If 10 months spent indoors has you dreaming of a change of scenery—or you keep hearing about how interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in years and you want to take full advantage of it—you’re not alone. “The real estate market is really competitive right now,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at real estate site Opendoor. “It’s more common to see multiple offers on a house.”
And with great demand comes great…anxiety. You don’t want to miss out, but you’re moving so fast to find that perfect home that you worry something’s slipping through the cracks. We spoke to experts nationwide to uncover the biggest mistakes homebuyers are making—and what you can do to avoid repeating them.
1. Offering the List Price
You’ve found your dream home and you don’t want to lose out to another bidder, so you jump to offer the asking price (or above it). That’s understandable, but don’t let your fear of losing out cause you to overspend, especially since rising demand in some areas has caused list prices to skyrocket—a phenomenon some experts are calling “pandemic greed.” The reality? Even in a tight market, it’s worth negotiating. Case in point: Nearly three out of every four homes sold in New York City from March through September of last year sold for under the list price, according to StreetEasy.
What to do: Consult with your real estate agent and look at recent sales of comparable homes in your area to gauge whether the house you’re looking at is reasonably priced. You may find that the list price is a fair offer; go for it. And know that there are other ways you can make your offer more appealing to the seller: “You could shorten or waive certain contingency time frames, or talk to the seller to find out if there are special terms they’re looking for, like staying in the home a bit longer after the close,” de Jong says.
2. Skipping the Inspection
Whatever you do to sweeten the deal, don’t agree to skip a home inspection. One in five people made that decision this past June, according to Redfin data, and while it can save you roughly $400 and shave a week or so off your closing time, it can also mean you don’t realize a few major repairs your new home will need, like a costly leak in the subfloor or an HVAC system in dire need of upgrades.
What to do: If time is of the essence, search for a home inspector who can turn around the report the same day the inspection occurs. That can save you a day or two. And, once the report comes back, focus on asking for repairs to things that are health and safety issues, rather than demanding every small cosmetic change be fixed, de Jong says. Know your non-negotiables—and be willing to walk away if the seller refuses to make those changes or adjust the price—but in a hot market, debating who will touch up the trim paint in the bathroom can cause a seller to pull an Ariana Grande and say, “thank you, next.”
3. Underestimating Closing Costs
When you’re buying a house for the first time, it seems like costs just keep coming out of nowhere. Most people think of the down payment they’ll need, but gauging the closing costs (which includes everything from appraisal and reinspection fees to escrow, closing attorney fees and notary costs) is a different story. You don’t want to be caught
What to do: Expect to spend anywhere from 2 to 5 percent on closing costs, Zillow reports. On a $300,000 house, that’s $6,000 to $15,000. While de Jong says 2 percent is pretty typical, she recommends talking directly with your mortgage lender before placing an offer on a home. Your closing costs “can change based on the loan and what terms you have with it, so they’ll be able to give you the closest estimate,” she says.