If you thought the hard part was over once you found your dream home, we have some not-so-pleasant news for you. Plenty of unexpected problems can come up during real estate transactions and within the first year of ownership. To keep minor annoyances from turning into major mishaps, here’s a short list of some things savvy homeowners avoid.
Considering that the average price of a home is almost $200,000, it might not seem like a big deal to stretch your budget ever so slightly (what’s another $5000 or even $10,000?) to get the one you really want. While it’s certainly helpful to know the maximum amount you can afford to spend, it’s wise to steer clear of that cap. Not only are there more costs to purchasing a home than the one number splashed atop the real estate listing, but it’s important to consider that your income may fluctuate, as may your expenditures.
2. NEGLECTING TO BUDGET FOR HIDDEN COSTS
The purchase price of a home doesn’t cover everything. At the outset, there are closing costs, appraisal fees, and moving expenses to contend with, all of which can quickly send first-time buyers into debt. On top of that, there are annual property taxes, possibly association dues, and utility charges to consider. That doesn’t even begin to cover the unexpected. In a rental, when the furnace breaks, you call a landlord, but when you own, you have to be prepared to pay to fix it yourself.
3. SKIPPING THE HOME INSPECTION
In some scenarios, a professional home inspection might seem unnecessary—when you’re buying newly constructed property, for example. When everything’s brand-new, what could possibly need repairing? Unfortunately, many new developments are built on deadline and have the potential for just as many issues—from leaky faucets to sinking foundations—as 100-year-old homes.
4. DISREGARDING RED FLAGS
You may have found the perfect house—it just happens to be a little farther away than you wanted. Or, perhaps you’re already picking out paint colors when your inspector tells you the one word you hoped you’d never hear: mold. Do not, under any circumstance, get too attached to a home you don’t yet own. Do so and you risk downplaying major deal-breakers, which will undoubtedly come back to haunt you when it’s too late.
5. BEING TOO RELAXED ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT
Don’t be afraid to ask for things, big or small. If you’re buying from a developer, for example, and you don’t like the hardwood floor stain or the brand of refrigerator presented in the model unit, ask if there’s any wiggle room. When negotiating over a previously owned home, be explicit about any rooms you’d like repainted or if you prefer to keep the window treatments.
6. ASSUMING NO ONE HAS YOUR KEYS
Change the locks to the front and back doors as soon as you move in. The cost—typically no more than $100—is a small price to pay to ensure that there aren’t copies of your property’s old keys floating around in the wrong hands.
7. IGNORING TAX CREDITS
Do your due diligence and research the different tax benefits that might apply to your home purchase the year you buy. In recent years, homeowners have been able to receive monetary credits for installing solar panels or purchasing energy-efficient appliances.
8. FORGETTING TO PERFORM BASIC MAINTENANCE
Don’t get too comfortable once you get your final boxes unpacked. Unlike with rentals, it’s on you to stay on top of basic maintenance. Keep a checklist of weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks, like switching out furnace filters, replacing smoke alarm batteries, and regrouting tile. And always be on the lookout for tiny issues. For instance, measure cracks on the floors and walls periodically to ensure they aren’t growing. Early detection can be the difference between a simple DIY fix and one that requires expensive professional help.
9. RUSHING TO FILL YOUR NEW HOME
As soon as you move in, you’ll very likely realize that your new upgrade means old furnishings just don’t cut it. Perhaps you’ve got a sunroom with no patio furniture, or maybe that dresser you’ve had since college doesn’t do your new master bedroom justice. Resist the temptation to start redecorating for at least the first year. While you build up savings and an emergency fund, you can also get to know—and budget for—what you really want.
10. MAKING UNDOCUMENTED IMPROVEMENTS
Selling the place you just bought might be the last thing you want to think about, but that time will eventually come. When it does, you may have forgotten all the improvements you’ve made over the years, all of which will help increase its resale value. From installing crown molding in the bedrooms to fixing the original roof, keep track of every repair and upgrade so future buyers can see why it’s worth a higher asking price. Conversely, try not to make permanent changes that potential buyers might not appreciate, like installing wood paneling (even if your man cave demands it) or swimming pools.
11. NOT INVESTING IN YOUR NEW NEIGHBORHOOD
Just because you bought a home in an affluent part of town doesn’t mean it will stay that way, and assuming up-and-coming neighborhoods will flourish without the support of their residents is foolish. If you moved for the stellar school system, get involved with your local district now, even if you don’t yet have children enrolled. If you want safer parks, more local businesses, or better transportation options, make your voice heard as soon as possible. After all, big changes don’t happen overnight.