Millennials – they’re the generation between 18 and 35; the new young professionals; the recent graduates, and they’re also coming into the housing market in droves. Usually, they’re also first-time homebuyers, which means that they have the potential to make mistakes in the home-purchasing process.
Here are the top seven mistakes millennials make when they purchase a new home. Whether you consider yourself part of the generation or you’re just looking to ensure your home search goes as smoothly as possible, these tips should help any potential homebuyer.
Mistake #1: Not Getting Pre-Approved
Buying a home should never start with searching for listings online. If you’re serious about buying, start by meeting with a lender. Although that seems backwards to many first-time homebuyers (“Why would I talk to someone about getting money for a home I haven’t found yet?!”) it’s going to help you in the long run.
When you get pre-approved for a mortgage, it means you have met with a lender and showed them your credit report, debt, income, and assets in order to provide a picture of your finances. With that information, they will draft a pre-approval letter – something that tells you how much money you’re potentially qualified for, but isn’t a guarantee of money. Realtors look for a pre-approval letter when working with you because it shows you’ve done your homework and you know your price range. Sellers expect a pre-approval letter with every offer because they know there’s a better chance of you actually getting the mortgage to buy the home.
Mistake #2: Not Hiring A Realtor
In the age where you can buy virtually anything online, many millennials believe that they can purchase a home through an online listing service. They look at Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia, find the perfect home, and contact the listing agent.
Let’s stop there. This isn’t to say that looking online isn’t a great idea to see what kinds of homes are in your price range. In fact, it’s an excellent way to be prepared to look for the type of home that’s in your budget, including size and location. However, if you think you can do all of your home shopping by yourself through the internet, think again.
When shopping for homes on online listing services, you’re not really getting the full picture or price. The home might have smells, sounds, or sights that you’re not seeing while looking at the photos on the listing. Not only that, if you’re interested in a home and reach out to the listing agent, they’re not going to have your best interests at heart. They’re legally bound to the seller, so you may not get the best deal. That’s why it’s extremely important to first talk to a mortgage lender to see how much you could afford, and then work with a realtor who can help you avoid paying extravagant amounts of money and walk you through different options of homes that are within your price range.
Mistake #3: Buying More House Than You Can Afford
While looking online for a home, another mistake millennials make is looking at the estimated mortgage payment and thinking, “Hey, I can afford that!”
Many times, the monthly mortgage price on the listing doesn’t account for insurance, taxes, HOA fees, Personal Mortgage Insurance if your down payment is less than 20%, or other utilities and maintenance costs. Purchasing a home costs much more than the dollar amount listed there – it’s expensive and if you end up buying more house than you can afford, you risk becoming “house poor” quickly. That means you pay more money monthly for a house than you can reasonably afford.
Many mortgage lenders will pre-approve you for a mortgage that’s much more than you actually could afford on a month-to-month basis. You can’t rely on them to provide you with an accurate amount of money that you’ll be spending each month on your home. You have to do that on your own. Look at how much money you spend on food and transportation. Then, look at how much you’d be spending on insurance, taxes, closing costs, and maintenance. Add a little bit for savings, just in case, and you have a better picture of your budget each month. If you can afford everything that goes into a home, you’re set to buy. If not, you may need to start looking at homes in a lower price range.
Mistake #4: Not Shopping For A Mortgage
Once you find a home, make an offer, and start the closing process, you need to shop around for a mortgage. Many first-time homebuyers assume that they have to go with the lender that provided them their pre-approval letter. Not so! You can shop around for the best interest rates and terms that fit with you and your budget. In fact, not shopping around for a mortgage can end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars in interest.
Mistake #5: Not Attending A Home Inspection
This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when purchasing a home. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: attend the home inspection. Do not let your realtor go without you to look over the inspection. Do not send your mother or brother or second cousin on the home inspection. Take off work and walk through the home with the home inspector. In fact, make sure you’re involved with the entire process, including hiring your own personally vetted inspector (or two or three, depending on the first report), walking through the home with the inspector, asking them questions about the state of the home, and finally reading the inspection report.
Why is this such a sticking point? A home’s value isn’t just about the property it sits on – it’s also about the state of the appliances, systems, and foundation that makes up the home. If the roof is failing, you’re going to end up spending major amounts of money on it sooner rather than later. If the furnace has cracks in the heat exchanger, you’re going to have to shell out a lot of money to replace that. You need to be informed as to just what you’re getting yourself into when you purchase a home; what costs you can expect in the future and what parts of the home need to be repaired or replaced by the seller (or the price reduced) before you go through with a sale.
As a side-note, if your realtor tells you a home warranty will cover most of the problems in the home inspection, they are misinformed. Most home warranty companies will not repair or replace broken-down systems that were noted as failing in a home inspection. If there’s something wrong, get it fixed before you buy!
Mistake #6: Not Getting A Home Warranty
That being said, you’re not going to ever find a home in absolute perfect condition, especially if it’s not a newly constructed house. Things wear out and break down. Make sure to ask for a home warranty during closing. Although it isn’t going to cover everything, it can provide major savings for new homeowners when something fails from normal wear and tear, and it will. Some home warranties cover for lack of maintenance, rust, corrosion or sediment in water heaters – all things that might not be found within a home inspection but can cause systems and appliances to fail. This is when you want a home warranty – you don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to replace something when the seller didn’t maintain the system properly. It’s a nice fail-safe.
Mistake #7: Not Factoring In Resale Value
Finally, when you purchase a home, make sure to factor in resale value. Unless you are a millennial who has a lot more money than the rest and can afford to buy your dream home in the first go around, the chances are that you’ll be selling it sooner rather than later. Find something that can build equity (you can get new carpeting, hardwood floors, or granite countertops) and that will also appreciate over time (the neighborhood is up and coming, new shops and restaurants are popping up around it). Ensure that when you buy, the price will go up over time, so you can sell it for a higher profit than the amount you purchased.
There you have it, seven mistakes you can now combat as you purchase a home for the first time. Use and share these tips to ensure your home-buying experience goes as smoothly as possible!
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