Buying your first home is an exciting moment in your life, and emotions run high during what can be an overwhelming process. It’s vital to keep a clear head and know exactly what you’re doing before you make one of the biggest financial commitments of your life. Prevent pitfalls, holdups, and potential disasters by avoiding these common mistakes.
1. Not knowing your true budget
The first mistake many first-time homebuyers make is beginning their search for an apartment without a realistic idea of what their budget is. They look at apartments that may appeal to them, but could potentially be far outside of their means. On the other hand, they could end up considering places that are below their budget, not bothering to look at nicer homes that they might actually be able to afford. In the end, this usually ends up wasting the time of the homebuyer, the seller, and the agents involved. To avoid this, it’s important to get preapproved for a loan before you start your search. This way, you have a more concrete idea of which apartments are within your budget, giving you a much higher chance of success in your search. You also need to take into consideration the total cost of owning your own apartment by adding up all additional costs that will not be covered by your loan, including closing costs, which can be upwards of 8% of the purchase price.
2. Making a downpayment that’s too small
Some banks may approve you for a mortgage with as little as 3% down (although this is less likely in Germany). While this might seem appealing at first, just consider that you will be paying off your loan for a much longer time. The more you take out in a loan, the more you will pay in the long run. Consider that you will have very little equity at the beginning, leaving you at risk of owing more than you can sell the property for. A bigger initial downpayment means that you will have a smaller mortgage, and more manageable monthly payments. Shop around at different lenders and explore all options in order to find the best mortgage rate for you - the first offer you get isn’t necessarily the best one. (For more information about mortgages, take a look at our article on Financing Fundamentals)
3. Emptying your savings
That being said, you don’t want to end up with nothing left in the bank after making your deposit. You might have some unexpected expenses and repair costs which you will need to take into account when determining your budget, so be wary of spreading your finances too thin. Keep in mind that you should also not be incurring additional debt while you are waiting for your mortgage to be approved. This could delay the buying process, or even cause the bank to deny your loan. Buying expensive furniture, appliances, or a new car can wait until the purchase is complete.
4. Not consulting a real estate agent
Some homebuyers think that they should be able to successfully apartment-hunt entirely on their own, using online resources. While it’s always a good idea to keep yourself well-informed, and to see for yourself what’s on the market, consulting a professional will likely make your search far more successful. It’s a realtor’s job to know exactly how the property-buying process works, and they will be able to guide you through it and help you along the way. Use them as a resource to learn all about what you should expect before purchasing a property. They should also be experts about the different neighbourhoods and areas of the city in which you’re looking to buy, and could potentially give you access to a property before it even goes on the market, giving you an advantage.
5. Getting caught up in the superficial details
Your agent tells you that they have an apartment that ticks all of your boxes: just the right amount of space, fits in your budget, and in your favourite neighbourhood. You walk in, and it’s a mess. Don’t be disheartened and give up on it just yet. Floors can be changed, walls can be painted, and everything can be arranged the way you like it. Don’t turn your back on what could be your dream home just because it needs a little elbow grease. Alternatively, don’t get swept away by an apartment with flashy features that isn’t really what you want in the long run. Keep in mind things that can be fixed, and things that can’t.