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Top House-Hunting Mistakes to Avoid

Buying a house is a big decision, and even if you're not a first-time buyer, it's easy to get caught up in emotions and feel overwhelmed about your choices. This can lead to making mistakes that can cost you in terms of time and money and lead you to buy a home that isn't quite right for you.

The following are six of the top house-hunting mistakes to avoid:

  1. Not getting pre-approved for a loan Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is one of the first steps you should take when you're buying a house. This process allows a mortgage lender to check your credit history to determine the size of the mortgage loan you can qualify for. This gives you an idea of what you can afford while showing sellers that you're a serious buyer who already has financing in place.

  2. Not making a budget With your pre-approval letter as a maximum guideline, take a deep dive into your finances and determine what monthly mortgage payment you're comfortable with. You may have items in your budget - such as a yearly vacation or a weekly date night - that you'd like to maintain. If that's the case, figure out what's most important to you and calculate what your monthly mortgage payment should be.

  3. Failing to get help from a real estate agent A good, experienced real estate agent knows the local market well. He or she can show you homes that are within your budget and that meet your most important criteria, such as location, square footage, and the number of bedrooms. An agent knows what comparable homes have sold for and can help you make an offer on a home that's likely to be accepted.

  4. Prioritizing the wrong things about a house When you're looking at homes, the most important considerations are those that can't be easily changed, such as its location and square footage. Don't be so turned off by decor that looks outdated or even gaudy and fail to realize that these issues can be fixed - and often don't require a huge investment to do so. On the other hand, don't fall in love with a home's staging and neglect to prioritize its location and other important qualities.

  5. Not knowing what you want Before you start looking at houses, make a list of what's most important to you. For example, you may feel strongly about having a certain number of bedrooms or living in a certain section of town. Also, include a list of things you'd like to have when buying a home but that aren't deal-breakers. These lists will help you determine what's most important to you and will also help your real estate agent show you homes that fit your criteria.

  6. Not factoring in your future needs You may live in your new home for just a few years, or you may stay in it for a decade or more. Either way, a lot can happen in a short amount of time. Although you can't exactly predict the future, you can consider whether you're likely to want to have kids in the near future, or perhaps work at home. If these are possibilities, you may want to invest in a little more space now and make sure your home has enough bedrooms and/or a bonus room to accommodate your needs.

Buying a house is a multi-step process, and it's easy to make some mistakes along the way. By avoiding the preceding slip-ups, you'll make your journey easier and have the best possible chance of finding a home you'll love. 

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