Owning your first home is a rush like no other. When you finally get those keys in your hand and step through the door of “your house”, there’s a sense of pride, of ownership; a feeling of security, and plenty of excitement about the years to come. With that much excitement, it’s normal to overlook important aspects and make some beginner mistakes independently of the state or city in which you are looking to buy a house. But when you are a Florida First-Time Home Buyer… boy, oh, boy; the situation becomes much worse! Not only Florida has a lot of specificities that require a lot of attention and professional help from trained real estate agents, but Florida first-time home buyers can’t help but rush things so they can finally move in to enjoy the weather and the beach, and that’s a recipe for a bunch of mistakes.
In comes RealEstateAgent.com to save the day!
We’ve rounded up some of the most common mistakes made by Florida First-Time Home buyers and how to avoid them. Here they are:
No long-term plan
Most Florida First-time home buyers have no long-term plan. They just see the financial opportunity of affordable housing in a great state – no state income tax! – and, basically, call their real estate agent and say “here take my money!”. Sure, the house you are looking at might be perfect for right now – but what happens if your family expands, your commute changes or your elderly parents suddenly need a place to stay where they can be observed? Many snowbirds, for instance, become Florida First-time home buyers with a vacation mindset and, once they start to spend more time in the Sunshine State, they find out that things that didn’t upset them for the 3-4 months they spent there, start to get on their nerves when they spend the whole 12 months of the year. Independently of being a second home or the main one; if you’re making the huge commitment that is buying a home – your first one! – think of every potential future scenario and have an exit plan. Think about the trends you see over the past decade or so, and where the neighborhood is heading – school district, public transport, access to shopping and more can all affect how salable this house may be in the future. Talk with your real estate agent about all of this; let him or her share their thoughts and tell them yours.
Priorities become second to trendy things
That home with the deluxe chef’s kitchen may have you drooling in anticipation – but are you really willing to settle for just one bathroom and no basement because of it? In Florida, a state where inventory is brand new, it can be pretty tricky to focus on priorities. Every new property smartly has a new trendy thing to it that can distract you from what’s vital to your specific needs. But here’s a workaround: make a checklist of your must-haves, your would-like-to-haves, your deal breakers and your dream ideals. Shuffle them in order of importance, slide the deal breakers off to one side, and assign points to other items to allow for trade-offs – for example, maybe a 1 ½ bath will suit if the master bath has both a tub and a shower. And show that to your real estate agent. It will be appreciated and it might be super productive, as he/she will enforce what, sometimes, you are not 100% committed to doing.
Budgeting just enough to buy the house
Real Estate Agents from all over the country will say that this is a common first-time home buyer mistake not only in Florida. And they’re right. Newbies usually save just enough to get their dream home. If it’s worth $100k, they’ll save $100k. When they have more than that, they use it to make it fast and offer above the asking price just to avoid a competition/bidding war. But all of the expenses associated with home-ownership must be figured out for at least the first year of your moving in- you won’t have a landlord to step in if the AC unit burns out or the roof needs repair. Besides home repairs and maintenance, include in the cost of your commute, ask the utility company for a basic estimate of monthly bills based on other similar houses in the area; and don’t forget insurance and property taxes if they aren’t rolled into the house cost. If the assessed value were to change, your taxes could increase. And, then, even if you came to the fight with a little more than the asking price of your house, assuming you didn’t spend it celebrating the new home, it just quickly turns to dust.
Forgetting to get pre-qualified
You may think your credit score is fine, but it’s embarrassing and frustrating to find the perfect home and then get turned down by a mortgage lender. Make the bank your first stop, not an afterthought, and ensure you are pre-qualified before you start your home hunt. This has the added advantage of letting you know exactly what your budget is and how much of a down payment you will need come signing day.
Ignoring the HOA
One thing Florida First-time home buyers do not realize is that Florida is HOA (Home Owner Association) kingdom. There are a lot of them over there, and they have a decent amount of power to annoy your life if you do something out of their rule book. So, if you think you might want to rent out your home at a later date, run a home business, or any other possible deviation from simply living in the home, ask your local Homeowners Association for a copy of their bylaws/contract. If anything exists that might prohibit your future plans, it’s better to know now rather than later.
Not looking into grants and other sources of funding
If you reach out to one of our countless Florida Real Estate Agents they’ll be prepared to give you a list of potential resources, but you should do your own research and keep in mind that your profession might put you in the running for specific grants available to teachers, farmers, pastors, and so on. Not to mention specific First-time Home Buyers loans and programs. Never assume you don’t qualify based on income or family size – you’ll be surprised at how many grants are out there for Florida first-time home buyers.
Signing the contract without really reading
No joke. It’s the 21st Century and people still do that. Florida is one of the states with the most disputes over contract misunderstandings in the nation. Sure, we understand that sometimes the legal terms can be misleading etc. but, come on: it’s your home! Even worse; it’s your first home! If you can’t read it by yourself and understand it completely, you need to get someone to explain the parts you don’t understand. Your new house is probably the largest purchase you will ever make, so understanding what you are in for is crucial. Your mortgage broker and your real estate agent are your first line of defense against being taken advantage of or blindsided. Don’t make your first rodeo harder than it already is!
Getting enamored by the view and/or the home staging
Construction in Florida has been growing incredibly fast in the last decade. A great view can be wrecked in a few years by additional construction in the area, so don’t count on that ocean view being visible forever. Also, consider zoning around you – having a gun range go up in your backyard not only makes your home unpleasant to live in but trashes chances of being able to sell it to someone else. Also, if a house has clearly had some of that home staging magic applied to it, try looking past it – wall plugs may not be where they are expected based on furniture layout, and those gorgeous rugs could be hiding damaged flooring.
Being unaware of the neighborhood demographics
Maybe you are young and single or a newlywed now – but if the neighborhood is full of young people you could end up being the only couple on the block with kids in a few years. Or the other way around. A lot of people look for Sarasota Real Estate Agents when buying homes for the elderly, for instance. Alternately, maybe the area has a lot of rental houses – and it only takes one bad landlord or unruly renter to ruin an entire block. So, to avoid experiencing buyer’s remorse, you should speak with a real estate agent to figure out if you and the neighborhood you’re eyeing are the right fit.
Skipping home inspection
Don’t do that, rookie. In fact; have two or three home inspections done. Hire a professional home inspector to do at least one, and the rest DIY. You need to know everything about your new house before you commit. Finding out about a terrible insect infestation or a destroyed foundation afterward can be devastating.
Home Buying with no Real Estate Agent
Home buying without a real estate agent is less difficult than selling a home with no real estate agent, that’s true. But it still very hard; especially when it’s your first time doing it. To be blunt, it borders arrogance. Going into home-buying unrepresented is a good way to find yourself over-committed and hoodwinked. Real estate agents are trained to look at every possible side and dig up anything that could help or hurt you – your agent will be on your side throughout the transaction to ensure you get what you pay for. Especially because they know all the pitfalls of the specific real estate market they work in, so, this is actually the biggest mistake a Florida first-time home buyer can make. Get to fully experience the joys of real estate hunting in a safe environment, being represented by a professional.
We hope after reading about it you don’t make these mistakes. And if you successfully bought your first home, and have returned to this article to relive this exciting and addictive game; read about Buying a second home so you can continue playing the real estate game.