What Not To Do When You’re Buying Your First House

March 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm 4 comments

So, I was just emailing back and forth with my new Twitter friend Melanie D’Acchioli. She’s in the process of buying her first home (actually, short sale – good luck girl!) and I mentioned that I’m always willing to shell out some advice on buying your first home. I wound up putting together 4 items that I wish I had not done during our homebuying process. A lot of this is covered (in so many words) in previous blog posts, but to recap, my email to her included the following:

“I had stars in my eyes and just went for whatever was thrown at me. So, I have a couple words of advice, and I’d do it SO differently if I could do it over again:

1. Not working with a Realtor (why is that word always capitalized? It’s not like President…) who was sensitive to our first-time homebuyer status. She took FULL advantage and was lazy lazy lazy. We should have called her out and fired her, but we just went with it. She also provided NO counsel on our first offer, which should have been MUCH lower than what we went with. She wanted commission, plain and simple. Which comes to 2…

2. Low ball the offer. These days, just do it. We were afraid we’d lose our “dream place” if we didn’t act quickly and gave them what we thought was a “competitive” (too high) offer. But, if we had waited another couple months, we would have found another “dream place” at a much lower price. People are giving away their houses in this market, so they’re more willing to be flexible, if they haven’t already driven their asking price into the ground. If you’ve got a short sale, it’s very likely that the bank just wants it off their hands, so they might be just as receptive to a lower offer. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no, so you offer them something a little bit higher? We were too timid to be aggressive, which ended up costing us.

3. Not pitting loan officers against each other for the best rate. We probably settled at a very high rate when we could have held out for something much lower, but I felt bad about inconveniencing my Realtor’s relationship with the loan officer. Shop around as much as possible, it’s their job to be inconvenienced as long as YOU get the rate you want. Technology makes the transfer of forms & materials much easier, so they can handle it.

4. We looked at one place and were like “we can fix the bathrooms, the kitchen, tear up the carpet, etc.” Nope, not even a little. We’ve been at our place since September 1 and barely have it decorated (still have 3 rooms to paint), nevermind remodeled and whatnot. Everything is 10X more expensive than you think it will be, so these items become more of a “wish list” vs a “to do” list. Luckily our place was in good shape and was basically exactly what we wanted, but if we had settled for a fixer upper, it’d still be one.”

What words of advice do you have for first-time homeowners? I’m only 6 months in, and our process went quickly, so I’d be interested to hear what more experienced home buyers could offer…

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Entry filed under: Buying a Home. Tags: , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amanda  |  April 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    So true Sandra! Someone painted the kitchen cabinets in my house red, and they did a horrible job… so of course I say.. oh we can just paint the cabinets and replace the knobs and hinges…. worst project of my life! Less expensive than getting all new kitchen cabinets but still pretty expensive. Who knew paint cost that much! Homeownership is a great feeling but I feel like there is no such thing as a little project!

  • 2. Sandra  |  April 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Totally true, every project is a time and money investment! And, who knew hinges & knobs cost that much too! Our kitchen is not bad, but not modern by any means, so my initial reaction was “easy fix, will just change the knobs”. I still haven’t bothered doing it because it will cost me a couple hundred bucks!

  • 3. Dan O'Halloran  |  April 12, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    1. I am very sorry to hear that you had a bad experience buying your condo. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there in any industry that don’t do their job and make the rest of the hard working people look bad.

    Best advice when buying your first house or second, etc and trying to pick a Realtor is to interview more than one, try to clearly define your purchasing goals and make sure you feel confident and comfortable with the Realtor you chose. If at anytime you do not feel like they’re doing the best job for you, point that out and fire them if need be. Buying real estate is a major decision and you really should have someone who you can trust and can actually advise you in your purchase.

    2. Low offers – It never hurts to try especially in today’s market. Sellers are much more conditioned to this and often are willing to negotiate. Of course this is all situational as some listings are actually priced appropriately.

    3. Loan Officers – I think it is always good to get at least two lenders involved and see who can do the best for you. Also, I think it is good to ask them if they have some past clients who might be able to speak about their experience with that lender (this goes for Realtors too). I would stay away from the online lenders and large mortgage companies…I’m a bit old fashioned but I tend to favor local banks–Most of the time you only have one point of contact and can actually talk to someone face to face. If you have a good Realtor, they will recommend lenders who will in fact do a good job. If they don’t do their job, it just makes the Realtor look bad as well.

    4. If you have a decent Realtor involved they should help you in understanding what’s involved with fixers uppers and also explain how intense home costs can become as well as all the “domesticating” factors of home ownership–Insert “Old School” quote here-bed bath & beyond, home depot, etc : )

    I really enjoy our blog and I hope this helps!
    Dan

  • 4. Sandra  |  April 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Dan–

    Thank you somuch for stopping by! You outline some great ideas and advice here; I really appreciate the insider perspective. It’s frustrating that one Realtor ruined the whole experience for us, and it frustrates me even more than she will continue to serve her clients this way and make money off of them.

    But, you make some great points, particularly about staying away from online lenders and large mortgage companies. I bet the best way to avoid doing this is by going on word of mouth references from friends & family; nobody’s going to say “Oh, you should totally go through Wells Fargo!”

    Having said that, I think the Realtor you choose to work with will really set the tone for your entire purchasing process, so it’s wise to interview a handful instead of going with the first one you meet. Their recommendations on lenders or making an offer, their style of suggesting homes for you to check out, their flexibility in meeting with you or responding to your inquiries, etc. It really impacts the entire process.

    Dan, thanks for stopping by! I’m sure any first time homebuyer would really appreciate working with you.

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