If you’re house hunting, you’re probably getting snowed with advice from well-meaning friends and family members on which neighborhoods are hot, how so-and-so is selling a place you have to see … and plenty more. That’s all fine if you have an insatiable appetite for info, but what if you’re a bit more discerning about the tips and tricks you want delivered your way?
We asked home buyers and real estate agents to share not just any old advice, but the very best home buying advice they’ve ever heard. These tips can help you save money, keep you from losing money, and stop you from making a real estate purchase you regret. So pay attention, dear home buyers!
Buy less house than you can afford … just in case
“Growing up, my parents bought several homes, and one of the lessons my mother, a civil service worker and longtime beautician, instilled in me was never to buy more house than you can afford. This came back to me when my husband and I bought our home 26 years ago. When our first real estate agent learned my husband was retired from the military and had a second career at a prestigious local hospital, she suggested we could afford a much larger, more expensive house than we told her we were seeking. We stuck to our desire not to be ‘house rich and cash poor.’ That decision came in handy when I was laid off from my job and we were still able to make our payment.” —Carol Gee, homeowner in Atlanta, GA
Don’t forget about maintenance costs
“The best advice I’ve ever heard is to not focus so much on your mortgage payments that you lose sight of the fact that a home has maintenance costs, too. The size of the property, as well as the age of the home, will impact your budget for annual maintenance and repair costs, but you can ballpark about 1% to 4% of the purchase price. Ask the sellers what they pay to get a better ballpark, and don’t neglect those tasks. Not performing small tasks around the home can increase energy costs and is likely to lead to expensive repairs if appliances and materials are not properly maintained. Trust me, you’ll end up paying more in the long run if you let it slide.” —John Bodrozic, real estate agent in Sacramento, CA
Explore mortgage options beyond the usual 30-year loan
“While a 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate is great for many home buyers, it isn’t for everybody. It depends on your finances and living situation. While I was house hunting, a mortgage lender gave me the great advice to deviate from the standard 30-year mortgage and look into a 15-year mortgage. I heeded the advice and saved thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. Best financial decision of my life.” —Adorn Lewis-Mitchell, homeowner in Chicago, IL
Leave the kids at home when you house hunt
“The last thing any home buyer with kids would want is for their child to fall in love with a home that may not be ‘the one’ for some reason. Only when you have narrowed your search down to the one home you want to buy should you bring your kids in and ask what they think. Even if the decision is almost made, they will appreciate that you sought their input, which can make all the difference in how they settle in.” —Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. in New York, NY
Visit the house at different times of the day
“Always drive through a neighborhood at different times of the day and night before purchasing a home. A neighborhood that is quiet and peaceful during the day may have an entirely different atmosphere at night. And if you can, try to drive through a neighborhood during different types of weather; you may find that beautiful yard turns into a lake when rains are heavy, or that all the snow or leaves end up at the end of a hill … and in your yard.” —Tangela Walker-Craft, homeowner in Lakeland, FL
Check for any upcoming construction in the area
“The best advice I’ve ever heard is, in addition to checking out the house and neighborhood as it looks today, check for any planned construction in the area before you make an offer. On the one hand, more buildings or houses could add traffic and noise, or possibly even block a great view. Just keep in mind that construction isn’t always bad; it also might bring new amenities and signal that the area is becoming more desirable, potentially increasing your home’s value.” —Gannon Forrester, real estate agent in New York, NY
Money isn’t everything with an offer
“The best advice I’ve ever heard—and given—is that the highest offer doesn’t always win. For example, a lower offer might still look appealing if you promise a high earnest money deposit, or you don’t have a contingency to sell an existing house or secure financing. Ask your agent to try to suss out the seller’s motivation, which you can use to guide you when formulating your offer so that it really appeals to a seller in a way that works far better than a few extra thousand dollars.” —Cornelius Charles, real estate agent in Ventura County, CA