I work with a lot of 1st time buyers. I really love this, as I love their energy and excitement. I also must have an educator gene somewhere, as I love teaching them about the home buying process, and about homes (architecture, mechanical systems, construction quality differences) in general. In nearly 20 years of selling real estate however, I have seen both 1st time buyers & repeat buyers make the same mistakes. If you are going to be buying a home soon, or know someone who is, please read the following:

1.) Don't get caught up in the decorating! This truly is the number one mistake I see. Buyers fall in love with the way the current owners have the house decorated and don't see any of the flaws of the home. It is hard to look past the way the home currently looks, but you really need to be concentrating on other items when making a home buying decision.

2.) Not paying enough attention to location. Another mistake I see made over and over. The old mantra of the 3 rules of real estate being location, location, location is so often repeated because it is true! I just had a very smart 1st time buyer tell me last weekend, "we were thinking about it, and decided we rather buy a home that needs some work in a great neighborhood, than buy a really beautiful move-in home in a so, so neighborhood." That is the way you need to think if you are concerned about resale value and/or about building sweat equity in a home.

3.) Underestimating the expense of "fixing up" a house.  This may seem contradictory, considering what I just said in #2, but I do see some buyers wanting to take on way too much work, usually because the house is such a great price for the area. This is especially true lately, with the bargain priced foreclosures available in every community. You do have to know your limits. If you have some experience with home improvement, that is one thing, but a house that has been vacant for a year or more, and neglected for some time before that, is going to take a lot of time and money to bring back. Especially if you have never owned a home before and don't know much at all about houses, you probably should stick to homes that really only need cosmetic improvements, and/or easily quantifiable mechanical improvements (new furnace for example).

4.) Not hiring a buyer's agent to represent you. This is crucial. You really need to do some research and select an agent to represent you. You should do this before you go and look at any homes for sale. A good agent will guide you through the process and make things much easier for you. A great agent will also save you time & money! Ask around for recommendations and do some online research. Sit down with a few agents for "buyer counseling" (if they don't normally do that with new buyers, move on to an agent that does). You want an agent that is knowledgeable, personable, experienced and accessible. You also want to feel comfortable with your agent, as you will be sharing a lot of information, time and trust with them. Take some time selecting the right one to help you achieve your goals.

5.) Get preapproved before you do anything else. So many people still try to skip this step, it just amazes me! It does not matter if this is your first or fifth house, nor does it matter if you are making more money than you were the last time you bought a house. Nothing is guaranteed in today's mortgage world and the seller of the house you want to buy doesn't know you at all. Take the time to get preapproved (meaning a credit check is done) by a lender you trust before you do anything else in the process. This one step will save you a ton of headaches. If you are not sure of what lender to use to get preapproved, contact some of the agents you want to sit down with and see who they recommend, then contact a lender and make sure you have your preapproval in hand before you sit down with the agents.

I hope you found this post informative. Please feel free to comment below. If I can ever be of any help to you in the future, whether buying or selling, or even if you just have a real estate question, please contact me. I love what I do and will be happy to help.