Matt Cuddy's Blog
Buying your first home is undoubtedly a long and complex process for someone who has little to no experience in the subject. Your average first-time homeowner learns as they go, with the help of their real estate agent and mortgage lender.
But, even so, first-time buyers often make many mistakes along the way that they could have avoided with prior knowledge and preparation.
In today’s article, we’re going to cover 5 of the most common mistakes that first-time homebuyers make when purchasing a home. From the first house you look at up until closing on your first home, we’ll cover common mistakes from each step of the way to give you the knowledge you need to make the best home buying decisions.
1. Shopping for homes preemptively
Once you decide that you’re interested in potentially buying a home in the near future, it’s tempting to hop online and start looking at listings. But, searching for your dream home at this stage is a poor use of your time.
It’s best to use this time to start thinking about the bigger picture. Have you secured financial aspects of owning a home, such as a down payment, a solid credit score, and two years of steady employment history?
You’ll also need to have a clear picture of what you want your life to look like for the next 5-7 years. Will you still want to live in the same area, or will your job lead you elsewhere?
These are all questions to ask yourself before you start house hunting that will inform your process along the way and make your hunt a lot easier.
2. Not knowing your budget
It’s a common mistake for first-time buyers to go into the house hunting process without a clearly mapped budget. You want to make sure that after all of your expenses (mortgage payment, utilities, bills, debt, etc.) that you still have leftover income for savings, retirement, and an emergency fund.
Make a detailed spreadsheet of your expenses and determine how much you can afford each month before you start shopping for mortgages.
3. Borrowing the maximum amount
While it may be tempting to buy the most expensive house you can get approved for, there are a number of reasons this might be a bad idea for you, financially. Stretching your budget each month is putting yourself at risk for not being able to contribute to savings, retirement, and emergency funds.
Furthermore, you may find that the extra square-footage you purchased wasn’t worth having to cut corners in other areas of your life, like hobbies, entertainment, and dining out.
4. Forgetting important expenses
If you’re currently renting an apartment, you might be unaware of some of the lesser-known costs of homeownership. Your chosen lender will provide you with an estimate of the closing costs, which you’ll have to budget for.
However, there are also maintenance, repairs, utilities, and other bills that you’ll have to figure into your monthly budget.
5. Waiving contingencies or giving the benefit of the doubt
While it may seem like an act of goodwill to give the seller the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like home inspections, it’s usually a bad idea to waive contingencies.
The process of purchasing a home, along with a purchase contract, have been designed to protect both your interests and the seller’s interests. It isn’t selfish to want to know exactly what you’re getting into when making a purchase as significant as a home.
If you plan to buy a house and want to achieve the optimal results, you should perform a home inspection. In fact, there are many reasons why you should allocate significant time and resources to conduct an in-depth house inspection, and these include:
1. You can gain unprecedented insights into a home's condition.
Although you might have fallen in love with a house when you first saw it, a home inspection may make you rethink your decision to purchase a residence. To better understand why this may be the case, let's consider an example.
If you conduct a home inspection and discover a wide range of problems with a house, you have a tough choice to make. In this scenario, you can continue with a home purchase as planned. Or, you may be able to make a viable argument that a seller should perform assorted house repairs or reduce his or her sale price based on the inspection results.
Ultimately, a home inspection provides you with insights that you may struggle to gain anywhere else. And if you perform an extensive home inspection, you may reap the benefits of this evaluation for years to come.
2. You can avoid the risk of paying too much to acquire your ideal residence.
As a homebuyer, it is important to do everything possible to get the best price on a house. But even if you conduct real estate market research, you risk spending too much on a house if you ignore a home inspection.
With a house inspection, you can learn about various home problems, along with the costs associated with such issues. Then, you can use this information to determine whether your initial offer is sufficient, or whether you should request a reduced home price based on a residence's condition.
3. You can limit the possibility of costly home repairs.
Thanks to a home inspection, you can identify home issues that otherwise may lead to costly repairs down the line. You then can use this information to decide whether you can complete myriad home repairs on your own, or whether professional support is needed to perform house improvements. And if you are overwhelmed by the costs associated with many potential home repairs, you can always walk away from a home sale at this time.
Clearly, there are many reasons to perform a home inspection before you finalize a house purchase. If you hire an expert real estate agent, you can receive plenty of support as you prepare for a home inspection too.
A real estate agent is happy to put you in touch with the top home inspectors in your area. Plus, a real estate agent will attend a home inspection with you and is ready to provide guidance throughout the evaluation. Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent can meet with you after a house inspection, go over the inspection results with you and help you make an informed decision about whether to proceed with a home purchase.
There is no need to struggle as you pursue your dream home. In fact, there are many things you can do to ensure the homebuying journey is quick and easy.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you enjoy a seamless property buying experience.
1. Know Where You Want to Reside
It often helps to narrow a home search to a small group of cities and towns. That way, you can focus exclusively on residences in a set area and speed up your house search.
As you consider where you want to live, it generally is a good idea to review your short- and long-term plans. For example, if you intend to return to school soon, you may want to search for houses near some of the nation's top colleges and universities. On the other hand, if you want to start a family, you may want to focus on homes close to parks and other family-friendly attractions.
2. Establish a Homebuying Budget
Most homebuyers will need to get a mortgage so they can acquire their dream residence. Fortunately, banks and credit unions are happy to teach you about home financing and help you make an informed mortgage selection.
Typically, banks and credit unions employ courteous, knowledgeable mortgage specialists who can educate you about all aspects of home financing. These specialists are ready to respond to your home financing concerns and questions and help you find a mortgage that suits you perfectly.
There is no such thing as a "bad" question to ask mortgage specialists, either. If you work with mortgage specialists to assess all of your home financing options, you can select a mortgage that will serve you well for the foreseeable future.
3. Hire a Real Estate Agent
When it comes to searching for a home, you don't have to work alone. Thankfully, real estate agents are available throughout the country, and these housing market professionals can make it simple for you to acquire a great home at a budget-friendly price.
A real estate agent goes above and beyond the call of duty to make the property buying journey fast and easy. First, he or she will learn about you and your homebuying goals. This housing market professional next will craft a personalized homebuying strategy for you and put this plan into action. Then, after you discover your ideal residence, a real estate agent will do everything possible to help you acquire this home.
In addition, a real estate agent will work with you to finalize a home purchase. As a home closing date approaches, a real estate agent will help you plan accordingly. By doing so, he or she can help you purchase your dream residence without delay.
For those who want to enjoy a quick, easy homebuying journey, it helps to plan ahead. With the aforementioned tips, you can prepare for the homebuying journey and limit the risk of encountering various problems as you search for your ideal house.
If you anticipate that you will inherit an estate at some point or if you plan to leave your estate to an heir, it is important to plan for the potential tax implications of that transfer. The federal estate tax is one aspect to consider. Depending on the value of the estate, some beneficiaries may not have to pay taxes however, those with higher value estates might end up paying a significant sum. It is crucial to plan ahead when it comes to inherited real estate.
What is the Estate Tax?
Estate Tax is assessed based on the current market value of the estate as a whole and is then paid by the estate itself. The tax is collected when assets are transferred to named beneficiaries after a person is deceased. The tax is based on the current market value of the assets being transferred after other debts have been settled or charitable contributions have been made. This tax only applies to estates worth more than $11.58 million based on the current limit established by the federal government in 2020. Estates valued over 11.58 million are subject to a 40% tax. Some states have their own estate tax requirements so there could be additional considerations based on where you live.
The first step to determine how an estate tax might be assessed is to calculate the market value of the estate. In general, this should include financial assets as well as property. For example, if someone receives $8 million in financial assets and an additional $2 million in real estate, the total value is $10 million. The value of the real estate is taken at the current fair market value, not the price at which it was originally purchased. If there is a mortgage or other outstanding debt, those are paid by the estate before the final value of the estate is calculated.
Each estate is entitled to a lifetime financial exemption, in 2020 the exemption is $11.58 million. This means that all estates up to $11.58 million will not receive a federal estate tax bill. For couples, this number is doubled up to $23.16 million. Once the asset value exceeds the established limits, every dollar is subject to the 40% estate tax which can add up quickly.
It's a good idea to work closely with a professional financial advisor when making plans for the future of your estate as there are many details to consider depending on where you live and the particulars of your situation. Ask your real estate agent for local recommendations to get you started.
If you recently sold your house, you will need to move quickly to pack up your belongings and relocate to a new address. In addition, you probably will want to clean your house as much as possible prior to a homebuyer's final walk-through.
Fortunately, there are many quick, easy ways to clean a home before you move, including:
1. Straighten Up Your Home While You Pack
Home cleaning can be a long, arduous process, particularly for those who wait until the last minute to perform various home cleaning tasks. If you clean up after yourself while you prepare for your upcoming move, you can avoid the stress of completing extensive home cleaning right before moving day.
Wiping down home countertops, walls and ceilings usually is a great idea. By doing so, you can keep these spots clean while you plan for your move.
Also, don't forget to empty the attic and basement and remove dirt, dust and debris from these areas. This will ensure you can clean these areas once and for all before moving day arrives.
2. Remove All Clutter from Your Home
There is no reason to let clutter slow you down as you prepare for an upcoming move. Instead, clear out clutter immediately, and you can clean your home and reduce the number of items that you'll need to move to your new address.
Today, there are several ways to get rid of clutter. In many instances, you can sell excess items as part of a yard sale or online. Or, you can always donate these items to local charities or give them to friends or family members.
Regardless of what you decide to do with clutter, it is essential to remove clutter from your house as soon as you can. That way, you can cut down on clutter and increase the likelihood of a quick, seamless moving day experience.
3. Hire a Cleaning Company
Cleaning a home from top to bottom can be a lot of work. Plus, if you're already allocating significant amounts of time to packing for an upcoming move, you may lack the necessary time and energy to improve your house's interior and exterior.
Many home cleaning companies are available in cities and towns nationwide. These businesses employ friendly, highly trained professionals who are happy to help you clean your residence prior to moving day.
If you plan to hire a home cleaning company, don't wait to contact this business. Because the longer you wait to book a home cleaning company, the more likely it becomes that this business won't be able to accommodate your cleaning needs before you move.
Lastly, if you need help finding a cleaning company in your area, you can always consult with a real estate agent. This housing market professional can help you sell a home, as well as connect you with first-rate cleaning companies in any area, at any time.
Use the aforementioned tips, and you should have no trouble cleaning your house in the days leading up to your move.