you're planning on any renovations or changes to the home, let your inspector know.  He can point out things that might become an issue when knocking down walls or building an addition.

3. Thoroughly Inspect the Property and follow up

Just because the roof is new or the HVAC system was recently replaced does not mean the work was done well.  Your home inspector will assess the condition of all new work, same as the old work.  In addition to the inspection, asking the seller for documentation of any repairs or renovations . Ensuring that work was done by a reputable contractor, and that permits were pulled and inspections completed, can help avoid problems down the road.  Issues that turn up during the inspection can be a point of negotiation to help ensure you get a fair price for the home in its current condition.  Worst case, if a large problem is found that the seller won't fix, you can walk away from the home.

4. Keep some Cash on Hand

You don't have to spend every dollar you qualify for.  You'll want to have some cash left over for repairs and extras after you move in.  Your inspector can help you identify parts of your new home that are likely to need repair or replacement soon, but it's not possible to catch every future problem from a visual inspection.  Repairs and maintenance are part of home-ownership, so you should be sure to budget for them.  In addition to keeping some savings on hand for repairs, don't forget to budget for things like furnishings, tools, or a lawn mower.

5. Talk to Your inspector In Advance

If your inspector takes the time to get to know you and your plans for the property, he'll be better able to provide recommendations that fit your needs and future plans.  Click the button below to get started.