7 Things To Know Before Buying A House

Even with my mortgage industry experience, there were plenty of things I wish I knew before buying a house. Large purchases always have the potential to produce some regrets, some second guessing. After catching up with some clients who have been in their first homes for a few years, I came across a few things that stuck out from their first-time home buying experience.

In the interest of helping all those laymen home buyers out there on Long Island, I put together this list of 7 things I wish I knew before buying a house.

“I wish I had listened to my home inspector”

Home inspections are incredibly important. Finding a reliable professional to look through your potential purchase with serious intent can save you lots of angst and money. I had a client once that loved a house so much that they disregarded the inspector’s warning about the roof being at the end of its life. They went ahead and bought anyway. Six months later, they were calling me for trusted roofer references because the leaks were coming in hot and heavy.

“I wish I had seriously considered a home with rentable space”

Legal accessory apartments, or sometimes referenced as “in-law apartments” can be selling point for some and turnoff for others. Try not to dismiss the concept out of hand though. If you are willing to deal with renters, you can put a nice dent in your monthly mortgage payment, which allows you to put some of that extra cash to work in other ways. And, if you get to a better financial position where you need the extra space rather than the monthly cash infusion, you can take over the rental space yourself. Certainly easier than adding an extension or moving to a new, bigger house.

“I wish I had negotiated more”

You never know how much a seller is going to move. Until you push a little bit. The art of negotiation is subtle and sometimes difficult, but it can pay off if you are willing to sweat a little bit. Don’t let on how much you love a particular house. And let the seller infer that you are fairly comfortable situation, with no need to rush. While you might really want to move and get the process over with, paying at market value or even above market value for your home can have negative consequences in the future. You want to be able to handle normal dips in housing values throughout your time as a homeowner.

“I wish I hadn’t focused on so much on a house with a fireplace”

This happens a lot. Sometimes that value-added feature, such as a fireplace or a pool in the backyard can be more than you bargained for. They seem like divergent examples, but they both come with some real caveats. Maintenance and upkeep of a fireplace might creep up as that annoying annual sweep and constant need to clean after using become a bit more a nuisance than you anticipated. And pool costs and time spent on upkeep can make you wish you just sprung for a summer beach pass. Both are seasonal items that are non-functional and essentially  just pretty to look at for 6 months a year. Ask yourself if you really want that feature or if you could live without it.

“I wish I had talked with the neighbors before about potential problems”

A little local research can go a long way. Just chatting up neighbors can clue you in to barking dogs, frequent teenager parties, early-weekend lawn mowing or other upsetting events that you otherwise wouldn’t learn about until the days and weeks after moving in. You can also find out a lot about the traffic patterns or other community issues. Real estate agents can be helpful with town-wide issues, but street-by-street problems are usually the purview of busybody neighbors. One talkative local resident can save you untold amounts of post-purchase angst.

“I wish I had been a better planner and gotten pre-approved”

Plenty of clients have come to me after searching for houses online with a rather, ahem, unrealistic view of their purchasing power. Sometimes buyers have gone out and found their perfect house without a solid pre-approval and been severely disappointed when the banks dash their hopes. Before you even go out searching, make sure you sit down with an advisor you trust and work out what your monthly payment should be. That will be a good guideline for when you talk with a mortgage broker about getting pre-approved. You know your spending habits and budgetary restraints better than anyone. And that ties right into the next piece of advice…

“I wish I hadn’t borrowed the full amount that the bank offered”

You don’t always have to go to the top of your budget. It might make sense to downgrade your expectations and reevaluate your housing needs to make sure you have a monthly payment that stays in your comfort zone. Job loss, unexpected medical expenses or just general unforeseen expenditures can make that $450,000 house a burden. Maybe $399,000 isn’t looking so bad.

With a large purchase like a home, it is very hard to nail every single detail. Sometimes we need to make that leap and learn from what happens next. But it helps to do as much research as you can and find industry people that you can trust. That will help as you go through the process for the first time. As for the second, third and fourth times… you know you always have a friend in All Shores, ready to help.