Recently, I read a post by Christine over at The Mostly Simple Life blog about the biggest mistake you can make when buying a house. She concluded that buying a house that was too expensive for you is the largest problem. This got me thinking about when my husband and I bought our first home 7 years ago.
While I think her conclusion is definitely one of the top things you want to consider, I disagree that buying a home that’s too expensive is the biggest mistake. What do I think is the biggest mistake?
Buying a house without regard for the location is the number one mistake new homeowners can make.
“Location, location, location” is completely true, in my opinion. While they may not be pretty, buying a house out of your budget does have solutions. You can work towards earning more in your current career, switch jobs, or find ways to add income in addition to your 9-5. Additionally, you can find ways to cut costs and stick to a tighter budget. Refinancing is another option (although this should be a last resort). These may be difficult solutions to put into action, but they aren’t impossible. Over time, you can reduce the problem until it’s manageable. I’ve seen people do it.
You should also consider that it’s possible that a house within your price range now could end up being too expensive later. Unexpected financial crises’ happen all the time. This would render the point moot that you had chosen a home that wasn’t too expensive originally. Financial stability can be assumed, but there’s never a guarantee. Yes, it should definitely be considered and you should not overstretch your budget, but that’s true of all areas of life in which cost is concerned. Only spend what you can reasonably afford. But don’t make the mistake of making it the top priority at the expense of others.
Buying a house without considering the location is a problem that can only by remedied by one of two things. First is moving, which will be difficult if the location makes it a harder sell. If you think it’s a bad enough location that you want to leave, it’s very likely others will as well. Second is to hope and pray that over time the neighborhood completely changes. Both are unlikely and could take a LONG time.
You cannot change the fact that your home is on a busy street and from 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon it’s impossible to get out of your driveway.
You can’t make that charming couple next door stop their arguing at 2:00 in the morning.
And you can’t change the fact that it appears you are in the absolutely worst school zone in the city.
5 Steps to Avoid This Huge Mistake
While it’s not possible to know absolutely everything about your potential new neighborhood, short of doing a 24 hour stake out in your car parked in front of your possible new residence, there are several things you can do to help ensure you’re moving into a location you’ll be happy and comfortable in.
- Do research. Most towns have information about various neighborhood components of importance. How many churches are in the area, which school zone it is in, and perhaps even what the average family is comprised of are good to know. For example, a young family with a baby would be interested in knowing if the neighborhood they’re considering is a well known college student party zone!
- Visit the location more than once and be sure to do so at different times of the day. When we bought our house, we went three times. Unfortunately, they were all at about the same time and always during the week. The street seemed so quiet, which was great! Had we visited on a weekend during rush hour, we would’ve seen that our quiet little street is actually one step away from being a main road! Luckily, it’s still quiet enough that we don’t mind. By visiting the area a few times, you can avoid making the same mistake we did by assuming that what you see during those one or two snapshot moments that you’re there is what you’ll actually get.
- If possible, ask the current home owners what their three favorite things about living there are that are not about the house itself. Also ask what their three least favorite things are. Many people have lived in their homes for decades and these people are a wealth of knowledge about the community; use it! If you get minor complaints like “I wish the garbage were picked up on Wednesday instead of Thursday,” you can bet you’re in pretty good shape; it means they have nothing more serious to complain about. Additionally, if they say something like, “Our kids always have lots of other kids to play with,” you can decide if this is a positive or negative for you. A young family with kids will likely love the idea. A single man who works third shift may immediately realize that the day time noise could be very high on a regular basis. Flow their answers into more of a conversation to get a better feel for the environment. An older person who has lived there a long time will probably happily recant stories about the neighborhood as they relive the memories of the years in their home. You may learn some little known secrets to the area that you would have never learned otherwise. This can be especially useful if you’re completely unfamiliar with the area.
- Drive around the block. Then expand and drive around a few more adjacent blocks. Notice how the homes look. How do the lawns look? Is the area well taken care of or is everything falling apart everywhere you look? Even if your block looks great, a bad area one or two over could indicate a declining neighborhood. It should be noted that this isn’t always the case, but sometimes it is. If you plan to live in the area long-term and an area surrounding your block makes you uncomfortable, make note. It’s worth considering that the “uncomfortable” neighboring blocks could become your block in the future.
- Ask yourself if there is anything AT ALL that you have justified to yourself because you love the house. Right now you’re “in love” with the house, which is great. Unfortunately, that love clouds our judgment and allows us to overlook flaws that come along with the object of our affection. Fortunately, when infatuation wears off and we see the frog we’re dating for who he really is, we can say goodbye. It’s a little more difficult to break-up with a house. It’s best to be certain that when the reality of everything you’ve said you’ll “make do” about come into focus later, you’re not stuck with a frog you can’t get rid of. A good way to check is to note what things were on your “must-have” or your “want” list during your search. Are any of them missing? Have you said any of these phrases about this house:
- I’ll make do.
- I guess it’s not really that important.
- I don’t care about any of that, I just want this house!
- I’m sure it’ll be fine anyway.
If you have said any of these, especially about multiple things, you may want to reconsider this house. There’s a really good chance it’s not the right one for you.
Buying a home should be fun and exciting. You also want to be sure that it’s a decision you’ll be happy with long-term, though. If you’re unhappy about the home and neighborhood you live in after a few years, it will cause unnecessary stress. It will keep you from being able to live your best life.
What do you think is the biggest mistake when buying a house? Did you make it when buying yours?
Let me know in the comments!
-To your Better Life-