People Are Sharing The "Homebuyer Lessons" They Wish They'd Heard Before They Purchased Their First House, And They're Really Important

    "If you're buying a home that's part of an HOA, do your research. But honestly, any HOA can go from being really cool to really not cool by doing this."

    Despite how intensely people glorify the "life achievement" of buying your first home, for most folks, it's anything but enjoyable. In fact, I'll be the first to tell you that it can downright suck.

    Lucky for me, when I wrote about my own less-than-ideal process for purchasing my first house, members of the BuzzFeed Community came through with their own first-time homebuyer tips — and they're so important. These are some of the best words of advice I read:

    1. "If you're buying a home that's part of an HOA, do your research...but honestly, any HOA can go from being really cool to really not cool by just switching out those on the board. Mine isn't the worst, but they're definitely not the best. I got a warning letter for having a wreath that was deemed 'too Christmasy.'"

    row of houses on a suburban street

    2. "My boyfriend and I run an inspection business. Keep in mind that inspectors are not required to do a lot! They are only required to look at things within their eyesight and are not required to lift things like rugs, or even look behind things. They are not required to inspect the roof or plumbing, either. A great inspector will go above and beyond, but they are not required to do as much as you'd think. I'd highly recommend getting someone to look at the septic system and plumbing with a camera. I lost $10,000 on an old home that needed updates in this area."


    3. "Watch out for flipped houses. They seem nice and new, but a lot of them are thrown together as fast as possible with as-cheap-as-possible materials. Bring in someone to properly inspect the quality of work!"

    newly flipped house with gray walls and gray floors

    4. "Honestly, looking at listings online is a waste of time. The vast majority aren’t updated in real-time, so you'll frequently see something as being available when, in reality, it’s under contract or sold. Plus, listings aren’t always on there immediately. The MLS that realtors use and have access to is much better, especially in a market where things sell the same day they list."


    "Agree! Get a good realtor. Their commission comes from the sale, so you don’t pay them upfront or anything. You need real-time info and access to look at the homes you’re interested in. Not for nothing, my realtor also doubled as a therapist and talked us off several ledges during all the stress we experienced."


    5. "If you're buying an older home, I can't stress this enough: Get your sewer or septic system inspected! Immediately having to pay $10,000 for them to dig up the entire backyard is not something I want to experience again."

    septic tank being buried in the backyard of someone's house

    6. "Don’t buy as much house as you get approved for by your lender. If you do, there's a solid chance that you'll end up severely house poor. Buy a house no more than two-thirds of the total loan you were approved for, and spend a lot of time looking at how much you will actually be spending when you tally up your payments, taxes, and bills."

    Blue green

    7. "Remember that it's often easier to buy your second home than it is to buy the first one. Your first house is almost definitely not going to be your dream house, and that's fine. We bought an old — like, built-in-1920-old — little bungalow that we knew we would eventually outgrow. It was cute, and it was what we could afford. We lived there for four years, then moved to a bigger house with way more land that was $100k more expensive than the first house. But because we had equity in the first house, it was easy to afford a better down payment and larger monthly payment."

    small bungalow set back from the street

    8. "I just bought my first house last year, and cannot stress how important it is to shop around for a mortgage provider. I work for a big national bank and thought the 'employee discount' of a small percentage off of my mortgage rate would get me the best deal, and I didn’t really bother shopping around. I was so wrong and had a terrible experience with the big bank I work for. My rep didn't respond to emails in a timely manner, and despite having three weeks to prepare, they missed our appraisal deadline. The rate we received was good, but I do believe if we had shopped around we could have gotten a better deal, as both my partner and I have excellent credit. Do me a favor and shop around with both national banks and small, local banks and credit unions. I wish I had."


    9. "Make a priority list of features that are important to you in a home, but rank them by how willing you are to let them go. We wanted a garage but discovered the list prices of houses in our area that included one were at least $25,000 more — and that was for houses that weren’t in as good condition as the ones without them. Because a garage wasn’t a necessary feature on our list, we dropped that requirement pretty fast. As a result, we paid less for a home that was recently well-renovated."

    no entry sign over a garage in a home

    10. "Don't make the mistake of thinking that your mortgage will always be with the same lender. Mortgage companies make a practice of regularly selling portfolios of loans to one another. Sometimes you might be with the same company for years, especially if you're with a smaller lender, but sometimes your loan will be sold three times in one year. Because of this, never throw away mail from lenders without looking at it."


    11. "Spend time in the neighborhood where you're looking to buy. Drive through there at night, hang out during the day, and check out the local parks, bars, and stores. Say hello to people! You’re not just buying a house, you’re buying the place you’re going to live in...and trust me, it's nearly impossible to change the annoying neighbors or the loud music players or even just the general vibe of the neighborhood if it ends up not being a perfect match."

    cars parked in a neighborhood

    12. "Ask your realtor to see if the seller will add a homeowner’s warranty. Ideally, it can help to protect you from the little surprises you'll likely encounter in a new home, like the DIY flipper who wired a dining room fixture so it had electricity running through the metal."


    13. "When you're deciding on the home you'll ultimately make an offer for, look at and think about the land in particular. You can paint the walls and change the house, but you cannot change the size of the land or where it's located."

    suburban street with houses

    14. "Depending on the market, be prepared to forgo a pre-inspection. In some markets, by the time you can even schedule one, offers will already be in and you'll be out of luck. But given that, spend a lot of time in your walkthrough and, if you can, bring a professional along who can spot issues you might miss."


    15. "I bought my first house at age 23 and just purchased my fourth home three weeks ago at age 33. The process is always stressful, but the most annoying part is that there are a ton of hidden costs. The down payment is way more than just 20%. There are a lot of other fees that go into that, and that's not including the addition of homeowners' insurance, an appraisal, and the inspection — all of which come out of your own pocket as the buyer. And if you don’t put at least 20% down, then you often pay $100–200 extra per month for mortgage insurance."

    hand counting money in front of a laptop

    16. "A lot of the time you'll hear that shopping around for a lender and getting your credit score pulled multiple times will affect your credit score, but that's not true. It doesn't actually count as a hard pull if it happens within the same 45–90 day period."


    17. "People care so much about paying interest, but I will also say that the monthly payment and upfront financing costs should be given more weight than the 'total interest paid' amount. The overwhelming majority of homeowners will never pay that whole loan back over 30 years of payments; they will either sell the house before then or pay it off early. But if getting that 3.25% rate knocked down to 3% costs you $5,000 in discount points up-front, your out-of-pocket expenses at closing will be much higher than they should be to justify the marginally lower monthly payment."

    person calculating monthly bills and finances at a table

    18. "The lender will see and find everything, I mean everything, that's in your name and has to do with money; everything from bank accounts to child support to divorces, so my advice is to have copies of all possible things that can become issues and turn them in when the lender asks for them. It's impossible to hide finances, and I recommend not moving around a lot of cash in advance of your homebuying process (or during it) because they will ask what it is and where it comes from — and sometimes, this can make or break the sale."

    19. And finally: "If buying isn’t for you, that’s OK! Lots of people make it seem like buying a house is a big milestone, and that it’s automatically just SO fulfilling. If a house is what you want, it can be...but it also comes with a lot of its own challenges. If you travel frequently or work long hours, a rental where you never have to worry about repairs may be the better fit for you, and there's no shame in that."

    for rent sign outside of a house

    What's the "homeowner lesson" or best piece of advice that you were told as a first-time buyer that you wish more people were aware of? Share your wisdom in the comments below. ⬇️