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Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home in 2008

Jan 30, 2008
Buying a home shouldn't be a hassle, an aggravation, time consuming, or costly. Regrettably many prospective home buyers will have that type of experience. The reasons why? Lack of experience buying and selling homes. Let's face it many people have never bought a home, and many have not done so for years. All the while the rules within the real estate market change constantly, except one; home buyers make the same mistakes every year.

The most egregious mistake is not hiring an experienced, reputable, ethical agent to represent them. This one step would save the home buyer the embarrassment of making all the associated mistakes made by those without proper representation. Especially the x and y geners who count on the information received on the Internet to protect them. The Internet alone can't protect you.

Mistake number one is believing real estate agents are interchangeable. The one thing to know is there are only two types of agents, one who's primary concern is you (the client), and one who's primary concern is their commission. How can you tell which are the wolves in the sheep's clothing? Ask around, trust your instincts, and when you meet an agent follow your intuition. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Trust will be paramount to a successful home purchase.

Huge mistake number two is the failure to think resale and buying an overpriced home, something the commission driven agent will be happy to accommodate. Millions of families own homes today where they owe more on the home than it's worth. This happens in every market, every year. Investors ran up prices to unsustainable levels in many bubble markets; an experienced agent would have advised renting instead of buying, until the market corrected. In the non-bubble markets buyers that purchase overpriced homes do so either on their own, or with the complicity of the commission driven agent.

Here in Springfield Illinois we did not have a bubble, except for those buyers that paid too much for their homes. Here's proof. Of 25 single family home sales during 2007 in the Piper Glen subdivision, one of Springfield's pricier neighborhoods, there were eight winners, and seven losers when they sold. The other ten were initial resales with no basis to determine the original purchase price. During the seller markets in 2004 through 2005 many agents treated Piper Glen like a bubble market and started listing homes at unrealistic prices in my humble opinion of 21 years experience.

The definition of a winner is a homeowner that sold their home for more money than they paid for it at purchase. The definition of a loser is a homeowner that sold their home for less money than they paid for it at purchase. The winner's gains were not as huge as the loser's losses. Of the eight winners the difference between their original purchase price and their sale price in 2007 ranged between $3,500 and $49,500. Of the seven losers the amount of money the home sold for below their original purchase price ranged from losses of $8,850 to $62,500, not including selling expenses.

The eight winners sold their homes for an average $18,638 more than purchase price. The seven losers sold their homes for an average of $26,214 less than their purchase price. A real life example of paying too much at purchase. Of course other factors are involved such as length of ownership, and supply and demand at the time of sale. However with an equal number of winners and losers selling the same year, odds are those with losses bought overpriced homes. Think resale, and hire an agent you can trust to be honest with you about prices.

How do home buyers get caught in this trap? What other result do you expect if you don't interview and hire a professional you can trust? Most find their agent by accident, or don't use an agent at all. Only calling agents off signs, or advertisements is a perennial ritual of novice buyers, and it's risky business. The only thing you know about these agents is that they have a name on a sign or ad. That's kind of like a blind date with serious financial ramifications.

Another cause for buying an overpriced home is that the buyers were not familiar with the local market, and were transferring from a higher priced market. Once they were referred to the commission driven agent, their fate was sealed. Most transferees automatically trust the agent to whom they are referred. This could be a major mistake.

Another annual costly ritual of home buyers is the shopping of, and looking at for sale by owner homes without representation. Who do you think has the buyer's best interest at heart in that transaction? The seller with everything to gain, or the buyer with everything to lose?

The big mistake that leads to this accident waiting to happen, is that many buyers perceive that FSBO's are lower priced because the seller isn't paying a commission. The only people who know better are the people who bought for sale by owners and are now trying to sell those homes without losing their shirts. A survey of three local mortgage lenders provides all the proof you need, FSBO's only accounted for around 10% of all sales, but accounted for more than 95% of the homes that short appraised. Short appraised means the home buyer got screwed on price. Unfortunately most buyers won't believe that and will make this perennial, and likely financially calamitous mistake.

There are many other blunders the inexperienced, uneducated in the process, prospective home buyer will make, such as; offering too low on a fairly priced home and losing the home to another buyer; failing to obtain financing pre-approval before writing an offer and losing the home to a pre-approved buyer; failing to buy a home inspected by a licensed inspector; failing to act quickly enough after finding the right home; and payment shopping, just because you can afford it, doesn't make it worth it!

Bottom line, hire an agent you can trust, or be prepared for whatever comes your way. There's a saying; If you want to make God laugh, tell him what your plans are. Believe that.
About the Author
Fritz Pfister is a licensed Realtor with RE/MAX Professionals Springfield Illinois.
Fritz is a leader in the local real estate market and hosts a live one hour radio program, now in its' 13th year.
Fritz's website is
Fritz hosts home buyer and home seller seminars that have been attended by hundreds of consumers.
Fritz provides advice that helps consumers succeed in the sale or purchase of homes.
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