Top House-Hunting Mistakes You Won't Want To Make


Livingroom, fireplace, high ceilings


When you're in the market for a home, it seems like there are dozens of things that need to be considered at any given moment. A home is a financial investment; it's a practical thing that is going to have to meet the needs of you and your household; it's also an incredibly emotional thing that helps cultivate your sense of yourself, providing private space for you to be however you want to be. Given how many different boxes a home needs to check, it can be incredibly stressful to shop for one. The following will explore a few of the more common house-hunting mistakes that a person can make. The goal here is to help you find the home that is right for you and your family.


Not Budgeting Before You Start Searching

The bottom line is the bottom line, and it is absolutely critical that you figure out what you can comfortably spend on a home before you start seriously searching. If you've already started searching and haven't done this, take a moment to pause and figure out a reasonable budget. You want to figure out not just the mortgage you can afford but one that you can comfortably and happily afford. A home could be exactly what you've dreamed of since you were little, but if making those payments every month is a massive burden, you're quickly going to grow to hate the home.

Beyond figuring out a comfortable mortgage, you're also going to want to include things like utilities, property taxes, home insurance, and maintenance costs into your calculations. The mortgage isn't the only regular payment you're going to need to be making if you own a home.

When you're making these calculations, it's incredibly easy to assume that you'll be making more money in the future or that you'll be spending less money on expenses in the future because certain purchases will be paid off or no longer needed. While the goal is to be making more and spending less, there are no guarantees in life. The world is an unpredictable place, and so you shouldn't assume you'll have more money than you do right now in the future when making decisions about what you can afford.

Taking the time to budget can stop you from getting swept up by the sight of sparkly countertops or an aggressive bidding war. Sometimes a home that feels like a great bargain can quickly become overpriced or out of your price range because of other shoppers and while it might not seem like an extra ten thousand dollars is a lot when you're talking about the price of a home, it is a lot of money—knowing the price that you won't pay can help you stay level-headed in these negotiations.


Not Getting Preapproved If You Can

Not everyone qualifies for preapproval. If you've only been running your own business for a short time, for example, many banks won't preapprove you as there's not enough data for them to calculate their expectations. This being said, if you can get preapproved, you should. This can radically speed up the buying process when you do find the right home, and can sometimes be the difference between you or someone else getting the home if a seller wants a quick sale.


Over-Estimating Your Abilities

Homes are a lot of work. They're the kind of work that you think you understand until you have one, and then you realize you had no idea what you were getting into before you leap. Carefully consider how much regular maintenance a home requires, as well as repairs and renovations that you plan on doing yourself.

If you've got an acre of lawn to cut for six months of the year, that's about four hours of your weekend that you're never going to be able to get back (well, not without leaving your lawn to go wild). Spend some time researching standard home maintenance and calculate how much time you think these tasks are going to take you and create a rough schedule for the year. You might be taking on a part-time job without knowing it, particularly if there are lots of elements that need to be maintained, like a pool or a cobbled walkway that will need to be weeded.

Beyond the standard maintenance considerations, if you're expecting to do renovations or repairs, you need another round of calculations. Assume that every project is going to take 30% more time and cost you 30% more money than you were originally expecting it would. If you have fifteen projects you want to take on, work a full-time job, and will be taking on regular home maintenance, you might find yourself with half a day to devote to repairs every week. Sometimes when you plan everything out, you realize that those changes you want to make are going to take five years. Can you and your family live in a home that feels incomplete or in need of renovations for five years? How does your partner feel about any work expectations you have for them and their role in all these repairs? Have these conversations and focus on setting realistic expectations.


Not Knowing What You Want

Getting clear on what it is you need out of a home is vital if you don't want to get swept up in a storm of good home advertising and glossy photographs. Sit down and write out a list of everything you need in a home. How much space does your family require for sanity? How many bathrooms? How close to different workplaces and schools do you need to be to prevent horrific commutes? What amenities do you need nearby? Do you require access to green spaces or health food stores? Do the children need neighbors with children? What are the implications of any given neighborhood for your children's schooling options? Does someone who works from home need an office? Your needs list is your list of non-negotiables; these are the things you're not going to compromise on.

Once you have a list of your needs, you can then start compiling a list of your wants. These are the extras that would make life comfortable or filled with ease. Counter space and a separate laundry room might go in this space. A basement area where you can throw all the kid's toys quickly when guests come over, so it seems like your home is always clean, might be on the list.

Everyone in your household should make their own versions of these two lists, even children. Of course, you can diplomatically edit children's lists, but it is important to understand what children feel like they need and what they want.

As you conduct your home search, you always want to be seeking out places that meet all your needs. Having the two lists can also help keep you from sacrificing a need like an office for a want like a separate laundry room. You want a home you and your family can thrive in, and this means your needs must be met. Beyond this, having a firm list of needs can keep you from settling when you begin to get house-hunt weary. Almost everyone who is shopping for a home feels weary of the process at some point; it's not uncommon to find yourself thinking: at this point, I'll take anything. When you start to feel that way, you can read over your list and remind yourself of what you require in a home.


Not Moving Quickly

It's no secret that the real estate market goes through periods of rapid flux where it seems like homes are snapped up as soon as they're posted. You don't want to miss out on a home just because you didn't ask for an appointment as soon as you knew you needed one. Make sure that you're asking for viewings and putting in offers as soon as you're sure you want to.


Livingroom, fireplace


Not Studying The Neighborhood

A neighborhood can make or break a home. Not only does it influence how safe your home is and how likely your home is to increase in value, but your neighbourhood can also drastically impact your day-to-day life. Do research online (especially research if the area floods at any point of the year) but also take the time to drive around the neighbourhood on all days of the week and at all hours.

You're going to want to know what rush hour and post-school traffic is like. You're going to want to see what sort of shenanigans goes down on Friday and Saturday nights. Is there slow church traffic on Sundays? Do people clean up their dog's poop? Is there lots of litter? How are the playgrounds if you have children or might one day have children?

You're also going to want to pay attention to listing summaries of neighborhoods and speak to your agent about the area. In eXp Realty Canada's new home search, for example, have a walking and biking score for every property to help you understand how accessible things are without getting into the car. Many services also contain maps of local grocery stores and other relevant amenities.

Beyond physically exploring the neighborhood, you're going to want to seek out community Facebook pages. Most towns and neighbourhoods have them, and this is where all the dirty laundry gets aired. You'll be able to get a sense of how welcoming a neighbourhood is (if a community doesn't like outsiders, they will post about it on these sorts of pages), what problems typically arise (things like stolen bikes or garbage bins, teenage pranks, and that one lady who never ties up her dog will be posted about)—Facebook pages are an excellent indication of a neighbourhood's culture. They also let you know how nosy a neighbourhood is; you can't assume that just because the population is lower, you're going to have lots of privacy


Skipping Inspections

In those periods of rapid buying and selling, it's not uncommon for people to forego inspections to sweeten their offer. This is not advised. The last thing you want is to realize a home has a major problem you or the previous seller didn't know about. Inspectors know what signs to look for and how to read them to get a good idea of what problems have occurred or are likely to occur in a space. With no inspection, you might end up having to pay for costly repairs or replacements that you hadn't anticipated and so hadn't budgeted for.


Not Considering Parking

If you're shopping for a home in the countryside, this likely isn't going to be too big of a problem, but if you're looking in the city or in a town, parking is something you need to think about. Off-street parking spaces that meet all your parking needs are incredibly important for daily wellbeing. If you have two vehicles (or a teenager who might one day soon have their own car), you need to be looking for space for those vehicles. Parking is a frustrating process, especially if you need to be moving cars in the middle of the day or early in the morning to account for street cleaning or snowplows; it's even more troublesome if you need to pay for parking. Parking issues can drive a person mad over time (particularly if it turns into a race with your neighbors every morning for the one spot that's close).


Not Running Your Renovation Ideas Past An Agent

All too often, people think that money they put into a house is going to be money they get out of a house. Sometimes these calculations play a part in the decision to buy; people want a home that is a good investment, and they want to be taking steps to ensure that it stays that way. This being said, way too many renovations don't increase the value of a home or don't increase it enough to justify you spending all that money in the first place. If renovations paying off is part of why you're buying a home, run your ideas past an agent to make sure that the changes will actually improve the value of the home. You also want to be careful you're not pricing yourself out of the neighborhood.


The above mistakes are all easy to avoid if you take the time to consider them and work around them. Of course, every home is different, and so there might be several things not on this list that pertain to you and the properties you're looking at. It's a good idea to speak to a local real estate professional to ensure that there's not anything you're missing.