We bought our third home last year, the third home we’ve owned since we were married 17 years ago, and I have to say, we are still learning lessons about good and smart practices during the home buying process. You would’ve thought – and we did – that we were pros by now, but even after three home purchases, there is always something to be learned about the home buying process. Here are some tips that might help you avoid some of the mistakes we have made during our three home-buying processes:
1. Don’t trust your realtor to be objective and/or have the right information. Unless it’s someone you truly know and trust, remember that your realtor has a paycheck at stake, and therefore he might not be focusing totally on what’s best for you, but also might be thinking about paying next month’s bills. Don’t take what he or she says about a property as gospel – do your own research on every aspect, especially when it comes to what might be considered as a “negative” aspect of the property.
Case in point: for one of our home purchases, the tax valuation was substantially lower than what the sale price of the house was. Our realtor told us (this is the “excuse” he supposedly heard from their realtor, but stated it as fact) that the county had not been out to the property since some financially significant improvements had been made, and we took that statement as fact. Imagine our disdain when, after speaking with the assessor after our purchase, we learned that, in fact, the county had been out quite recently and had made their most recent assessment with those improvements included. When buying your first home, interview several realtors, and check with wise family and friends, before making a decision about which realtor you’ll use.
2. Pick sidekicks, such as property inspectors, carefully. In the case of the above mentioned property purchase, we used one of the realtor’s suggested inspectors. When we met him at the property site, after he had done the inspection (never, ever do this; insist on being present the whole time), he raved about what a wonderful place we had picked out. He pointed out a few minor things wrong, but seriously downplayed them, and went back to raving about the wonderful place. After we had moved in, we found several – several – things wrong that any half way decent inspector would’ve caught. We came to the conclusion a few months after we moved in that the guy was either paid off, or highly untrained in his profession. When buying your first home, always make sure to pick helpmates, such as housing inspectors, carefully and objectively.
Ironically, when we had sold the home that led to us buying the property mentioned above, one of our “almost” buyers had an inspector who was detail-oriented to a fault. He pointed out the most menial of things wrong, things that clearly did not matter. As sellers, the guy drove us nuts with his nitpicking, but oh, how we wished we would’ve had someone like him when we were buying the home mentioned above.
3. Your own opinion/due diligence has to be your primary source of information. Even down to the mortgage company and the mortgage appraiser. We learned this the hard way too when we purchased the above mentioned property. The appraiser, who is supposed to act in the best interest of the mortgage company, found comparable sales for the house we were looking at, and we assumed therefore that we were paying a fair price. When the assessor came by, we showed him the appraisal, and he just shook his head. He’d been to two out of the three comparable sites, and pointed out several ways in which the comp properties were much more valuable than our own home.
The point here is that when you’re buying your first home, be your own advocate, and go with a realtor, inspector and a mortgage company you can trust, before signing on any dotted lines. Pick a mortgage company that has a reputation that’s known as good by consumers, and that is willing to partner with you in financing the best home for you. By following the above tips, you can make sure your first home-buying experience can be a great one.