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House Hunting Traps
No matter how many times you do it, buying a house can be stressful. You don’t want to pay too much or end up with a house that doesn’t live up to your expectations. To increase your chances of getting it right, avoid these traps:
Ignoring your budget. Before you start your search, do the math to determine how much you can afford to spend on a house. Think about the whole picture, including the likely course of your career, other major expenses, etc. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Then stick pretty close to your budget. Certainly if you find a house that is a terrific deal and slightly more than you planned to spend, and if you can swing it, you can consider a small increase. But don’t blow your budget and end up house poor.
Letting love blind you. You find a house that seems just perfect – and maybe it is. But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that the house really meets your needs and that it is structurally sound, in a good neighborhood and priced correctly.
Worrying too much about minor stuff. Don’t focus on things that are relatively easy and inexpensive to change, such as paint you don’t like or the wrong kind of appliances. If the house doesn’t have a stainless steel refrigerator, you can put one in later.
Ignoring major stuff like the plumbing, wiring, roof and location. Unlike paint and appliances, these are extremely expensive – or in the case of the neighborhood, impossible – to fix. Have the house inspected before you buy.
Taking on too many projects. If you are not handy, buying a house won’t automatically make you so. Be realistic about what you have the time, talent and money to accomplish.
Buying a house that will work now, but not later. For example, will the house seem too big when the children are all gone? On the other hand, is it large enough to accommodate visits from your kids – and grandkids? Will it continue to meet your needs as you age?
Acting too fast. Before you make an offer, think your decision through carefully. Run your personal budget numbers again. Be realistic about changes you want to make, and how much those changes will cost. Drive through the neighborhood at different times of day, including at night. Take a test run to work so you can see how long it will take. See how far it is to shopping or other things you like to do. If you can, talk to the neighbors.
Waiting too long. Thinking it through is not the same as being unable to pull the trigger. Especially in a market that is heating up, you might have to think fairly quickly if you want to get the house of your dreams.