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10 Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make

April 14, 2009

home-buyers1By Lisa Scherzer, SmartMoney.com

Apr 10th, 2009

The declining home values that are plaguing homeowners are just one of the factors creating an opportunity for prospective home buyers.

Standard & Poor’s latest Case-Shiller index, which tracks home prices across 20 major U.S. cities, reported that values dropped 19% in January from a year earlier.

Those depressed values, combined with near-record-low mortgage rates and government incentives (an $8,000 first-time home buyers’ tax credit included in the stimulus bill), are luring more first-time home buyers into the market. Indeed, a recent Century 21 Real Estate survey found that more than three-quarters (78%) of potential first-time home buyers say now is a good time to buy.

If you agree, be aware that buying a home comes with plenty of potential missteps. Here are 10 all-too-common mistakes first-timers make.

1. Not knowing how much house you can afford.

Many novice home buyers spend a lot of time researching homes – comparing kitchen layouts and backyard square footage – but very little time researching their financing options. One of the first things buyers should do is talk to a qualified lender and get preapproved for a mortgage, says Claire Clark, senior vice president of business development at Prudential California Realty. Without first figuring out how much house you can afford, you risk falling in love with one you can’t.

2. Assuming foreclosures are great deals.

Just because the previous owner owed $450,000 on a house before the bank took it over doesn’t mean it’s worth that much now. Values have slipped significantly, says Jay Michael, partner at Estate Property Group, a Chicago real estate brokerage, so you may not be getting the bargain you think with a foreclosure. Also, most homes owned by lenders or banks have been sitting vacant for months and may have been vandalized. That could require extensive renovation or repair. Weigh the costs of fixing up the property against the savings you’ll likely reap by buying a lower-priced foreclosed home. Read the rest of the article here.

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