Top 13 Mistakes Homebuyers Make and How to Avoid Them

Top 13 Mistakes Homebuyers Make and How to Avoid Them

In a recent conversation with several of our agents, a few recurring buyer mistakes were highlighted. These discussions, along with an insightful article by Kate Warren at Business Insider, inspired me to compile a list of the top 13 mistakes buyers often make. By sharing these, I hope to help those in the market make more informed decisions.

1. Assuming Every Home’s Price is Negotiable

One of the biggest mistakes buyers make is assuming that the price of every home is negotiable. This misconception often leads to unnecessary frustration and missed opportunities. It’s important to understand that sellers have various motivations and financial situations. Some sellers might be in a position where they do not need to sell quickly or at all. They might have a set price in mind based on their financial goals, emotional attachment to the property, or advice from their agents.

Additionally, buyers should consider the current market conditions. In a seller’s market, where demand exceeds supply, prices are less likely to be negotiable. However, in a buyer’s market, there might be more room for negotiation. Understanding these dynamics can save buyers from making lowball offers that could alienate sellers and result in missed opportunities.

2. Getting Distracted by Flashy Details

Another common mistake buyers make is getting distracted by flashy details and ignoring the actual quality and condition of the house. This can be particularly tempting in homes that have been recently renovated or staged to look appealing. While cosmetic upgrades like fresh paint, new countertops, or stylish fixtures can make a home look attractive, they can also distract from more significant issues that may exist beneath the surface.

For example, a house might feature trendy shiplap walls and high-end finishes in the kitchen and bathrooms, but it could also have outdated electrical systems, an aging roof, or foundational issues. Buyers should focus on the critical aspects of the home, such as the age and condition of the roof, HVAC system, plumbing, and electrical systems. These are the components that, if in poor condition, can lead to substantial costs down the road.

3. Not Putting Down the Largest Down Payment Possible

One of the most impactful financial mistakes buyers can make is not putting down the largest down payment possible. A larger down payment can significantly reduce the overall cost of purchasing a home in several ways. Firstly, a larger down payment typically results in a better interest rate on the mortgage loan. Over the life of a 15- or 30-year mortgage, even a small difference in interest rates can save buyers tens of thousands of dollars.

Additionally, putting down at least 20% of the home’s purchase price allows buyers to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is a monthly expense that protects the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan. For many buyers, this can add a substantial amount to their monthly mortgage payment. By avoiding PMI, buyers can reduce their monthly expenses and potentially qualify for a larger loan, allowing them to afford a more desirable property.

4. Making Unnecessary Lowball Offers

Making unnecessary lowball offers is another mistake that can hinder a successful home purchase. A lowball offer is one that is significantly below the asking price, often perceived as unreasonable by the seller. While some buyers believe that starting with a low offer leaves room for negotiation, it can sometimes backfire, especially in a balanced or seller’s market.

In a balanced market, or one where demand slightly outweighs supply, sellers may receive multiple offers and might be less inclined to entertain offers that they consider too low. Submitting a lowball offer can signal to the seller that the buyer is not serious, or worse, offend the seller to the point where they refuse to negotiate further.

For instance, consider a home listed at $500,000. If a buyer submits an offer of $470,000 when the home is reasonably priced according to the market, the seller might dismiss the offer outright. Even if the buyer is willing to negotiate up, the initial low offer can set a negative tone for the negotiations. In some cases, sellers might choose to wait for a more serious offer rather than counter a lowball one, leading buyers to miss out on the property altogether.

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5. Limiting Search to a Specific Style of Home

Another common mistake buyers make is limiting their search to a specific style of home. While it’s natural to have preferences, being too rigid can lead to missed opportunities. Flexibility can often reveal homes that might better meet a buyer’s needs and wants than they initially thought.

For example, some buyers may insist on only viewing single-story homes because they prefer not to have stairs. However, by excluding other types of homes, they might miss out on properties that offer other desirable features, such as a finished basement or a more spacious layout. Similarly, some buyers might focus solely on contemporary-style homes, missing out on charming historic properties that have been well-maintained and updated.

It’s also worth considering how your needs might change over time. A home with a daylight basement, for instance, might initially seem unnecessary, but as children grow older or as the need for a home office arises, that extra space can become invaluable. Flexibility in style also allows buyers to take advantage of a wider range of options in a competitive market.

6. Not Thinking About Reselling the Home One Day

Another significant mistake buyers often make is not considering the future resale value of a home. While it’s essential to find a home that meets your current needs, it’s also crucial to think about how easy it will be to sell the property when the time comes. Certain features and locations can make a home more difficult to sell, leading to potential financial losses or extended time on the market.

For example, homes with very specific or unique designs might appeal to a niche market but can be challenging to sell to the broader public. Similarly, properties located on busy streets or in less desirable neighborhoods might be harder to sell, even if they meet your immediate needs. It’s essential to balance your personal preferences with the broader appeal that will attract future buyers.

Additionally, it’s wise to research the local real estate market trends. Understanding the factors that influence property values in the area, such as school districts, community development, and economic growth, can help you make a more informed decision. Consulting with a real estate agent can provide valuable insights into which properties are likely to retain or increase in value over time.

7. Trying to Purchase Without a Broker

Attempting to purchase a home without the guidance of a professional real estate broker is another common mistake. While it might seem like a way to save money, the lack of professional expertise can lead to costly errors and missed opportunities. Brokers bring valuable experience, market knowledge, and negotiation skills that can significantly benefit buyers.

For instance, brokers can provide insights into market conditions, helping buyers understand if a home is fairly priced or if there might be room for negotiation. They also have access to a broader range of listings, including those that might not be publicly advertised. This can expand a buyer’s options and increase the chances of finding the perfect home.

Brokers also play a crucial role in the negotiation process. They can advocate for the buyer’s interests, help craft compelling offers, and navigate counteroffers effectively. Their experience with contracts and legal documents ensures that all paperwork is completed accurately and on time, reducing the risk of legal issues or delays.

It’s also worth noting that brokers can connect buyers with other professionals, such as home inspectors, appraisers, and mortgage brokers, ensuring a smooth and efficient buying process. Their network and knowledge can help buyers avoid pitfalls and make more informed decisions.

8. Overlooking Important Conditions of Major Systems

Overlooking the condition of major systems in a home can lead to significant and unexpected expenses down the road. Key systems like the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), roof, plumbing, and electrical should be thoroughly inspected before making a purchase. Ignoring these essential components can result in costly repairs or replacements shortly after moving in.

For example, an aging roof might seem like a minor issue compared to the home’s overall appeal, but replacing a roof can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Similarly, outdated or malfunctioning HVAC systems can lead to uncomfortable living conditions and high utility bills. Plumbing and electrical issues can pose serious safety hazards and require expensive fixes.

Buyers should prioritize a comprehensive home inspection conducted by a qualified professional. This inspection will identify any existing or potential problems with the home’s major systems. While some issues might be negotiable with the seller, others could be deal-breakers if the cost of repairs is too high.

9. Passing on a Good Deal Because It’s Too Early in Their Search

Many buyers hesitate to make an offer on a great property early in their search, fearing that a better option might come along later. This can be a significant mistake, especially in competitive markets where desirable homes sell quickly. If a property meets most of your criteria and feels like a good fit, it’s worth serious consideration, even if it’s early in your search.

It’s essential to remember that today’s home-buying process involves extensive online research before physically visiting properties. By the time buyers step foot in a home, they’ve likely already narrowed down their options significantly. This means that the homes they visit in person are strong contenders.

Working with an experienced real estate agent can help alleviate this fear. Agents can provide market insights and comparables to help buyers understand the value of a property and make informed decisions. If a home meets your needs and is within your budget, it’s often better to act quickly rather than risk losing it to another buyer.

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10. Not Seeing the True Potential of a Home

Another common mistake buyers make is not seeing the true potential of a home. Often, buyers are turned off by cosmetic issues such as outdated paint colors, unattractive landscaping, or cluttered interiors. However, these superficial flaws can be relatively easy and inexpensive to fix compared to the overall potential of the property.

For instance, a home with an outdated kitchen or bathrooms might be priced lower than similar homes in the area. With some renovations, these spaces can be transformed to add significant value to the home. Similarly, a house with an overgrown yard might deter some buyers, but with a bit of landscaping, it can become a beautiful outdoor space.

Working with a real estate agent who can help identify these opportunities is crucial. They can provide guidance on what improvements are feasible and offer an estimate of the potential return on investment. Additionally, buyers can bring a contractor to view the property to get a better idea of renovation costs and possibilities.

11. Holding Out for the Perfect Home

Many buyers make the mistake of holding out for the perfect home, which can lead to a prolonged search and missed opportunities. The reality is that no home is perfect, and most buyers will need to compromise on some aspects of their wish list. Focusing on finding a home that meets the most important criteria and can be adapted over time is a more practical approach.

Buyers should prioritize their must-haves versus nice-to-haves. For example, having a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms might be non-negotiable, while features like a finished basement or a specific type of flooring might be more flexible. Being open to making changes and improvements after purchase can also expand the range of suitable properties.

12. Focusing Too Much on Online Listings

While online listings are a valuable tool for homebuyers, focusing too much on them can be misleading. Photos and descriptions can only provide a limited perspective of a property, and sometimes they can be enhanced to make a home look more appealing than it is in reality. On the other hand, a poorly photographed home might be overlooked despite having great potential.

Buyers should use online listings as a starting point but not as the sole basis for making decisions. It’s crucial to visit homes in person to get a true sense of their condition, layout, and surroundings. During these visits, buyers can also assess the neighborhood, proximity to amenities, and overall environment, which are difficult to gauge from online listings alone.

13. Not Exploring Higher Price Brackets

Lastly, not exploring higher price brackets can limit a buyer’s options and potentially lead to missing out on better-suited homes. Buyers often set a strict budget limit, but in some cases, stretching that budget slightly can provide access to homes that offer significantly more value.

For example, a buyer looking at homes up to $400,000 might find that increasing their budget to $425,000 opens up a wider range of options, such as additional bedrooms, better locations, or more modern amenities. While it’s important to stay within a comfortable financial range, being flexible and exploring slightly higher price brackets can lead to finding a home that better meets long-term needs.


Avoiding these common mistakes can make your home-buying experience smoother and more successful. By understanding the market, staying flexible, and working with experienced professionals, buyers can navigate the process more effectively and find a home that meets their needs and aspirations.

Our team is here to help you every step of the way. If you’re ready to start your home search or need expert advice, visit the Kenmore Team and let us guide you through the process of finding your perfect home.