Money Matters

First Time Home Buying Advice I Wish I’d Received

By: Benjamin Steele

My wife and I recently embarked on the oh my god so stressful I’m going to tear my hair out a wonderful adventure of buying a home. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful, but we encountered a few nasty little pitfalls (many of which we thankfully avoided) which would have been nice to know about beforehand. Especially if you’re buying a new build, I hope this list helps you avoid some of our stress.

Buying New: Perform a County or State Records Search on the Builder

This one didn’t cause us stress during the actual process, rather it was something we discovered later. We did a search of the company that built our house in the county clerk database and found ten, TEN current lawsuits filed against them. This may not directly impact the sale process, but if they haven’t been paying their contractors, you’re far more likely to start finding structural problems later on.

Incidentally, you should check whether your homeowners’ association is based locally. Ours is out-of-state, and it’s very frustrating to deal with.

There’s Always Another House

This was a pretty big one for us. We fell in love and had to have a house. So much so that we put up with a great deal more stress and pressure than we should have from the builder, who pushed us to a closing and move-in date we weren’t comfortable with. Be prepared to respond to pressure by threatening to walk away. If you bluff, and they call it, you’ll find another house. Especially if you’re dealing with a builder/business, rather than a homeowner, be prepared for them to try and boss you around.

Check Windows, Doors, and Appliances for Energy Efficiency

We got lucky. Other people on our street? Not so much. Energy efficiency isn’t just about going green, it’s also a big money-saver on your monthly bills. I knew that energy-efficient appliances were important, but I didn’t think to check the energy efficiency rating of windows and doors, or double-check that our ductwork was insulated.

Think Carefully About Property Taxes

You’ll definitely want to talk to an accountant. Preferably an independent one who works from a little office. Those folks know their stuff. I believe that accountants have an inverse office space to talent ratio: The more effectively they make use of cramped conditions to save on their own overhead, the better advice you’ll get. Either way, financial and tax advice will save you money and headaches, even if you pay a few hundred dollars for it in the short term.

One thing you may want to consider is the time of year. We bought our house close to the end of the year, so our tax advantage was negligible. This is because we didn’t go through very many mortgage payments, which meant that we hadn’t paid enough property tax to claim more than our standard deduction. Buying earlier might help you claim more taxes back.

Make a List of All Your New Responsibilities

We bought a townhouse, and it’s been very helpful to have someone else worry about mowing the lawn and maintaining the landscaping. But there are a host of other new responsibilities that come with transitioning from renting to ownership.

Things like:

  • Changing the air filter regularly
  • Clearing gutters of leaves and detritus in the fall
  • Dealing with wasp nests
  • Developing a cleaning routine that includes outdoor tasks, carpet and appliance deep cleans (instead of just doing it all at once when you move out of an apartment!)
  • Having fireplaces, furnaces, and all that other nonsense professionally inspected

Speaking of professional inspections, our final point is probably the most important. There is a lot that your eye might miss, and if the house needs repair the seller can often be required to foot the bill.

Get a home inspection before you close.

We spent $300 on a home inspection, and it was the best $300 we ever spent. It saved us thousands in additional work that the seller ended up being liable for. Do. Not. Skip. The home inspection. If you have a home warranty, which you most definitely should if you’re buying new, then get another home inspection before the warranty expires.

If you have a home warranty which you most definitely should if you’re buying new, then *get another home inspection *before the warranty expires.

I hope that the experiences my wife and I went through can help you on your journey to homeownership. Remember, as stressful as buying a house can get, with the right planning and good advice, you’ll come out of the process satisfied.

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