Homebuying Dos and Don'ts

Take in these 8 tips for house hunting success.

Do research the neighborhood.

Look at the house, but also look at the neighborhood. Location is the most important thing, so it's critical to look at more than bricks and mortar.

How can you choose the right community? Become a neighborhood detective. Figure out what you're looking for, do research and find a neighborhood that fits your description.

Do look at several houses before you buy.

Buying the first house you look at it is kind of like marrying the first person you go on a date with -- not necessarily a good idea. If you buy a home without comparing it to other listings in the area, you're likely to overpay or miss out on a great nearby home. Walk through at least three homes before you choose. If you still love the first one you saw, make an offer!

Do invest in a professional inspection.

Sellers don't always disclose the whole truth to potential buyers, or they might have done a band-aid job to cover up issues until the deal closes. The average home buyer takes 15 minutes or less to choose a home, but many potential problems, like plumbing and wiring trouble, might not be visible to the naked eye.

Home inspectors can look beyond the fresh coat of paint to find costly underlying problems. Splurge on an experience professional -- it will save you time, money and house-induced heartache later on.

Do buy based on needs, not wants.

The average Americas lives in the same home for about 9 years, so it's crucial that you think about your long-term needs when buying a home. A 2-bedroom house with a gourmet kitchen may dazzle you today, but will you still be enamored down the road when your family starts to grow? Make a list of your needs and stick to it to avoid buyer's remorse down the road.

Don't overbid at real estate auctions

While it's possible to get a deal on your dream home at the auction house, buying a home at auction isn't always a bargain. The starting price may seem reasonable, but several bidders can force the price well over market value.

Avoid overbidding by doing research. Are any outstanding property taxes or liens that you'd have to pay for upon purchase? What are comparable homes in the area selling for? Is the neighborhood on the way up or on the way out? On auction day, set a strict budget and don't let emotions take hold of your paddle in a bidding war.

Don't buy a house for its decor.

A home might have gorgeous furnishings at the showing, but it needs to accommodate your furnishings and lifestyle after the sellers pack up their sofa. Look past a home's decor and make sure the space will accommodate your lifestyle and furnishings.

Are the spaces functional and efficient for your daily routine? You might love how a seller has transformed an extra bedroom into a crafting space, but will it be big enough for your twins' bunk beds? Focus on the floor plan and the square footage to decide if a home is right for you.

Don't trust everything you read in a real estate ad.

If you don't read between the lines, you might fall for every word in a real estate ad. Like any ad, real estate classifieds are meant to pique your interest enough to make you take a closer look. Be a savvy buyer and decode the clever phrases sellers use to draw you in.

For example, if an ad says a home is "cozy," it's probably very small. "As-is" means there's likely a lot of work to be done. "Motivated sellers" may be more willing to negotiate their price, but get an inspection to make sure there's not an underlying reason (like faulty wiring or bad plumbing) they can't wait to sell. Learning the lingo will help you keep realistic expectations for showings.

Don't buy the most expensive house on the block.

Keep up with the Joneses, but don't outdo them. You won't get the same return on investment with the biggest house on the block, and you might have trouble selling later on.

Before you purchase a home, research the neighborhood. Is the house you're considering overbuilt for the area? Are comparable homes selling in the area? You'll be glad you gathered the information if you ever decide to sell.

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