What Are The Most Common First Time Home Buyer Mistakes?

Buying a home for the first time can bring a high level of uncertainty. There are many steps to buying a house and many first time buyers are unaware of the steps to take when buying their first home.

Unfortunately, first time home buyers who’re unaware of the home buying process often open themselves up to making some bad mistakes. Mistakes that can actually cost themselves thousands of dollars, hours of frustration, or even worse, heartbreak because they’re not able to buy their first home.

It’s important when buying your first home you fully understand what the most common first time home buyer mistakes are. Those who understand the most common errors that first time home buyers make will greatly improve the chances their home purchase is a success.

Below is a short video discussing the top 7 first time home buyer mistakes you need to avoid.

Mistake #1: Not Getting Pre-Approved For A Mortgage

The first thing you’ll notice about mistake #1 is the word, “pre-approved.” As you’re preparing to buy your first home, you may hear the word “pre-qualification” being thrown around. You need to first understand there is a difference between a mortgage pre-approval and a mortgage pre-qualification.

A mortgage pre-approval is an in-depth look at a borrowers (buyers) financials by a mortgage lender or bank in order to evaluate the likelihood of getting a mortgage. A pre-approval will typically require a buyer to provide important financial documents such as tax returns, recent pay stubs, and bank statements.

A mortgage pre-qualification is a very general look at a borrower's financials by a mortgage lender or bank to evaluate the likelihood of getting a mortgage. The biggest difference between a mortgage pre-approval and pre-qualification is that a pre-qualification is often issued based on information that is provided by the borrower. This means that a buyer can provide a mortgage lender or bank with financial information that might be incorrect, which can ultimately lead to the mortgage being denied once the important financial documents are actually submitted to the lender.

Now that we’ve briefly cleared up the difference between a mortgage pre-approval and a mortgage pre-qualification, one of the worst first time home buyer mistakes is not getting pre-approved for a mortgage. It’s vital to the success of buying the first home that you put yourself in the best position to succeed, especially if you happen to be buying a home in a seller's market.

A mortgage pre-approval places a buyer in the best light in the eyes of a seller because the chances a mortgage is actually granted is greater when a buyer has been pre-approved than it is when a buyer has only been pre-qualified.

As you’re starting out the mortgage process, make sure you know how to pick a mortgage broker or lender. There can be major differences between one mortgage broker to the next, so it’s important you select your mortgage broker or lender carefully.

Mistake #2: Not Taking The Process Of Hiring A Buyers Agent Seriously

The most important person you’ll be relying on for guidance during the purchase of your first home is your real estate agent. There are dozens of reasons why to hire a real estate agent when buying a home and one of the worst first time home buyer mistakes is not taking it seriously.

First and foremost, it’s critical that you understand that not every real estate agent is the same. This means, even if an agent works for the same company, they’re not the same. If an agent works on a team, they’re not the same as other team members.

In order to have a successful first home purchase, you should understand how to interview a real estate agent when buying a home. Many first time home buyers neglect to even consider more than one agent and they’ll hire an agent because they’re a friend, family member, or the first agent they encounter at an open house. This can be a recipe for disaster!

While it’s possible that a friend or family member is a competent and successful real estate agent, it isn’t always the case. Since buying your first home is such a big deal, it’s critical you take hiring the right agent seriously. Even if you have a friend or family member who is a real estate agent, they should understand if you want to explore all of your options and interview a couple different agents.

Recently while selling a home in Irondequoit NY to a first time home buyer, who also happened to be one of my closest friends, they met with a couple agents to see if there were any other agents who were a better fit. They ultimately decided to work with me, however, if they decided a different agent was a better fit there wouldn’t have been any hard feelings.

Buying your first home is a huge deal and ensuring the agent who is guiding you through the process is extremely important. Not taking the process of selecting the right agent seriously is a huge mistake.

Mistake #3: Going Directly To The Listing Agent

There are many first time home buyers who wonder if they should use the sellers real estate agent to buy a home. The simple answer is, NO, you should not! Going directly to the listing agent is one of the worst first time home buyer mistakes for several reasons.

One of the main reasons why going directly to the sellers real estate agent is a bad idea is because it’s possible you’re foregoing your right to have representation. If you decide to go directly to a listing agent, it’s likely that you’re going to be entering a dual agency situation. Dual agency in real estate is when a real estate agent is “representing” both the buyer and seller.

The problem is that when an agent is a dual agent, they cannot provide any advice to you as to how much they feel the home is worth or how to negotiate repair requests after a home inspection. For this reason, dual agency is not legal in many states so be sure to know your state laws on dual agency.

It’s extremely common when buying new construction that a buyer will decide to use the builder representative. This is common because many builders will give a buyer the impression that they’ll give them a discount if they don’t have a buyers agent.

What these buyers don’t realize is that they are giving up their right to representation which is critical when buying new construction. 

Hiring a real estate agent when buying new construction can save you thousands of dollars, so don’t let a builders representative trick you into the thought that they’ll give you a discount if you don’t have a real estate agent representing your interests.

Mistake #4: Forgetting To Factor In Additional Expenses Of Owning A Home

When buying your first home, it’s important to understand how much it costs to buy a home. It’s also important that you realize to factor in the expenses that come with owning a home. Forgetting to factor in additional expenses of owning a home is another one of the common first time home buyer mistakes.

You’re probably asking yourself what additional expenses of owning a home should you be factoring in? Well, there are actually quite a few expenses of owning a home. Expenses such as monthly utilities, refuse, homeowners insurance, and general maintenance expenses are some of the most common to keep in mind.

Buying a home at the top of your budget and forgetting to factor in these expenses of owning a home can add some serious financial stress. One of the best pieces of advice for first-time buyers is to create a spreadsheet with estimated home ownership costs. Creating an estimate of the monthly expenses of owning a home can help you budget and also help ensure you don’t buy too expensive of a home.

Mistake #5: Putting Too Much Weight On Online Home Value Estimates

Many first time home buyers struggle on how to determine how much to offer for a home, once they find one they’re in love with. One of the surefire ways to embarrass yourself when making an offer is to believe the home values you see online. Giving online home value estimates too much clout is another one of the top first time home buyer mistakes you need to avoid.

It’s highly likely you’ve heard of websites such as Trulia and Zillow. These websites provide home value estimates that are calculated by a computer using an algorithm. Using these home value estimates as a guideline to how much you should offer for a home is one of the worst mistakes made by home buyers using the internet.

I’ve seen Zillow “Zestimates” that is too high or too low by as much as 50%. This means that Zillow may estimate a home is worth $100,000 but the home actually ends up selling for $200,000.
So, are Zillow home value estimates accurate? Nope!

Putting too much weight on online home value estimates can end up costing you big time when buying your first home. Falling for this first time home buyer mistake can make buying your first home nearly impossible.

When you’re ready to make an offer on a home that you love, it’s recommended you discuss with your real estate agent. An experienced buyers agent will be able to provide helpful data and information about recent comparable sales so that you can understand what a realistic market value is on a home.

Mistake #6: Skipping The Home Inspection

As you’re beginning the process of buying your first home, one of the most important steps in the process is the inspection phase. Skipping the home inspection is one of the worst first time home buyer mistakes and there are very few reasons why you should ever consider doing so.

Why is skipping the inspection a bad idea? Well, there are tons of reasons to have a home inspection when buying a home and very few reasons why skipping is a good idea.

First, the inspection is an excellent way to protect yourself from buying a home that’s going to end up being a money pit. One of the primary reasons a home inspection is highly recommended when buying your first home is because a quality home inspector will be able to identify deficiencies within a home.

For example, a home inspector may uncover during their inspection that there are significant structural issues or there is mold present in a home. These are just a couple of red flags to watch for when buying a home and by having an inspection you can avoid the possibility of spending thousands of dollars correcting deficiencies!

Mistake #7: Making Financial Changes Before Closing

One of the top mortgage mistakes, whether someone is buying their first home or their fifth, is making financial changes before closing. Unfortunately, making financial changes before closing is one of the top first time home buyer mistakes and it’s seen too frequently.

Why do first time home buyers frequently make financial changes before closing? The number one reason is that they’re not educated nor are they aware that making financial changes prior to closing can jeopardize them getting their mortgage. Many first time buyers fall for the mortgage myth that once they’ve been pre-approved they’re guaranteed to get the loan, which is the furthest from the truth.

When you are buying your first home, if you’re planning on making a change to your financials, consult with your mortgage professional before doing so. Too often a buyer will get a new credit card or a shiny new car just prior to closing which can result in a mortgage being denied after pre-approval.

The saying, “it’s not over until the fat lady sings,” is true when it comes to getting a mortgage. You are not guaranteed to get your mortgage, even if it’s been pre-approved until you’ve signed all the closing documents and have the keys to your first home in your hands. Bottom line, don’t make any changes to your financials unless you’ve discussed it with your mortgage professional.

Final Thoughts

Buying your first home is a very exciting time. It’s important that you don’t let the excitement result in you falling for one of these common first time home buyer mistakes.

As you’re going through the process of buying your first home, if you have any question as to whether you’re making the right move or not, don’t feel embarrassed to ask your real estate agent, mortgage originator, or attorney. The worst thing is making one of the above first time home buyer mistakes and not being able to buy your first home.

When it comes to buying your first home, remember, no question is a dumb question!