How to avoid home buying mistakes the first time

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Buying a house to make a home for you and your family can be a stressful time for anyone, especially when it’s your first home.

We no longer wanted to rent any more so looking for our first home was something that came fast and furious for us.

With that comes the urgency to own a home and sometimes you overlook some of the obvious concerns. I certainly won’t be making some of these mistakes next time around.

I can remember the endless trolling through MLS listings online and then booking an appointment with our real estate agent to go and view them.

Some houses definitely viewed better through photos rather than real life, but it’s always something every house hunter has to endure.

When buying a house everyone has a list of wants and needs and a general style that they are looking for. For us, a more modern house was an easier choice due to lower maintenance costs and less chance that there was going to be hidden problems.

The trouble for any couple or family starts when they discover hidden issues with the house they thought was perfectly fine. Other life events can throw your plans off track too.

As a home owner I have found a number of things I would consider when purchasing a house even if it’s your first home.

 

Is bigger, better?

 

That large house that you have to maximize your mortgage for just to impress your friends and family can become a mill stone around your neck. A much larger house than you really need or can hardly afford costs more to run on a daily basis.

Increased square footage will go hand in hand with an increase in property taxes, heating and cooling costs, maintenance requirements and so on.

If your monthly mortgage costs are already crippling your finances, the increased costs of owning a house will tip your finances over the edge.

There is never anything certain in life, so if a job loss occurs, injury, health issues or a pregnancy that was unplanned happens, could you still afford that castle?

 

Consider staying a while

 

Jumping from property to property can cost you more than you think. You can make money from selling your house due to increases in property prices and renovations that you have completed on the house.

You can also lose money if you are selling frequently, unless of course you sell said property yourself without a real estate agent.

Take an average priced house of $300,000 and apply the typical 5% fee that goes along with it selling with an agent.

That’s going to cost you $15,000 ($16,950 with tax) to sell your house, but don’t forget that’s not the only cost associated with it. There is the fees for the lawyers, land transfer tax, moving costs and a  Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC)  fee if applicable among other fees and taxes.

At roughly $20,000 or more per move if you keep upgrading homes over time, the costs of buying and selling can get expensive.

If you move house 5 times in a relatively small amount of time that’s $100,000 you’ve spent.

Did you actually make that much on selling the properties?

Home renovations

 

There is a common list of renovations that retain money and those that don’t with a fresh coat of paint giving the biggest return on investment. Sure you could renovate your house to the nines but is someone going to pay the over the top price for it when you come to sell?

The same applies to when you’re buying a house. Be wary of buying a house on a street where it’s the most expensive by quite a margin. A few thousand dollars won’t make much difference but paying thirty thousand over might ring alarm bells.

If you are going to pay all that extra money for a home that’s been completely renovated, make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

Having seen so many badly executed renovations during open houses to do with hardwood flooring or basements, I would advise taking a closer look.

I’m not going to spend hard-earned money on hardwood flooring just to rip it all out and start all over again.

Take a walk around the property, look closely at the finishes and the way things were renovated. Slap dash installation can suggest that most of the renovations in the home probably aren’t going to last.

I saw a brand new kitchen renovation in one prospective house and the upper cupboards weren’t even level with the ceiling. They change from one inch distance to the ceiling at one end to three inches at the opposite end.

Even if the ceiling wasn’t level, that would suggest there was even bigger problems. Your personal observations can be your biggest clues as to whether this house is for you or not.

 

Location, Location, Location

 

Quite possibly the most famous saying when considering buying a house. They even named a British TV show with the same name.

Living in an affluent area may make you feel like you’re on the way up but it might not necessarily be a good idea for you and the way your life actually is.

As a working couple, there may never be a time when you both hold a job in the same city or even travel to work in the same direction.

Picking a location that makes a commute easier and faster would be a sensible solution. Also selecting an area where each commute is roughly equal may make life a little easier so one person doesn’t feel like they’re doing all the travelling.

Consider the maths for moving closer to work and buying a more expensive house or staying outside the city and buying something cheaper.

With the costs of gasoline fairly high compared to what they used to be and increasing commute times it may make more sense to live closer to work.

High mileage vehicles depreciate faster and require more maintenance and you may find yourself buying cars more often than those who live close to work.

 

Time to buy

 

When we we’re looking at buying our current house we started looking in the middle of winter, which was great for viewing the inside but completely useless when viewing the exterior.

There were some advantages of looking during the winter. You can see how parking, snow removal and prevailing weather affects the property. Check the windows, they should perform as intended.

Double glazing panels can fail, fogging, condensation trapped between panels can be an indicator that you may be spending money sooner rather than later.

Check for cold rooms or uneven heating throughout the house. A bedroom above a garage that can be colder than the rest of the house can potentially be hotter in the summer months.

It doesn’t necessarily suggest that there is missing insulation, it could be caused by the garage underneath. Consider that you may have to invest in a thermal garage door.

A garage was part of the essential list. Not so much to store household stuff in, but actually house vehicles in especially during the winter months.

If you’re going to store a snow blower in there as well, check out the room available for all your toys because there’s nothing worse than a garage filled to the top with everything but your vehicle.

There are however down sides to looking to buy a home in the winter. After buying our house and then moving in, we were quite surprised when the snow disappeared and revealed a front garden that nobody in their right mind would be proud of.

We were also surprised and annoyed at the same time when we found items that the home inspector had missed. We have since resolved those issues, but it was inconvenient all the same.

If your planning on buying a house within the next twelve months, consider doing some research.

If there is a particular area you want to buy a home in visit it during every season. View the rest of the houses in the street as they tend to be of roughly the same age.

If most people have already got a re-roof done, then a house with an original roof will have to have a new roof budgeted into the cost. It may require landscaping or re-sodding which is a less expensive alternative to improving the curb appeal.

Making a list of pro’s and con’s could narrow down your house hunting and result in a better home purchase.

We had to make compromises but at the end of the day we’re happy with our choice of house to make our home.

What are some things that you would look for the next time you buy a home that you didn’t consider the first time?

 

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Photo Credit: Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. Mr. CBB I am always proud to recommend your site to my friends students and customers. My husband and I retired to the north and started a small homestead, read about it on the web site and face book. In younger days we managed property in London Ontario for out of town landlords and purchased and renovated 28 houses of our own. We now live in #28. Some things we learned:
    1 Value, A real estate agent is not trained to appraise a house. He or she can only tell you what other similar houses in the area have sold for. this value is called The market value
    A licensed home appraiser can give you the correct amount that you should be paying for your property.
    The appraisers value is often lower than the market value. This is because the appraiser takes into account the value of the land and the building but also deducts a value for the depreciation or ware and tear of the building(what you will likely have to spend money on within 5 years).
    The bank finances at the licensed appraisers value, however the bank recognizes that the buyer often will pay more.
    The correct price one should pay for a property with a house usually falls somewhere in between the appraisers value and the real estate agents market price.
    Sometimes the bank tells you that they will finance a house only if the buyer puts in larger down payment. This can mean the bank thinks that the value of the house is lower than the price the buyer has agreed to pay. If this happens don’t get mad. Ask the bank why. You might find out that you have offered to pay more than the property is worth.
    2, Property inspection. This is where the rubber meets the road. For many years we relied only on a Property Inspector. Later; after many surprises, when the inspector had completed their report we paid for and brought in a licensed contractor with lots of knowledge on foundations, master electrician and plumber. We also requested reports detailing maintenance to the sewer lines. This is very important in older areas where sewer lines must be maintained in order to prevent back ups.
    Yes these inspections cost us some money. Money very well spent as we could read these reports and really understand what we were buying.
    Hope this helps. Have a great day.

  2. Excellent advice! I think the home you purchase and it’s location are among the biggest factors that can contribute to your future cost of living- it is SUCH an important decision. Thanks for the great advice!

    • I know that if I ever have to buy again there will be much more I”m looking for as I’ve learned lots over the years. Living in the UK and Canada home buying is a bit different.

  3. Christine Weadick says:

    We first looked at this house in January, the deal closed in late May. Three of the four houses we have had over the years were purchased in the winter. There were surprises, some good, some not so good. We knew that going in…
    This house had more than it’s share of rude surprises. We knew the wiring would need work but you can’t exactly punch holes in the walls to see what is back there before you buy the place. Once here we realized the wiring was worse than we thought and the kitchen re-do had to be postponed. The wiring was the priority… before the house burned down from the wiring…yes it was that bad….Home inspections were not that popular back then as they are these days. I don’t think I’d buy a house without one now and I’d want to go with the inspector while he did the inspection.
    Here the problem is not uneven ceilings….the floors are not level by a long shot. I have days I swear the only thing that will improve this place is a bulldozer………..But at the time we bought it all we could afford was a fixer-upper and boy this place has been that!!!

  4. We just bought a house and moved and we are staying put this time, hopefully forever. Moving is expensive and also a giant pain. Now that we have a house close to Greg’s job and the schools, we can hopefully live here forever! =/

    • I moved across country and that was lots of work and sold my house. I can’t imagine moving from house to house like some people but for some it’s lucrative and others it’s very costly.. Cheers Holly :)

  5. I have bought and sold many times and now I am looking forward to the day when I can sell and just rent.

    I am tired of shoveling and fixing broken things and that big line in my budget that is for home maintenance. I try to fix things before they break or leak. I value my free time and I have wasted so much time shoveling this winter that I never want to do it again.

    I am not ready to become a renter. I will wait another 8 or 10 years until I am in my late 50s but I can dream while I watch my neighbours who hire people to clear their driveways.

    • I’ve heard of people who want to simply rent when they get older because they don’t want to take care of the home. I know some cities offer villas where you can purchase a home but all the maintenance is paid by the community. I’m sure there are fees involved but that’s another option if you want to still own. Was all the moving of houses worth it for you from a financial standpoint? Would you do it again?

      • Some of the moves were because they were the homes my ex-husband wanted to upgrade to. The last house was too big and too expensive and one of the main reasons he is now my ex-husband.

        I moved to my current very modest home when the marriage ended and there is lots of room for myself and my sons and their friends and the dog. A bigger house will not make you happier but it will take a lot more of your time and money.

  6. We have bought and sold many many times. ALWAYS get a home inspection. AND be there when the inspector is. The tip about bringing in a contractor and plumber and electrician was right on as well. Better to be out $500-$1000 in inspections than to be stuck with a house that will cost tens of thousands in repairs that you didn’t anticipate.

    • I agree with you 100% and that is what I will do if we buy again. No more home inspectors for us although they may work for others I want the trades guys coming in.

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