As a homebuyer, navigating the financial responsibilities of buying a home can be incredibly challenging. Most newer homebuyers are unaware of all the costs associated with buying and owning a home – but are quickly made aware of them if they are working with a good real estate agent. But even with the help of a real estate agent, it can be easy to make serious mistakes in terms of your finances. The following are five tips to help ensure that you don’t make these financial mistakes when buying your first home.
1. Don’t focus on distressed properties because you think you’ll find a good deal
A lot of first-time homebuyers will explore distressed properties, such as foreclosures or short sales, in the search of a bargain. If you’re looking to invest your money, then a distressed property can be a great deal. But you need to have plenty of time on your hands. If you’re actually looking for a home to move into, then you don’t want to waste your time looking at distressed properties. Deals for distressed properties not only take months to close, but the amount of money you may have to put into renovations may not be worth it. Spending all of your time looking at distressed properties could also result in missing out on well-priced homes that may have suited all of your needs. As a homebuyer, keep in mind that you are looking for a new home first and foremost — bargains are nice, but you shouldn’t be focused on finding one. Focus on finding what you love and need.
2. You don’t need to borrow the full amount that your lender is offering
Just because you are approved for a mortgage doesn’t mean you have to borrow the full amount that the lender is offering. A general rule of thumb is to borrow around 20 percent less than what the lender is offering. So if the lender has approved a $350,000 mortgage, you should consider only looking for homes priced at $280,000 or less. This will help to protect you financially. The amount offered by the lender is typically the most that they are comfortable lending to you in terms of what they think you can pay back on a monthly basis. This means that you could barely end up affording the mortgage payments if you take out the full amount — and you don’t want to be financially uncomfortable.
3. Think twice about getting a short-term adjustable-rate mortgage
A short-term mortgage is going to cost you an arm and a leg every month. Yes, you will end up paying off your loan sooner, which will help relieve your debt. But is it worth the financial discomfort? Not to mention that an adjustable-rate means that you’ll never know how much your mortgage payments might be — it could vary from month to month. A longer-term fixed-rate mortgage is a much safer play. With a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll know exactly what you’ll be paying every month, making it much easier to budget. A long-term mortgage isn’t as bad as it might sound either. You may be making payments for 15 to 30 years, but remember those payments aren’t going to seem like that much after a decade or two since they will remain constant throughout, even with inflation.
4. Don’t use up all of your cash in order to buy the house
Make sure that you prepare for the many costs associated with buying a home, from the down payment to the appraisal fees, agent fees, lawyer fees and more. Not to mention all the other costs that you need to prepare yourself down the line, including your mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, HOA fees, property taxes and more. When saving up money, keep all of these costs in mind. You don’t want to end up emptying out your savings account by your very first day as a homeowner, as this can end up putting you in a very dire financial situation.
5. Make sure that you speak to the neighbors first
There’s a good chance that you are going to be living next to your neighbors for a very long time, so you’ll want to make sure that you don’t end up regretting putting all of your money into a home where you can’t stand your neighbors. There’s not much you can do if you end up buying a home next to a fraternity that throws wild parties twice a week or if your neighbors have dogs that bark throughout the night. This is not a situation you want to find yourself in as a first-time homebuyer since you won’t be in a good financial situation to be able to get out of it.
Being a first-time homebuyer can be both exciting and daunting at the same time. Because there is so much on the line, financially speaking, you’ll want to make sure that you do your research and speak in detail to your real estate agent in order to prevent yourself from making any potentially costly mistakes, whether it’s borrowing the full amount of the mortgage you’re offered or using all of your savings to buy the home.