Buying a home can be an overwhelming experience. There’s no shortage of advice on the process out there—especially from friends and family members just trying to help. Unfortunately, not all of it is good. Thankfully, two experts have cut through the clutter. Here, some of the worst home buying advice they have ever heard, and what they recommend instead:
Bad advice: “Renovate before you move in”
You may have heard that you should make desired upgrades before moving into a new home so that you’re not living in a construction zone. But unless the issues are structural or functional, you may be jumping the gun.
If you find a home that just needs cosmetic work, plan on moving in first. “I suggest living in the home and getting a true feel for the place,” says Howard Margolis, real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York City. “Let the home speak to you first. Spend three to six months to get a better understanding on how you ‘live’ within the walls of the home before you start renovating.”
You may find that some of your planned renovations are unnecessary and could end up wasting a lot of money on changes you don’t actually like. Instead, Margolis recommends renovating as needed, room by room.
Bad advice: “You can skip title insurance”
Title insurance is a form of insurance that protects you against previous legal issues around your new property’s ownership. Because it’s rare to actually make a claim, it may be tempting to skip out on it to save money, but Mark A. Hakim, real estate attorney with SSRGA in New York City, believes that’s short-sighted.
“I would strongly caution any purchaser (or borrower) about the issues that may present and I would recommend a purchaser, or a borrower in a loan transaction, always obtain title insurance,” says Hakim.
Bad advice: “It’s okay to use an out-of-state mortgage lender”
If you see low rates advertised online by a lender in another state, you may think this is a clever way to cut down on expenses. However, you shouldn’t necessarily underestimate the value that a local lender can provide.
Since this remote lender may need to acquaint themselves with your area’s quirks in closing procedures and contracts, it could stall the time it takes you to get to closing, says Richard Barenblatt, mortgage specialist at Guardhill Financial Corp in New York City.
Barenblatt suggests getting a recommendation from a local real estate agent who has worked with brokers in their market that specialize in the type of financing you need.
Bad advice: “Lowball your offer”
You want to get the best price possible, but going too low may cost you the home of your dreams.
“Making an offer that is considered a ‘lowball’ can actually insult the sellers,” says Margolis. “The buyer could come off as not serious, which could jeopardize the deal.”
With the wealth of information available on the internet, Margolis encourages buyers to “do their homework” and to support their offers with documents, numbers, and sound rationale. The best real estate agents will help their buyers compile everything they need to make a competitive offer.
Bad advice: “It’s okay to let the seller stay in the home after closing”
You need a month or two before you’re ready to move into your new home. The seller needs a couple of weeks to move out. Totally cool to let them stay there in good faith while you both figure a couple of things out—right? Wrong. Commonly referred to as post-possession occupancy or post-closing possession, the practice of allowing the seller to remain in a house or property after the sale can pose a lot of complications.
“For example, what if the seller causes damage?” says Hakim. “What if someone trips and falls? What if the seller fails to vacate? While there is an agreement that is drafted to cover the possession and that agreement may cover the basic of events, it is often vague, ambiguous, and lacking in any serious proverbial legal ‘teeth.'”
Hakim advises drawing up a carefully-drafted agreement that includes start and end dates, penalties for failure to vacate, and insurance requirements.
“It is better to be prudent in advance, than unprepared after the fact,” he says.
Still working on your credit before making the big purchase? Here, the worst credit score advice experts have ever heard (and what to do instead).