The Most Common Mistakes House Hunters Make, According to Real Estate Experts

published Jun 6, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Trying to find your first home is very exciting. But somewhere between the online research and countless showings, house hunting loses its luster. The whole thing just overwhelms. In this mix of ever-changing emotions, it’s easy to make mistakes. And while you can expect to make a few blunders the first time you do anything new, the stakes are a bit higher when buying a home. A few slip-ups can end up costing thousands of dollars—and possibly your dream home.

Most first-time homebuyers end up making the same mistakes during house hunting. Thankfully, most real estate agents can spot these blunders from a mile away. In hopes of saving shoppers a little stress, I asked some real estate professionals the errors they see most often. Here, the five most common slip-ups:

Mistake 1: Going to an open house without your agent

Why it’s a mistake: You may feel the urge to pop into a few open houses over the weekend. But going in unrepresented can be risky, says Clint Robertson, owner of Timber and Love in Boise, Idaho, and co-host of HGTV’s “Boise Boys.” Why? The seller’s agent will show the home. And since their goal is a sale, they’ll likely focus on more cosmetic features like high-end appliances and countertop material, glossing over the less sellable points.

While there’s no harm in taking a solo peek at a home, don’t get too attached, says Bruce Ailion, Realtor with RE/MAX Town and Country in Atlanta, Georgia. Buying a home is a decision you should make with your head—not your heart. Your agent will make sure you’re remaining logical. So if that impromptu drop-in feels like love at first sight, schedule a walk through with your agent ASAP. They’ll be able to point out any hidden problems lingering and offer perspective if there are better deals to be had on the market.

Additionally, your agent will help you stay discreet at an open house—which can save you money in the long run. Mihal Gartenberg, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York City, says she often reminds her buyers to not display too much excitement in front of the seller’s agent. Robertson also warns his clients against discussing their budget with the showing agent. Why? Again: The open house agent works for the seller—not you. Don’t give them an upper hand in case you put in an offer. Whether they know how much you really want the home or how much you can actually afford, they can use this info against you come negotiation.

Mistake 2: Focusing solely on the house

Why it’s a mistake: Sure, maybe you’ve found the dream home. It’s turn-key but still quaint, has curb appeal for days—and it’s in your budget! But don’t discount everything else surrounding the home. That perfect property doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There may be uncontrollable factors that aren’t obvious on first, second, or even third viewing.

“At different times of day and different days of the week, properties and neighborhoods can take on a very different feel,” says Brian Davis, co-founder of “For example, at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning a property next to a frat house can appear calm and orderly. Or a street might be calm on the weekends, and [extremely] loud during weekday rush hours as commuters pass through.”

A good way to survey this? Read online reviews, says Marcie Williams, president of RKW Residential in Miami, Florida.

“It is important to review the community’s online reputation to get a fair and balanced assessment of […] resident satisfaction,” Williams says.

You can also talk to would-be neighbors—just be discreet about it. Also look at local media, Facebook groups, community-oriented sites like NextDoor and Niche to get qualitative info you couldn’t get from an open house. There are also data driven-sites, like Plug in the address and get livability metrics like quietness, road safety, ease of running errands, and more.

Mistake 3: Looking for right now

Why it’s a mistake: You’re warned about buying too much house—but don’t overcorrect. There’s a chance you’re too conservative in your home search if you’re thinking only couple of years ahead.

“A mistake home buyers make is considering only their present needs and assuming that they will remain static over time,” says Mike Saunders of Bowmanville, Ontario-based Durham Drafting and Design. “Almost every homeowner’s needs and abilities will change over time, and the result is often costly renovations or relocation.”

And again, don’t just think about the home itself. Alison Bernstein of Suburban Jungle, a real estate firm helping urban-dwellers move to the burbs, says many first-time homebuyers forget to factor in how the town itself affects future and family development, too.

Mistake 4: Hiring an agent too quickly

Why it’s a mistake: If you’re eager to get your house hunt underway, you might let your agent find you.

“Home buyers often use the agent from the open house they went to without any investigation into that agent’s experience,” says Jerry Grodesky managing broker at Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate in Loda, Illinois.

If your agent isn’t aligned with your goals or doesn’t have experience in your market, this could make your house hunt unnecessarily take longer—and be more costly.

Need help figuring out if your real estate agent really is “the one”? Here, five signs you and your agent are a perfect match.

Mistake 5: Judging homes on photos

Why it’s a mistake: Don’t discredit a potential good investment because the listing photos aren’t professional.

“We are all accustomed to looking at ‘Pinterest-Perfect’ pictures,” says Nichole Beroset, a Realtor with Keller William’s Realty in Atlanta, Georgia. She notes that, because of this, many people pass over perfectly fine homes.

Professional photos are expensive, and perhaps the seller was unconvinced that it would help the sale. Or maybe they wanted to get the house on the market as fast as possible. There’s an advantage to seeing unphotogenic homes in person, too. If they don’t capture other homebuyers’ interest, you might score a deal since there’s less competition. (This strategy actually ends up working in rental situations, too!)

Found the home of your dreams and had your offer accepted? Congrats! Now, don’t let these 6 things keep you from your contract from closing.

More great Real Estate reads: