28 Things People Reeeeeeeally Wish They Knew Before Buying A House
"Don't be fooled by HGTV."
Becoming a homeowner is a huge life goal for a lot of people. But it's also a complex process with so many details to think about. To get a better idea of how in the heck to even start with the homebuying process, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share what they wish they knew before buying houses, and they really came through.
Here's what they had to say:
1. "Before you start shopping, figure out what you can realistically afford as a house payment (principal and interest AND taxes and insurance combined). If you buy at the top of what you’re approved for, you’ll likely have a mortgage payment you can barely afford."
2. "Inspections, inspections, inspections. Every penny you pay in inspections saves you thousands down the road. I think I had a general inspector, a plumbing inspector, a termite inspector, an HVAC inspector, a structural engineer to inspect the foundation, and on and on. Only one I didn't get? A roof inspector. Guess what I had to fix within a week of moving in lol."
3. "If the house has a septic system, make sure it's passed its Title V inspection. Replacing a septic system is hella expensive."
"Ensure that the house has passed a termite inspection. And visit the house on an extremely rainy day to see where water pools in the yard (and whether it runs toward the house)."
4. "Don't be fooled by HGTV — 95% of flippers slap on cosmetics and ignore major problems. I already knew this before buying my 1963 cutie forever home, but I was not expecting to get hit with a $15,000 plumbing issue three months after closing. Moral of the story: A flip looks and feels like a brand-new home, but you are most likely paying top dollar for nothing more than fixtures."
5. "Consider contacting your local Habitat for Humanity. For one, you might qualify for a mortgage through their program, and two, they require homeowner education for their partner families that is usually offered for free to anyone in the community. Also, the staff might be aware of programs in the area that can help you save money (down payment assistance, first-time homebuyer discounts, etc)."
6. "Renovations are a huge hassle, and what can go wrong will and always does. Don't expect miracles, and be realistic with the time frames."
7. "I used a coworker who was also a friend as my real estate agent, and it was a big mistake. She was trying to establish herself and was more focused on getting me to buy than on what home, price, or situation was right for me. She steered me to a great home inspector, but the home loan company she steered me to was atrocious. She put a lot of pressure on me to buy when I wasn’t ready, and to pay way more than I felt comfortable with."
8. "You can roll your closing costs into the loan. However, make sure there are no penalties for early repayment or for making extra payments on the principal."
9. "Beware of a place that smells strongly of air freshener. That usually means they are hiding a smelly problem!"
10. "I used to be a mortgage processor. If a file came across my desk and I saw they were first-time homebuyers with children purchasing a modest home, I deleted some fees 😬. Look at your fees, people! Ask what each fee is for."
11. "Have not bought a house, but I work in mortgages. Don’t just go with the mortgage company your family or real estate agent mentioned. Shop around. There are better online options that will save you thousands upon thousands in interest."
12. "Having extra savings is SO IMPORTANT. Three months after I bought my house, I had to replace all the plumbing. And there are ALWAYS costs. I made a million trips to Target and the hardware store after I moved in. Ceiling fans, showerheads, every tiny thing adds up."
13. "Property taxes, property taxes, property taxes! I can't stress enough — know what the property taxes are and which way they are trending. My house payment has gone up by over $350 since I bought it eight years ago. Most of my house payment now goes to taxes. I live in a growing area with no hope of slowing down."
14. "Always buy the house in the good school district. It's the number one thing that holds home values."
15. "I bought my house about nine years ago, and there are two things I don't like about it that I did not foresee being a problem: 1) Trees. I had no idea how much of a pain in the ass they would be. I live on a third of an acre and had 14 trees. Two had to be cut down, another is completely dead now, and another two will probably need to go soon."
"Roots from one tree are coming up through my walkway and driveway. Another causes my deck to get moldy. It is so close to the house that I pruned it from a second-story window. Luckily, none have caused foundation issues yet.
"2) I made sure I lived close enough to town to get pizza delivered. Did not make sure I would have cell service to call the pizza place. I drive down the road to a church parking lot to make phone calls."
16. "I’ve owned three homes. Just bought the third. My advice is, if you are self-employed, take a year to work with an accountant to get things squared away. It is much harder to secure a mortgage when you are self-employed, and much harder to prove your income."
17. "Once you begin the loan process, do not, under any circumstances, buy anything on credit or make any large purchases. At all, period, end of sentence. You are now being watched like a hawk all the way up until the day you close."
"And give up on the idea that you can be perfectly organized from beginning to end. Moving is chaos, and it's the most important time to be kind to yourself."
18. "Don’t forget to budget for stuff. Suddenly you will need a lawn mower, furniture, appliances, decor, curtains — the list literally doesn’t end."
19. "Get preapproved before shopping, and have all of your identification and financial paperwork from the last two to three years uploaded to your computer so you can send it quickly and easily."
20. "Don’t fall in love with a house until after the appraisal, especially in a hot market."
21. "If you have a housewarming party, ask for gift cards to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace, or any home improvement–type store. You will find yourself going to those places a lot, and it adds up!"
22. "I bought a house in early spring in snow country. There was still snow on the ground, and I didn’t take time to really walk the property that much and consider what sort of upkeep the lawn and flower beds were going to be. The lawn is HUGE and very difficult to maintain. My first summer was an absolute nightmare."
23. "Never move into a house that is part of a homeowners association or that has one in the neighborhood. The majority of HOAs will harass you even if you are not in their HOA. They spend their free time threatening their neighbors. So unless you miss childhood really bad or you like people controlling you, then avoid HOAs at all costs."
24. "Basement waterproofing companies give free quotes!! If you are buying a house with a basement, have someone come check before you sign your life away. You will save yourself so much money and trouble if they find an issue."
25. "If you buy an older home, make sure you ask about any upgrades made to the home. And have EVERYTHING inspected, even if you have to call a few specialists. After I bought my 1940s house, I wish I’d had the chimney and furnace inspected. Found out the furnace was a death trap that should never have been used. Had I known that, I could have used that to negotiate pricing or repairs prior to finalizing the sale."
26. "If you're seriously considering a property, drive by it at all hours on different days. See what the neighborhood's like in the evenings and on weekends. Maybe the neighborhood is too loud and you like quiet, or maybe you want a neighborhood where everyone hangs out on the porch. And definitely check the traffic for your work commute!"
27. "Do some serious research on your home warranty. Yeah, company A may be much cheaper, but will they actually cover you? Company B might be expensive, but they’ll cover most anything you need to cover with minimal appointment costs and better customer service that doesn’t act as if you gave them the biggest inconvenience just for making the phone ring. Research, research, research!"
28. And finally, "Don’t be afraid to ask a million questions! If you think of one, write it down so you don’t forget! It’s easy to get caught up in the process, but try to make sure you understand everything so nothing catches you off guard. Especially if it is your first time. Our loan officer was amazing and took time to answer every single question we had."
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
If you own a home, do you have any more tips for the rest of us? Share what you've learned in the comments!
And for more stories about life and money, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.