Don’t Make These 96 Common Home Buying Mistakes! (And How to Avoid Them)

Mistakes While Preparing for the House Hunt:

1. Trying to time the market. Decide to buy when the timing is right for you. Nobody really knows what the real estate market will do (though Erik can help you watch for trends and signs).

2. Following the crowd. The summer is often a competitive time for Buyers who are trying to find their houses while the kids aren’t in school; however, then Buyers all seem to ‘take a break’ at the same time. While your competitors aren’t focussed on their search, you can move quickly on the perfect house.

3. Not being open and honest with your spouse before beginning to house hunt. What is your limit on commute times? Are you planning on having kids? Are there any dark secrets in your credit history? Do you both have the same goals for your lifestyle? These are important conversations to have before you fall in love with the wrong house.

4. Not being truthful with yourself about your lifestyle. It’s easy to fantasize about living in an all-white home, but is your family ready to give up tomato sauce and red wine? People rarely change. If your family rarely eats at the kitchen table, do you really need a kitchen that accommodates a large table? Similarly, don’t pay extra for a condo with a huge gym if you rarely work out.

5. Not accounting for possible changes to your family life. Moving is stressful, and anticipating any new additions to the family is a smart move so you don’t have to do it twice. Looking to have children? Will there be enough room if you have twins? Think you might move in with a new partner in the future? Is there enough storage space for two? Your kids might be content sharing a room when they’re younger, but consider getting a home with a finished basement so they’ll have somewhere to escape with their friends as they grow older.

6. Ignoring how your health may affect your mobility when downsizing. Knees and hips don’t improve with age, and your new smaller home might not work for you down in 5 years if the only bathroom is up a set of stairs.

7. Using and believing you see ALL the homes for sale. There’s a delay in listings getting published to, and many homes are sold before they appear online. Have a REALTOR set you up to receive listings. Don’t know one that you trust? Erik would love to have a cup of coffee with you and show you how he can help.

8. Moving to a beautiful rural location without taking everything into account. Don’t rely on Google Maps for an accurate commute time. Consider the changes to expenses, affordability and lifestyle when you move further away from the city.

9. Buying before selling if you’re counting on getting a high price for your home. Deciding whether to buy or sell first can be difficult and the right answer isn’t the same answer for everyone. Factors such as school start-dates and market fluctuations can impact whether it’s a wiser decision to buy first or sell first. Talk with your REALTOR before committing to a decision.

10. Not including ALL the stakeholders in the house hunting process. Ensure that you include Mom & Dad in conversations about your goals and your search if they’re lending you the down payment; purchasing a home can be stressful enough without fighting with the in-laws about the best school districts or adequate home size.

11. Thinking you don’t need an agent to represent you. A REALTOR does much more than just search listings online and visit open houses with you. Erik’s expertise and experience will help you find the perfect home.

Mistakes While House Hunting:

12. Thinking your house hunt will be just like on HGTV. Sadly, you aren’t going to look at three houses and pick the perfect one; the average buyer looks at fifteen homes, and depending on your wish list, you may end up looking at many more. Surprise! HGTV shows are staged and the Buyer has already selected a home before the filming began. Same with renovation shows, which have reliable, experienced experts doing their work and the costs rarely include labour.

13. Staying inside the house. Keep an eye out for cracks in the foundation and indications of water penetration or mold. Check all through the garage, and give the fence a shake to see if it will need replacing. Take the time to walk through the whole yard; this also gives you an opportunity to check out the upkeep of neighbouring properties

14. Believing the asking price is the real price. Sellers strategize with their REALTORS to receive the highest offer; they may believe that a low starting price will trigger a bidding war, or they may believe that a higher offer will mean more room to negotiate. Your REALTOR can work with you to determine the real value of the home.

15. Not asking about the neighbours. Always ask about the neighbours! And keep an eye out. Are there a lot of cars in the driveway next door? They may signal that a group of teenagers live next door – it could be the perfect scenario for one family, but maybe not for you.

16. Not driving with your REALTOR while house hunting. This is a real opportunity to pick your REALTOR’s brain. You might learn more interesting points about the neighbourhood that you might not have thought of asking.

17. Falling in love and not looking to balance your opinion. Time for that reality check. Pretend that you’re your grumpy father-in-law who has something negative to say about everything. What is parking like? Exactly how close are those neighbours? Will the lack of air conditioning make a certain room unliveable in the summer months? Once you find a house you love, make sure that you’re being realistic about both its charms and its flaws.

18. Not checking for liveability. Check the height of the ceilings in the basement and the overhead space on the stairs. Will your six-foot son fit in the tub? Will your queen-sized bed fit into the guest bedroom? Is there enough open shelving?

19. Not using all your senses when house hunting. Don’t just use your eyes – use your nose, your ears and your sense of touch too. Does a cat currently live there? Can you hear the planes flying by? Do you feel dampness on the basement walls? Pro tip: don’t use your sense of taste on a showing.

20. Not taking notes while you’re house hunting. The average Buyer looks at fifteen houses, and note-taking can help you remember what you really liked and disliked in a house. Take notes on your phone about anything that’s important to you. It will help you remember the totality of a house as you compare it to others.

21. Overlooking the ugly house. Neglected homes with peeling paint or overgrown gardens may be a fantastic opportunity for you to get into a seemingly unaffordable neighbourhood. This ugly duckling may turn out to be a swan.

22. Buying the most expensive home on the street and not understanding the consequences of that. While the cheapest home on the street benefits from its location amongst nicer homes, the most expensive home’s value is negatively affected by its cheaper neighbours.

23. Expecting showings to be scheduled in the early morning or late at night. Sellers have their own schedules to work around, and it’s unlikely that they’ll agree to a late-night showing. If they do, the time will probably be limited, and you may not see major issues.

24. Not exploring the neighbourhood during the day AND at night. Your new neighbourhood will change depending on the time of day; what does the street look like at night when the sun has gone down and the kids are inside?

25. Talking too much at an open house. Remember: the agent at the open house represents the Seller, so anything you say to them will be reported back to the Seller. Don’t talk about how much you love the house, why you’re moving or your top offer.

26. Not trusting your REALTOR. It’s important to find a REALTOR that you trust. If it feels like you need to lie to your agent because you question their integrity, it’s not a good fit and you need to find another one. But if you’ve hired your agent based on knowledge, skills, and experience, try to relax and trust that they will find you the right home.

27. Ignoring the unsexy parts. Home magazines don’t feature the electrical wiring or highlight the hot pink insulation for good reason. Work with a REALTOR who asks all the questions and reports back to you.

28. Avoiding the scary unfinished basement. Your REALTOR will help with scary basements (spiders negotiable), but it’s important that you explore the basement as well so you know what you’ll have to live with if you purchase it. Look for indications of rodents, water cracks and check the electrical panel while you’re down there.

29. Scheduling too many showings in one day. Looking at homes is fun – but if you see more than 6-8 in a day, you’ll be exhausted and probably forget what you’ve seen. It’s difficult to evaluate a house’s potential if your blood sugar is low and your feet ache.

30. Expecting to see a home with short notice. Most showings are scheduled a day ahead of time; Sellers want time to present a clean house and ensure that any pets will be out of the home during showings. Any tenants in the home will also require 24 hours of notice before showing.

31. Being disrespectful of the Sellers and their home. Extend the same courtesies to the Seller that you hope to receive. Don’t mock the Sellers or put pictures of the homes on social media. Remove your shoes and keep out of the dresser drawers. And if you’re having issues getting to the showing, be sure to contact the Sellers.

32. Believing the Seller isn’t videotaping or recording you in their home. The affordability of cameras means that many Sellers have cameras installed and are watching you move through their home. Don’t discuss your finances, strategies or love of the home while in the house.

33. Not being ready to compromise. Unless you’re Meghan Markle, people seldom get everything that they want in a house. Be prepared to decide what you’re willing to compromise on: location, size or condition.

34. Not researching your school district before buying. Comox Valley has many great school districts, but make sure you research the school districts before committing to an area. Start your research here.

35. Falling in love with the staging and not the home. Some Sellers strategically stage their home with new furniture to make you fall in love with their home. Make sure to imagine your own furniture in the space and look past the staging. Also consider how much that beautiful staged furniture might cost you! ;)

36. Getting too excited and losing sight of what you wanted/needed. If a gorgeous yard wasn’t on your initial must-have list, don’t fall for the flowers and forget that what you really needed was a finished basement or office. It’s normal for some of your wants and needs to change throughout the house hunting process, but don’t lose sight of your original goals.

37. Not being fully approved for a mortgage before you start the search. Forget about online mortgage tools and bank pre-approvals – you need a full commitment from a lender to ensure your financing doesn’t fall through. They’ll want a credit check, employment verification, and your downpayment – so be ready. If you don’t know a good mortgage lender, Erik would be happy to put you in touch with the people he trusts.

38. Looking at homes you can’t afford. This is a recipe for heartbreak. Pro tip: don’t choose a $1 million house as your ‘ideal’ home that you will judge all others against when you have a budget of $700,000.

39. Not being flexible in your choice of neighbourhood. There are tons of great neighbourhoods in the Comox Valley and being flexible about where you live will help you land the home of your dreams within your budget. Courtenay, Cumberland and Comox all have their charms, but also consider Royston, Fanny Bay, Merville, Black Creek, Campbell River and Mount Washington. Your perfect home may be in an area you hadn’t considered a possibility.

40. Not being ready to jump on the right house. You never know when the right house will drop into your lap. Ensuring that your finances are in order will allow you to make a speedy decision when you find the right home.

41. Not looking under the hood. While a leaky window pane probably won’t change your decision to buy a home, it’s nice to know before you move in. Don’t spend more time shopping for a new pair of shoes than exploring your new potential home.

42. Not upgrading enough during a move-up. If you currently own your home and are looking to expand, make sure you find a home large enough so you don’t have a similar problem in 2 years. If you’re looking for more space, aim for more than you think you need right now, not just an extra 100 square feet.

43. Buying a house with a basement apartment and not understanding the legalities surrounding that. Truth: not all basement apartments are legal in the Comox Valley. There are zoning requirements, fire code and electrical requirements.

44. Buying your first home first, when it might be a better ideal to buy your second home first. Buying and selling real estate is expensive, so make sure you buy as much home as you’re comfortable with in the beginning, so you won’t have to move in a few years.

Financial Mistakes:

45. Not filing your income taxes. If you’ve been avoiding the CRA, know that banks require your income taxes to be up-to-date before giving you that mortgage.

46. Buying a home during the first three months of a new job. A stable work history is important to banks; they want proof that you can consistently make those payments, and so most won’t give a mortgage to people who have recently started new jobs.

47. Leaving your deposit in an RSP or virtual bank. You don’t want to be waiting around for your money to clear when you’ve found your perfect home. Ensure that your deposit money is in an easily accessible account.

48. Amortizing your mortgage over too long a period. This may help in the short-term with affordability, but in the long run, you’ll have paid tens of thousands more in interest by the time you finally own your home. Ask your lender about options for paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible.

49. Failing to compare mortgage interest rates and terms. Banks are businesses, and feelings won’t be hurt by comparing competing offers. Don’t just look at the interest rate; the terms and conditions are also important because they may limit your options in the future.

50. Buying a new car or getting a new credit card right before closing. Changing your financial situation will set off alarm bells and may put your closing in jeopardy. Your bank agreed to lend you money on the circumstances that were true when they approved you.

51. Not firing your agent if things aren’t working out. House hunting can be time-intensive and it can be miserable spending that much time with someone you dislike. Perhaps they are bad at communicating or listening to what you want. Maybe they don’t have experience in purchasing the type of home you want to buy or are lacking knowledge of a particular neighbourhood. If they aren’t adding value, it might be time to move on.

52. Not taking advantage of government programs for first-time Buyers. From tax credits to reduced land transfer taxes and the Home Buyer RSP Plan, get informed.

53. Not realizing you need to provide your downpayment to your lawyer a few days before closing. Before closing day, you’ll meet with the lawyer to go over the final paperwork and provide them with a cheque equalling the purchase price, less your deposit, less the amount of your mortgage plus closing costs…

54. Thinking your deposit and downpayment are the same thing. The deposit is accepted. Your downpayment is the total amount of cash you are putting into the home (purchase price less mortgage). Your deposit just forms part of your downpayment.

55. Borrowing all the money the bank is willing to give you. While you may be excited to learn that your lender is willing to lend you more money than you expected, they don’t know how you spend the rest of your time. Play hockey? Love to travel or buy expensive shoes? Now is a great time to create a personal budget as well as a house budget. Don’t buy a home at the top of your budget which will force you to give up your favorite hobbies.

Mistakes When Making an Offer:

56. Getting emotional and trying to win a bidding war at all costs. Don’t get swept up in the competitive nature of a bidding war. Make sure that your bidding is based on the real value of the home (as discussed with your REALTOR) and of your top budget. Your agent should provide you with a detailed analysis of the value of any home you’re offering on.

57. Refusing to pay the asking price, on principle. Sometimes the Seller just wants out, and has priced the home fairly. Negotiating can be fun, but create your offer strategy based on fact and the real value of the home.

58. Not going in with your strongest offer in a bidding war. You don’t always get a chance to improve your offer, so if you’re ready to pay $820,000 for that house, bid $820,000. A $800,000 first offer might mean you lose the house.

59. Putting on the brakes at the very end. During a bidding war, you may be asked to ‘improve your offer’ without knowing the details of the other offers you’re competing with. If you’ve already maxed out your budget, then obviously, you can’t improve. But if you have the money and the home is worth it to you, improve your offer. There’s nothing worse than losing a bidding war on a property by a couple thousand dollars. (And yes, I do realize that earlier in this post, I told you to go in with your strongest offer, and now I’m saying you may need to improve it. It’s not fun to be a Buyer).

60. Not being aggressive enough. If you’ve fallen in love with a home that’s set up for a bidding war (meaning it’s priced low and has an ‘offer date’) – consider a bully offer. A bully offer happens when you bid aggressively in advance of the offer date and give the Seller a very short period to decide.

61. Making a bully offer that won’t impress the Sellers. If you’re asking the Sellers to circumvent their offer date and marketing plan, you’ll need to impress the heck out of them. That means offering a BIG number and having no conditions. Yes, that might mean you ‘overpay’ for the home – but it will increase your odds of getting it. A Seller will only accept a bully offer if they think it’s for more money than they’ll get on offer night. Give it all you’ve got.

62. Not being strategic with your property search and negotiation. The agent you hire to represent you can make a HUGE difference in the home you buy and how much you end up paying. Choose a strategist. Hint: choose Erik! ;)

63. Going in with a firm offer without having done your due diligence in advance. Although you can protect yourself by adding clauses to your contract of purchase and sale, it is better to do your due diligence prior to submitting an offer. Don’t jump based out of fear that you’ll lose a property.

64. Lowballing. Putting in an offer that’s below market value (which may or may not be different than the asking price) is a recipe for a disaster on a newly listed home. All it will do is encourage the Sellers to go hunting for an offer to compete with you, and you’ll probably lose the home. Know the market you’re in and offer accordingly – your REALTOR can help.

65. Not realizing that strategy is an important part of closing the deal; it’s not just price. Your REALTOR’s ability to help with finding financing options and home inspectors as well as their relationship with the listing agent and negotiating skills are all key to helping you secure your dream home.

66. Buying a house when you should really buy a condo or townhouse. Owning a house seems to be one of the great Canadian dreams, but is it your dream? If you have spent most of your available funds on your downpayment and mortgage, you might not have a lot left to deal with any surprises like a flooded basement or a broken lawnmower. Condo life may suit you better.

67. Trying to save money by hiring a cheap real estate lawyer. This is one of the biggest purchases of your life, and you’ll want the best to represent you and ensure that there are no issues with the contract.

68. Not recognizing the potential problems of buying a tenanted property. If you’re buying a property that has tenants, make sure the tenants are not in a lease. Landlords can’t evict their tenants during a fixed-term tenancy, and if they are ‘month-to-month’ tenants, the Landlord must give 60 days of notice (from the 1st of the month) – so plan your closing date accordingly.

69. Not talking to a home insurance person in advance of buying. Your mortgage will be conditional on getting home insurance, so make sure there aren’t any issues with the home (or with your insurance history) that it make it uninsurable.

70. Not reading what you’re signing and understanding the legal paperwork. Make sure you talk to your REALTOR if you have any questions about what you’re about to sign.

71. Not wanting to commit to one agent by signing a Buyer’s Representation Agreement. Did you know that the Seller pays the Buyer’s agent and that there’s no cost to you? It’s important to have your own agent whose top priority is your happiness. There are many other advantages in choosing a REALTOR to represent you.

72. Being short-sighted. If you’re buying at a time when prices are increasing, recognize that you’ll likely need to pay MORE than the previous comparable price.

73. Not anticipating the closing costs. You’ll need to pay land transfer tax and your lawyer fees, but there may also be other costs.

74. Not understanding the funds that you’ll have to pay on closing day. The amount of additional funds that you have to pay on closing day can be between 2% and 5%; these can include provincial and city land taxes which are due on closing; annual municipal property taxes; HST on legal and real estate services; capital gains taxes on investments; and for non-resident, non-Canadian citizen Buyers, a Non-Resident Speculation Tax (15% of the purchase price paid on closing).

75. Failing to understand what the bank appraisal is and how it might affect you. Almost every home that will need a mortgage will be appraised by the lender, so make sure you understand what happens if the bank appraises your home for less than you agreed to pay for it.

Mistakes with Home Inspections:

76. Thinking you’re buying a new house when you’re actually buying a used house. The Sellers owe you the home in the same condition it was in when you bought it – they don’t owe you a perfect home with no issues. Every home will have problems you weren’t expecting when you move in. That rug might be covering a missing floorboard.

77. Not getting a home inspection or not reading the one you got. A home inspection alerts you to any potential issues both in the present and in the future; it helps you avoid buying a money-pit. Read it all! Be certain to ask your home inspector questions if you don’t understand something.

78. Expecting the Seller to pay for things uncovered in a home inspection. Get a home inspection to get informed and help you decide if you want to buy the house – but you may not always be able to bargain the price down if the inspector uncovers something.

79. Trusting a pre-listing home inspection from a random person. The Seller might have recently undergone a home inspection and you may be tempted to rely on that; it’s always best to have your own inspector, but if you decide to go with the Seller’s inspection, double check the reputation of the inspector and the company.

80. Buying a building inspection from a deal that has collapsed. It looks tempting: the house that you really wanted to buy is on the market again. The previous Buyers couldn’t complete the deal, and they offer to let you buy the building inspection for half price. It looks like a bargain, but the report has been written for the previous Buyers. You don’t have the opportunity to ask the inspector any questions, and all you have are the facts that are printed on the page. You don’t know the context of those facts.

81. If you’re buying a house that’s been renovated and flipped, look very carefully. Some flippers try to flip as cheaply as possible, knowing that they won’t be the ones living in the home years in the future. Ask if the furnace, A/C and appliances are new or used. Was the basement waterproofed before refinishing?

82. Expecting the Seller to make all the disclosures they need to make. Sellers must disclose certain things, but always protect yourself with the help of your REALTOR and a home inspector. What kind of electrical wiring was used? Were permits obtained for all renovations?

83. Not realizing what it means to buy an ‘as-is’ home. As-is homes are sold in the condition they are in, without any warranties or representations. Be careful!

84. Underestimating the cost of renovations. Always over-estimate your budgets and ensure that you have reserves in hand and a Plan B when buying a home in poor shape. Renovations often cost twice as much and take three times as long as planned.

85. Ignoring the reality of renovations. The renovations you see on TV and Instagram often don’t reflect reality. You have to be prepared for constant people traipsing through your home and missed contractor appointments. Talk to your agent and friends who’ve renovated to understand what it’s involved before committing to a fixer-upper.

86. Thinking it’s easy to finish the basement. Finishing your basement may be a much larger adventure than you anticipate. It can easily cost $50K, $100K or more to convert your basement into a liveable space.

Mistakes When Buying a Condo:

87. Not understanding the rules. Just because you own it, doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. A strata corporation may have strict rules about what you are allowed to do and how you are allowed to decorate.

88. Not reading the status certificate and having it reviewed. The status certificate is a crucial document containing that needs to be reviewed by your lawyer. It contains the financial and legal health of your condo board.

89. Thinking it’s more financially viable to buy a house instead of a condo because you won’t have to pay condo fees. It’s much cheaper to own a condo than a house.

After Move-In /Turning Your House into a Home:

90. Not being ready for second-guessing and buyer’s remorse. Buying a home is a stressful and emotional time for most people. Once you’ve committed to the house, it may feel like a mistake when you first move in – remember that it will feel more like a home once you’ve added paint and your pictures to the walls.

91. Not removing the blue film on your new appliances. Surprise! Those appliances aren’t really blue. Remove the protective film that was placed there for transportation.

92. Not testing all the appliances and mechanics on the day of close. Make sure that you check all the appliances: dishwasher, fridge, stove, washer and dryer. Try out the A/C and furnace. Your offer likely required that everything be in working condition on the day of close – but if you don’t discover the furnace doesn’t work until Day 6, it will be assumed that it broke while you owned it. Document anything that doesn’t work on closing day and talk to your REALTOR.

93. Not properly budgeting moving costs. Moving expenses can accumulate quickly: boxes, tape, moving supplies like plastic wrap, renting a moving truck or movers, paying set-up fees for utilities, etc.

94. Not budgeting for all the repairs you’ll inevitably have to make as a homeowner. Unless you’ve owned a property before, you may be surprised by how both small and large repairs add up. Budgeting before there’s a problem is a smart move!

95. Forgetting to ask to see the utility bills. Knowing how much the current owner has been paying for heat and hydro is an important factor in your budget. Your agent should be able to get you this information.

96. Not hiring Erik to help you buy your next home. Erik is experienced and passionate about helping you find your new home; he can help you avoid all these mistakes and more. Text 778-989-1579 to get started or send him an email.

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