We all enter house-hunting with a particular fantasy in mind—especially when it’s for our first home.
Whether it’s a slow-motion montage of you playing with your kids in a lush backyard or yet another, even slower montage of you swing dancing with your spouse on gleaming hardwood floors, these enchanting mind-movies can sometimes distract from other, more valuable (and more realistic) aspects of your first abode.
To avoid the pitfalls of over-dreaming and under-planning, make sure you stay away from these three mistakes—so that your actual slow-motion montage is a happy one (and not a creaky, overly-expensive one with mean neighbors and a 50-mile drive to the nearest Super Target).
#1 Having House-Hunting Tunnel Vision
Make sure you’re not entering the house-hunting game with blinders on. While aesthetic details like picturesque porches and the same burnt orange color of your childhood home are lovely, they won’t be so lovely when your pipes are leaking and you can hear your dad snoring from across the house.
To make sure you’re supplementing your dream-like desires with grounded expectations, keep a checklist of the following characteristics you should also be looking for:
- A safe, comfortable location near the commerce and culture you want to be surrounded by. Also watch out for light pollution and noise, like if the home is close to a major highway or city center.
- Proximity to parks and schools for the kiddos, and work for you and your partner. If you’re living with an elderly parent, look for a home near adequate public transportation and healthcare facilities.
- A well-built structure with floors that don’t creak, stable walls, and well-designed plumbing.
- Updated amenities like stovetops, laundry machines, dishwashers, and showers. Adequate rooms and features like a garage or carport, a guest room, or a certain number of bathrooms.
And, of course, you can include a few fun things to add to your wish list. However, they shouldn’t distract from more important details like stability, safety, and, most importantly, snore-proof walls (seriously, how can one human be so loud?).
#2 Going at It Alone
You might go into house-hunting with the perfect idea of your desired architectural style or how much counter space you want in your kitchen. But do you know how to negotiate your mortgage prices? Or how to get a top-notch loan from a lender?
If you’re not already an expert in these subjects, make sure you’re consulting those who are:
- A buyer’s agent to help you find ideal houses within your budget, negotiate the selling price, and find you comparable sales.
- A personal finance consultant to help you get pre-approved for a loan and budget in advance of your big purchase. It helps to find an expert with the right FHA underwriter training to ensure you’re getting the best loan possible.
- Friends and family, who, while not experts in real estate, are experts in you (plus, a fresh pair of eyes on a great listing never hurts).
#3 Listening to (Only) Your Heart and Not Your Head
When you’re searching for a new house, you can’t afford to leave your rational thinking at the door. While having heartfelt associations with a certain look, feel, or location is all well and good, you can’t make an emotional decision when so much money (and comfort) is on the line.
So, before jumping at the first listing that makes your heart sing, make sure you’re staying in tune with your budget and living requirements.
Budget Early and Be Patient—The Right House is Waiting
Buying your first home is no trivial feat. It can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. However, if you avoid these mistakes, plan (and budget) early, and go into the process with the right attitude, you’ll find that your house search is as fun as it is fulfilling. Happy hunting!