10 Things Every New Homebuyer Needs to Know

Never bought a house before? These tips will help you better understand the homebuying process.

Homebuying can be a confusing and somewhat daunting task. We'll help you understand the homebuying process and find the home that's the perfect fit.

1. Know your needs.

First, examine your lifestyle. Do you long for bucolic pasturelands? Feel energized by urban cityscapes? Looking forward to a family-friendly suburban lifestyle? It's important to think of the limitations each locale places on your lifestyle and the perks each has to offer -- before making the commitment to buy.

Suburban lifestyles are flexible, offering children the opportunity to play outdoors and enjoy a neighborhood environment. Urban areas offer greater social, culture, educational and career opportunities. Rural environs offer privacy, room to roam and the ability to pursue hobbies -- such as gardening -- on a larger scale.

In addition to locale, it's important to think about the type of dwelling you're considering. Will you quickly outgrow that handsome city brownstone? Is a country cottage the perfect size? Will purchasing a condo allow you to forego lawn and home maintenance and enjoy more leisure time?

2. Weigh the costs of homeownership.

There's more to consider than just a monthly mortgage payment. Will you be able to afford the expenses that come with owning a home? Utilities, property taxes, repairs, homeowners association fees, lawn maintenance (unless you will do the work yourself) can all add up.

If you're moving to a new part of town or a new city, it's important to consider the cost of living for that area. Transportation, school tuition and everyday living expenses can also make homeownership more expensive than it initially appears.

3. Better to build or buy?

Having a home custom-built to your specifications can be expensive. But are you ready to take on remodeling and updating an older home to meet your needs?

A remodel can often be expensive and in the end, is less satisfying, and finishing a project yourself, without experience, can result in the purchase of costly tools and the loss of your valuable time. Do your research before signing with a contractor or deciding to revamp an older home.

4. Location, location, location.

A bargain is never really a bargain when located in a bad neighborhood. Sometimes lightning will strike and gentrification of certain areas will result in skyrocketing property value -- but that's rare. It's better to take a chance on a smaller home -- or one in need of repair -- in a great area where the value will only rise.

5. Know your loans.

A loan rate can look great in an advertisement, but once bankers have drawn you in to the branch office, what will you really pay? Points, PMI (private mortgage insurance) and closing costs can drive your mortgage cost up.

Some programs allow buyers to have smaller down payments. But how long are you required to stay in the home without penalty? And how much more will you pay each month?

Be sure to read all the clauses and fine print before getting a mortgage. And don't be afraid to shop around for the best rate.

6. Consider a buyer's broker.

Most real estate agents represent the seller, but a Buyer's Broker (also called a Buyer’s Agent) represents your needs and desires and helps you locate the property that's best for you.

While buyer's brokers are difficult to locate in some markets, locating a professional advocate who is required by law to get you the best price and terms can alleviate home shopping stress.

7. Demand full disclosure and a professional home inspection.

Most states require that a home seller disclose potential problems with the property, but the homeowner may not always know or reveal existing structural problems (despite the legal requirement). The only way to truly know what's going on inside (and over and under) a home's structure is to secure the services of a reputable home inspector. Expect to pay $300-600 for the inspection. It seems like a lot of money, but consider the thousands it could save you if the home isn't up to code or has major issues.

8. Get it in writing.

Perhaps one of the best ways to protect yourself is to have every part of the sale in writing, and make sure you understand every aspect before making a commitment. Legal jargon and real estate terminology can be confusing and somewhat frustrating, so hone your real estate vocabulary before house hunting, and don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions along the way.

9. What to do before completing the purchase.

First, make sure your title is "free and clear" and there are no problems with you assuming ownership of the property. Then, purchase homeowners insurance. Finally, decide if the purchase of a home warranty (if not included as part of the sale) is in your best interest. These should all be taken care of before "closing."

10. Don't forget about taxes.

Are your property taxes rolled into your monthly mortgage payment? Or will you be responsible for paying them yearly? Don't forget to keep paperwork for your annual federal or state income tax return. You can often deduct the property taxes, points and interest paid on a mortgage. Set up a consultation with a tax accountant to learn more about the restrictions on these types of deductions.

Next Up

10 Steps to Eleventh-Hour Organization

Use this last-minute moving checklist to make sure you don't forget anything on the big day.

Buy What You Need, Not What You Want

Make a list of your ideal home and stick to it while house hunting.

'Last-to-Go' Box Checklist

After a long day of moving, the last thing you'll feel like doing is rooting through boxes to find your toothbrush. Pack these items into a "special box" that stays with you on moving day.

Anti-Checklist: What Not to Do Until You Close Escrow

Take a list of things to avoid before you close on your new house.

7 Surefire Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

You've already heard the bad news. The housing crisis has tightened up credit markets, and it's harder to qualify for a mortgage loan. Credit scoring has always been an important part of the loan approval process, but suddenly it bears more weight than ever.

A Buyer's Guide to Open House Etiquette

Master these dos and don'ts of house hunting.

Anti-Checklist: What Not to Do While House Hunting

Searching for a house to buy can be daunting, and most of the homes you see won't be what you're looking for. Get through it efficiently and painlessly by avoiding these common house hunting mistakes.

Are You Financially Ready to Buy an Investment Property?

Here's what you need to consider in this real estate market before shelling out for an investment property.

Anti-Checklist: What Not to Do When You're Making an Offer or Negotiating

Don't even bother trying to justify a lowball offer. (Believe me, the seller and their agent were well aware that there's an electric tower in the backyard when they set the asking price.) Avoid these buyer faux pas when offering on a house.

7 Tips to Fix Up a Foreclosure (Without Breaking Your Budget)

Maximize your profit by flipping a foreclosure home with these cost-effective, buyer-friendly tips.

Stories We're Following

Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.