Cover story: Mistakes first-timer buyers can avoid

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“Sometimes first-time buyers have a hard time visualizing their furniture in a home or will turn away from a property because they don’t like the paint colors,” Ms. Parker says. “They just don’t realize that paint and flooring can be fixed within a short period of time and that they should focus on the space of the home rather than the finishes.”

Ms. Parker points out that buyers can ask for an allowance for decorative improvements from the sellers. She also says real estate agents often have lists of reliable contractors who can quickly make cosmetic improvements to a home.

“A real estate agent should point out to the buyers the potential use of space in a home and talk about how rooms would look with different colors or different furniture,” Mrs. Thatcher says. “Buyers can sometimes miss a home they would love because they have a hard time envisioning themselves in the home.”

  • Skipping the home inspection

Ms. Darling says the most critical step for homebuyers, especially for first-time buyers, is attending the home inspection.

“Sometimes people are reluctant to spend the $300 to $500 on a home inspection, but there’s nothing more important than knowing the condition of the home you are about to buy,” Ms. Darling says.

Ms. Parker says the sales contract contingent on a home inspection means that all the systems and appliances must be in working order.

“A home inspection should not only check on those systems, but it should also serve as a ‘to-do’ list for the buyers in terms of their home-maintenance schedule,” Ms. Parker says.

  • Listening to parents or friends instead of the professionals

The majority of Realtors highly recommend a home inspection, particularly if the home is a foreclosure that will be sold in “as-is” condition. However, some buyers listen more closely to the advice of others when buying a home.

“A lot of buyers will listen to their parents or to friends who have no experience in the D.C. market and do not realize that each real estate market is extremely local in terms of the way things are done,” Mr. Green says. “While the advice is well-intentioned, it really does a disservice to the buyers if they listen to their parents in Iowa telling them they are paying too much for a home.”

Mrs. Thatcher says this is particularly a problem when it comes to making an offer.

“Some buyers have family members who have told them to never make a full-price offer for a home, but sometimes they will lose out on the home if they make a low offer,” Mrs. Thatcher says. “Family members and friends don’t always know best, and buyers should listen carefully to a real estate professional who can show them a comparative market analysis and give them an educated opinion about the home price.”

Ms. Parker says some buyers are reluctant to recognize that buying a home involves a delicate negotiation and refuse to accept the fact that sellers will not automatically accept any offer they make.

  • Making assumptions about the sellers

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