Buying your next home can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first home.
It’s exciting but full of complexities.
While it’s likely to be the largest financial transaction you will ever make, we’ve found that many home buyers are poorly prepared to ensure they make a good purchase decision.
And it’s not their fault.
The system is stacked against them, with much of the power being on the side of the seller.
To help guide you, let’s look at 13 Common Mistakes made by Home Buyers – ones that you should avoid.
1. Not doing proper research and preparation
Understand your family's finances and needs.
The wise home buyer will analyse assets, decipher debts and get pre-approved for finance before plunging into the house hunt.
Get to know the neighbourhood - remember you're not just buying a house; you're also buying a location.
It’s important to find out about the quality of schools, the crime level, transport, and possibly upcoming zoning issues.
Not all parts of every suburb are ideal spots to live.
2. Choosing the wrong mortgage
To put you in the best-negotiating position, it’s critical to have your loan preapproved (not just pre-qualified) before going house hunting.
Find out how much house you can afford – but you can’t simply go to a bank's Internet site, use the calculators to see how much you can borrow and assume you’ll get a loan.
There's a big difference between what the banks indicate they can lend you and what they actually will.
It’s important to pick your finance package carefully.
Don’t just go to one bank; instead use an independent finance broker who has access to a range of lenders and finance products.
3. Being influenced by “The Market”
Don’t be influenced by “the market” more than by your own needs.
Sure the property market moves in cycles and there are times when they suit buyers and there are sellers' markets when prices are booming.
However, waiting for the “right time” or prices to go down is gambling with your family’s future.
At times the mixed messages in the media may confuse you and you’ll be tempted to put off the decision to buy.
If you know your budget, have your finance organised and think about your current and future needs, then you should rarely let short-term market conditions influence what will be a long-term lifestyle decision.
4. Going beyond your budget
Every homebuyer knows the feeling - you're looking for a home that fits your budget, but that much more expensive property looks that much more appealing.
However, buying a home that's way out of your price range could well derail your finances in the future.
It’s human nature for us to want a little more than we can afford, and there's always a real estate agent who’ll talk you to the next level.
But don’t be tempted - the bank has usually offered you a borrowing limit for good reasons based on your ability to repay the loan.
Spending more than you can sensibly afford leaves you exposed to potential financial shocks, including rises in interest rates.
You must also allow for changes in your future circumstances.
5. Falling in love
If you think a house is ideal, don't let the seller's agents know.
Agents are good at reading emotions and negotiating the last cent out of prospective purchasers.
A wise home buyer knows there are lots of houses - and there's one out there that's the right house at the right price.
If you can't afford it, move on and keep looking.
6. It’s not all about price
We all know you make your money in property when you buy, but that doesn’t mean you must buy cheaply.
You make your money by buying the right property, not a cheap property.
Price is what you pay, value is what you get.
This means you don’t make your buying decision purely on price.
You can always buy cheap properties in secondary locations or on main roads, but you’ll be stuck with a secondary property – not a good idea.
However, when you’ve found the right property – it’s important to make a proper offer.
One that secures your home, but that does not overpay.
Don't base your offer on the seller's asking price.
Instead, get a comparative market analysis from your buyers’ agent.
This analysis will reveal recent asking and sales prices of similar homes in the neighbourhood.
With this type of knowledge, a wise home buyer can make an offer that is appropriate.
7. Not having the right protection clauses inserted in the contract of sale
Don’t sign anything until you are sure your interests are protected.
While the standard contract to purchase a property will give you a “3-day cooling-off period” (this varies in different states) smart purchasers request additional clauses to protect their interests.
Don’t be fooled by an agent who says you can always ask for changes or an extension later. That’s not the way it works.
The only way to get changes to a contract once it’s been signed is to end the existing contract and renegotiate a new one. And the seller doesn’t have to agree to your requests.
8. Underestimating the full costs of buying a home
Many homebuyers fail to budget for the full costs associated with buying a house.
Firstly there are the acquisition costs.
Things like stamp duties, rates, valuation costs, loan application fees and mortgage insurance.
Apart from budgeting for moving costs, be prepared for the unexpected when you move into your new home.
It’s funny how things that have been working for years seem to break down as if they knew there was a new owner.
Set aside a budget for those irritating and sometimes costly breakdowns.
Then…don’t underestimate the ongoing costs of owning your property.
Owning can cost much more than renting with expenses like rates, insurance and maintenance.
9. The “Fed Up” Purchase
You’ve been looking for a few months but haven’t found your dream home.
The agents are misleading you; you may have been outbid by someone who had deeper pockets than you.
You’re Fed Up!
One big mistake home buyers make is buying a property in desperation.
They buy something reasonable rather than something that really suits their needs because they’re sick of the emotional rollercoaster of home buying.
This is a decision you may live to regret for a long time.
Rather than buying out of frustration, stop looking for a while, or better still get a buyers' agent on your side to save you time, to look in nooks and crannies you wouldn’t have thought of and find those silent sales for you – the off-market properties.
10. Not organising a professional building inspection
It’s important to engage a competent and independent (not one recommended by the selling agent) professional to check your potential new home.
Remember… these inspectors are trained to find faults, so don’t freak out when they produce a long list.
Look out for major faults but don’t let minor faults that are easily repaired trouble you too much.
If you’re not sure how to interpret the report, have a chat with the building inspector and ask questions like - would you buy this property?
11. Misunderstanding the real estate agent's role
Real estate agents are friendly people and in the course of shopping for a house, you will spend a lot of time with various agents.
However, the wise home buyer understands who's working for whom.
Unless you have engaged an exclusive buyers’ agent, then the agents are working for the sellers.
Don’t be mistaken – a selling agent can’t work in the interests of both the buyer and the seller.
In fact, they’re legally and morally obliged to work for their client the seller.
However wise home buyers know how to level the playing field by engaging a buyers’ agent to represent their interests.
12. Going solo
The sellers have an agent protecting them, looking after their interests and advising them, but most home buyers go solo.
Sure you’ve read some articles and done your research on the Internet, but this is likely to be your largest purchase ever.
And those emotions will cloud some of your decisions.
You wouldn’t go to court without a solicitor on your side – would you?
You probably have a good head on your shoulders and may even have a good working knowledge of the home buying process.
What you probably don’t have, however, is perspective.
If, how and when you buy a home are all decisions that will have major consequences.
That’s why it’s important to have the same protection on your side that the seller has.
That’s why it’s critical to engage a professional buyers’ agent to represent your interests.
For more information on buyers’ agents, read the article "The home buyers’ secret weapon."
13. Thinking this list is exhaustive
It's not. There are many other issues to consider.
But, hopefully, this will help you avoid a few common mistakes as you contemplate buying your next home.
If you want all your questions answered consider buying a great book “The Australian Guide to Buying and Selling Your Home” or consider engaging Metropole Property Strategists to help level the playing field and act as your buyers’ agents