The selling and buying of a house can be a stressful and confusing process. Not only is it very expensive to 'learn from your mistakes' but very few people move often enough to gain the needed experience.
Although there is no substitute for doing your homework (start by asking your family and friends who have recently moved for their experiences), the following list of common pitfalls may be helpful.
- Looking for a house without getting pre-approved by a lender: When you are pre-approved, you are effectively a cash buyer. This makes it much easier to negotiate with the seller. Do not mistake pre-approval with pre-qualification; pre-qualification is only the first step in gaining pre-approval. Ask your Banker or REALTOR for details.
- Failing to check out the neighborhood thoroughly before buying: How do traffic patterns change depending on the day, or even the time of day? Are there any future developments in the works? Is that nice greenspace down the road actually zoned for high-rise development? Ask around - check it out first.
- Making an offer based upon the asking price, not the actual market value: Do your homework. What have similar properties sold for in the immediate area? How long were they on the market? How does this one compare? Is it over-priced, under-priced, or fair value? Ask your REALTOR for an up-to-date market summary.
- Letting "first impressions" affect your decision too much: There are entire books written on how the first impression of a home is the single most decisive factor affecting many purchasers' decision to buy. Don't let bad décor or messy housekeeping scare you away from a structurally solid home that meets all your needs. Remember, you are buying the house, not the furnishings.
- Buying a home without a professional house inspection: When buying a house, consider getting a professional property inspection. Not only will you know what you are buying, but these reports will protect you from unforeseen nasty surprises in both the short and long run.
- Assuming that the Bank's quoted mortgage rates are written in stone: Like many industries, banks are experiencing increased competition and are often willing to negotiate mortgage rates. Depending upon the market and profit spreads, it is sometimes possible to negotiate substantial savings. Ask your Banker or REALTOR for details.
- Not shopping for home insurance until you are ready to move: If you wait until the last minute, you will be rushed in finding insurance. Allow time to shop around and get the best deal.
- Signing documents without reading them: Do not wait until the last minute before reading the documents; there probably will not be time. Try to get copies of all documents early on in your home search so that you can peruse them at your leisure.
- Making verbal agreements: Not only are they harder to enforce, but any written contract you sign will override a verbal agreement. Contract law says that verbal agreements are not enforceable when they deal with Real Property. Always get it in writing!
- Not knowing your rights & obligations: If you do not know your rights, then you can be taken advantage of. If you do not know your obligations, you may inadvertently cause friction between yourself and those with whom you are about to enter a contract. Both your REALTOR and Lawyer are great sources of information concerning this - make use of their expertise and resources.