There's no disputing the fact that home ownership is as accessible as it's ever been. Even following the constricting of the mortgage loan industry in the late '00s, home ownership is an option for more people than it used to be, either because it's seen as a wise investment or because the market is (sometimes) just so darn tempting.
But just because you're able and willing to enter the home-buying market doesn't mean you're READY.
The Huffington Post, in December published a quick and humorous read that outlines some of the mistakes first-time home-buyers make.
Among the pitfalls: Hiring the wrong agent. Just because a Realtor is your friend, or just because your parents have used him or her for years, doesn't necessarily make this person the right Realtor for you. Know your communication style. Ask some tough questions. Even have them pull some listings for you before you commit to paying them that valuable commission.
Buying a home is a big decision, so make sure you trust who's leading the process. "Talk to coworkers, friends and family to get [Realtor] recommendations," Larry Nelson, president and co-owner of Cornerstone Realty, advises. When talking to prospective agents, it's important to ask the right questions. Everything from, "Do you specialize in the areas that I am interested in?" to, "Do you really want to work with me?" are fair game.
Other ripe tips for first-timers: Don't forget closing costs, including commissions. These can raise the amount of money you'll need to pay at closing, and/or finance, considerably. Don't undervalue an appraisal. The entire nature of a purchase can change considerably based on one professional's opinion. Don't marry yourself to any set of numbers before you know how an appraisal affects them. Beware going-it-alone. The article draws an apt analogy: Just because many people, especially Millennials, have eliminated the travel agent when booking vacations DOESN'T mean they can casually dismiss the importance of a Realtor. Buying a home is a complicated legal process and full of complications. "[A Realtor] knows what you DON'T know."
Delving a little deeper into the financial side of things, Bankrate.com offers some common money mistakes that first-timers can make. There is some pretty sound wisdom here, but the one that resonated best with us was that first-time borrowers sometimes automatically borrow the largest amount they are approved for, without thinking of the effects on their budget.
"A lot of first-time buyers are optimistic about the future and excited about buying a home, so they borrow the absolute maximum they can afford instead of allowing themselves wiggle room for a partial loss of income or for future expenses such as children," says Michael Harrison, area director for MetLife Home Loans.
Chances are there's a home you will love at a price point that doesn't completely max out your earnings. After all, what fun is owning a home if you can't afford to have any fun in it?