As you get ready to buy your first home it’s normal to feel a bit apprehensive. It’s a big decision, and mistakes could be costly. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common mistakes first-time buyers make. If you’re careful to avoid these pitfalls, you’re more likely to make the right decisions and be 100% home happy in no time.

1. Getting Pre-Qualified Instead of Pre-Approved

Pre-qualification and pre-approval are similar, but they have an important difference. With a pre-qualification, the bank tells you approximately how much money it can lend you based on your stated income. The pre-approval process takes things a bit further by telling you how much you can borrow after a more thorough review of your finances.

In most cases, the amount offered during a pre-qualification is close to the amount offered during pre-approval, but sometimes there are big differences. For instance, the bank only uses your base monthly salary in making calculations for the pre-approval. If you used an annual salary that includes bonuses and overtime pay when you got your pre-qualification, you may be shocked when the amount the bank will loan you is far less than what you thought.

If you’re serious about buying a home, applying for pre-approval with your bank or a mortgage broker is the best way to start you home search.

2. Borrowing the Maximum 

Don’t forget to look at your own finances and budget when you decide how much to borrow. The bank determines how much it will loan you based on your income and debt payments. However, the bank is not looking at all of your expenses. They don’t include grocery bills, leisure expenses or lavish vacations. If you want to keep those things affordable after you purchase your home, you may need to borrow less than the bank says you can afford.

7 First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid Out of Cash Image3. Underestimating the Costs 

You know when you own a home, your costs can increase. You have to cover the cost of any maintenance and repairs due to wear and tear. You have to pay utility costs or property taxes that may have been included in your previous rental fees. If you’ve never owned a home before, it’s easy to underestimate how much these cost can add up. This is more likely to happen to those who buy resale homes because the cost of unexpected repairs can be high. Even if you’re buying a brand-new home, though, you need to work hard to get an accurate estimate of what your costs will be, then factor them into your monthly budget as you decide how much home you can afford.

4. Making the Minimum Down Payment

Canadian law requires you to make a down payment of at least 5 per cent. When buyers only make that minimum down payment, they don’t have much equity in the home. They often will have higher monthly mortgage payments than their neighbours who put 10 or 20 per cent down. Don’t feel bad if you can only afford a 5 per cent down payment, but pay more if you can.

7 First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid Past Due Image5. Changing Finances Before Finalizing the Purchase

When you get pre-approved for the mortgage, the figure the bank gives you is based on your current financial data, including credit score and salary. Changing this information could change the results of the bank’s offer. For instance, try to avoid changing jobs or starting a new business before you close on your home. You should also avoid taking on a new auto loan, racking up credit card debt, or applying for new credit. All of these things can negatively impact your credit score and change your pre approval.

6. Forgetting to Make the First Mortgage Payment

This might sound silly, but a lot of people forget to make their first mortgage payment. They might forget to set up the automatic payments or forget to send in a cheque in all of the chaos of moving into their new home. Missed mortgage payments will damage your credit score, and you don’t want the bank to come after you so soon after you’ve moved in. Contact the bank before payment is due to make sure everything is set up correctly.

As you decide which home is right for you, it’s clearly important to focus on affordability. By making sure you choose a home that fits your budget, you’ll avoid most of these mistakes.

Photo credit: green house, out of cash, past due

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