Whether you’re purchasing your first home or you’ve been through the process several times before, it’s easy to make some of the most common home-buying mistakes. 

Use this “do” and “don’t” checklist to avoid some of the costliest pitfalls.

Don’t underestimate the true cost of ownership.

Owning a home brings with it expenses beyond your monthly mortgage payment. 

  • Closing costs. This payment is due when you close on the house and usually includes the appraisal as well as title fees and loan origination fees.
  • Moving expenses.
  • Any updates or repairs you’ll want or need to make at your new house and purchases like new appliances.
  • Homeowners’ association fees or dues (if the neighborhood you’re moving into has one).
  • Higher utility bills (water, gas, electricity).
  • Landscaping expenses (increased water usage for sprinklers, a lawn service or the cost of tools and gas if you DIY).
  • Regular maintenance (roof replacement, exterior paint and wood-trim repairs or replacement).
  • Emergency repairs (heating and cooling systems, plumbing issues, etc.).

Don’t stretch your money too thin.

Just because you can technically afford a certain amount, doesn’t mean you should spend that much. Find what you’re looking for, but also try to find ways to pay less for it. If you think you’re making a stretch, you probably are, and that can significantly hurt your financial success. Will you be able to maintain your savings and retirement plans? Can you still make investments as needed? Will you have enough money after all bills are paid to build your emergency fund? 

Also, putting too much of your income toward your mortgage payment may leave you with less money to spend on other things like vacations, entertainment, etc. Do you want to make significant sacrifices or lower your quality of life for one extra bathroom?

Don’t get emotional about a house.

When home shopping, try not to get instantly attached to a house. When it comes time to negotiate on the price, you want a clear head and the ability to walk away if the deal isn’t right for you and your budget.

Do get pre-qualified.

By getting pre-qualified for a home loan, you know before you ever decide on a house if you’re eligible for the loan you’ll need to buy it. Getting pre-qualified has other upsides too:

  • It lets realtors and home sellers know you are a serious buyer, and that could work to your advantage when negotiating the home’s price.
  • It could help you close on a new house quicker, since most of the preliminary paperwork for the mortgage is already done.

Do know your credit score.

Before you start loan shopping, you should know your credit score and check your credit reports to ensure there are no errors negatively affecting it. Your credit history will be one of the main factors that lenders examine when deciding if you can get a loan and for how much.

Don’t rack up other debt.

In addition to your credit and your income, other outstanding debts will play into your ability to get a mortgage. Once you’ve decided to buy a home, don’t put yourself in any more debt and do your best to pay down some of your existing debt.

Do prepare for a decent down payment.

Almost all lenders require some amount of down payment, usually ranging from 5 to 20 percent of the price you’re paying for the house. If you pay less than 20 percent, you’ll probably have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will add to your monthly payment.

Do shop around.

The terms, closing costs and interest rates on mortgages can vary widely between financial institutions, so it’s always smart to look around and compare loan products. And since applying for a mortgage can be complicated, it’s also important to work with a lender you trust and feel comfortable with. 

MAX offers a wide range of home loan options, and our lending professionals have the expertise and experience to guide you through the process of buying your next home.