Homeowner

11 Myths About Buying a New Home

Posted on

While my time as a homeowner has been brief—a little more than a year—I’ve become well practiced in busting homeownership myths. Actually, it might be a little more like this: I’ve become used to having a major reality check.

Take the situation I encountered recently when I wanted to enclose a screened porch with glass windows. I thought this move, though expensive, would be a great way to add value to my home. But this wasn’t necessarily true. A friend of mine had recently run into this same problem and shared her experience with me: She upgraded her porch only to learn that because the porch didn’t have HV/AC running into it, it did not count as additional square footage and did not boost her appraisal value as she had hoped.

Another friend was surprised to learn that renovating her bathroom might not boost her home’s value since the appraiser didn’t consider it living space. The myth—that all home improvements add value—was thoroughly busted.

Intrigued, I reached out to several real estate experts to see if there were any more myths about homeownership. The answer? Heck yes. Keep reading to demystify 11 myths about homeownership.

Myth #1: Your first home is just a starter home.

New York broker Brian Ma says buyers often believe their first home is just the start and that in five to 10 years they’ll upgrade to their dream home.

“The reality is that most homeowners don’t upgrade their home purchase, because doing so is cost prohibitive,” Ma says. “Besides that fact, closing costs are a sunk cost that you can’t recoup, and most homes don’t increase in value within such a short time.”

While Ma acknowledges there are exceptions, he says many homebuyers don’t end up considering another home purchase after their first.

Myth #2: If you can afford a down payment, you can afford homeownership.

This isn’t always the case. According to Ben Mizes, CEO of Clever real estate, 1 in 4 homeowners have fewer than $500 saved for unexpected home repairs. This can leave unprepared homeowners financially vulnerable. On average, homeowners spend $2,676 on maintenance and repairs, $6,649 on home improvements, $2,600 in property taxes, and $1,228 on homeowners insurance every year, Mizes says, citing research Clever conducted.

“When you add in mortgage payments, homeowners can end up with more costs than they were prepared for.”

Myth #3: The landscaping will take care of itself.

Real estate expert Alison Bernstein of Suburban Jungle says homeowners often forget the real costs of having a big backyard.

“Especially for people coming from urban hubs, there is little knowledge of the true cost of landscaping,” she says. “Plants die and need to be replaced, tree Cutting, weeds happen, lawns must be mowed and treated, hedges need to be cut back, and more. Some years will be more costly than others, but overall this can become a significant expense.”

I experienced this personally when moving into my own home—it has beautiful fig vines all over the front that were an instant selling point for me. (Major curb appeal!) What I didn’t realize was, those fig vines grow incredibly fast during the spring and summer. I need to have them trimmed about twice a year, totaling about $1,200 annually I wasn’t aware of upon purchasing.

Myth #4: You’ll lose your house if you miss a mortgage payment.

Andrew Healing, editor at REthority.com, reminds buyers that the foreclosure process is long and tedious: Missing a payment is never something you want to do, but if it happens, it doesn’t immediately seal your fate.

“While missing a mortgage payment will likely hurt your credit score, banks will typically work with you to get back on track,” Healing says. “Foreclosing on your home is inconvenient to banks, so they’d rather charge you a late fee than carry the burden of foreclosure.”

Myth #5: Home values always appreciate.

It may take years for a home to appreciate significantly, if its value goes up at all, says real estate expert Robert Taylor.

“Homes on the coast or retirement destinations tend to appreciate better, but there are still areas in the U.S. where you can buy homes for less than you could 10 years ago,” Taylor says.

And if you do live in an area where prices appreciate significantly, keep in mind that the reverse can also be true. Taylor points to the recession, when coastal-area homes depreciated significantly.

Myth #6: You should always wait for interest rates to go down before buying.

While it’s worth shopping around for attractive rates, it can be risky to wait for rates to go down if you’ve found a house you really love.

“If you plan to live in your home for awhile, you’ll probably have a rate to refinance when rates come back down,” says Dan Meyer, co-founder and CEO of Pocketdoor, a renovations and home projects app.

Myth #7: When you own a home, you can do whatever you like to it.

It’s true homeowners have more flexibility than renters, but there are limits, says Brian Davis of SparkRental.

“Homeowners are bound by zoning regulations, deed restrictions, homeowners’ association rules, local housing rules, or historic home rules,” Davis says. “No one will stop you if you’re absolutely determined to paint your bedroom bubblegum pink, but you can’t necessarily build a new garage or an addition or install solar panels without permission.”

Davis says homeowners need to be prepared to request permits and acquire permissions. And remember, if your home is registered as historic, you will be limited on the internal changes you can make too (yes, that includes bubblegum pink).

Myth #8: YouTube videos can teach you how to fix anything.

If you’re naturally handy or have a predilection for DIY projects, YouTube can be an extremely helpful resource. But Dallas-area realtor M. Bryce Olson reminds homeowners that there are many things in a home that go far beyond a weekend warrior-type project.

“It’s important to use licensed professionals or at least have them inspect for safety,” Olson says.

Take a water heater replacement, for example: If not vented correctly, it can lead to major catastrophic issues such as carbon dioxide leaking into the air. Save YouTube for something more low-risk, like a makeup tutorial.

Myth #9: You should buy a home because of the high school it’s zoned for—even though you don’t have kids yet.

Olson also chimed in on this myth, which he sees commonly.

“A first-time homebuyer on average is staying in a home around 10-12 years,” he says.

While that’s increased since the crash in 2008 (most people only stayed in houses 5-6 years prior to that), a hypothetical child wouldn’t even be in high school at that point. On the other hand, a home zoned for a good school district, whether you have children or not, can help resale value.

Myth #10: Owning a home will save you on taxes.

“If there’s one homeownership myth that I hear over and over again, it’s that owning a home is a slam dunk way to save money on your taxes,” says Logan Allec, CPA and founder of Money Done Right.

While it’s possible owning a home might save you money on taxes, it isn’t a guarantee. That’s because the primary way to save is due to itemized deductions for property taxes and mortgage interest, Allec says. If your standard deduction is greater than your itemized deductions, owning a home probably won’t lighten your tax load, he says.

“Here’s the kicker: The new tax law passed in December 2017 nearly doubled the standard deduction for all taxpayers, making it even less likely that owning a home will benefit you tax-wise,” he says.

For 2019, the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly is $24,400. Unless the sum of a married couple’s itemized deductions—such as property taxes and mortgage interest— exceed $24,400, they will not benefit from those itemized deductions, Allec says.

Myth #11: New homes don’t require as much maintenance as old ones.

“A new home requires equal levels of maintenance as older homes,” says Nick Rorabaugh of Athens, Georgia-based Rev Sells realty group. “But the difference is, a new home’s maintenance is much easier,” he says.

For example, roof maintenance for a new house would involve things like cleaning the gutters or removing broken leaves while an older home (with an older roof) might require professional repairs.

Personal finance expert Jacqueline Gilchrist can personally attest to new homes requiring maintenance, noting that her own new home required repairs in the basement after the foundation shifted and settled.

“New homes are just like any other home,” Gilchrist says. “They’re susceptible to harsh weather conditions, and they could also have hidden defects that are revealed over time.”

Buyer's Market

Why Do So Many People Have Buyers Remorse?

Posted on

When I bought my home, I was elated. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, and the thrill of having my own space brought me joy in the present moment and excitement for the future—that is, until a pipe burst a week after I moved in.

A plumber came and fixed the pipe, but I was about $700 poorer just a few days after forking over tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment and closing costs. I can’t recall for certain, but I am willing to bet I ate ramen for dinner that night.

Fortunately, I had set aside a bit of money for repairs. Even more fortunately, I haven’t had any major home repair issues since. Although that pipe was a hiccup (knock on wood!), I still feel satisfied and happy overall with my decision to purchase a home. However, compared with others in my age group, I’m in the minority.

According to a recent Bankrate survey, 63% of millennials had regrets about their home purchase. This demographic showed the highest rate of discontent, but across all homeowners, 44% had regrets. Most respondents who had regrets cited unexpected maintenance or hidden costs as the most problematic, according to the study.

Having experienced this personally, I can attest to the shock of paying huge amounts of money to get the house only to have to pay more for maintenance. The study’s other top reasons for regret in descending order were: too small of a house size, bad location, not a good investment, too high of a mortgage payment, too high of a mortgage rate, and too big of a house size.

Think Long-Term

So, are roughly half of all homebuyers doomed to regret their decision? Nope. There’s plenty you can do to combat homebuyer’s remorse. While the study showed regret among millennials, the majority of homebuyers in other age demographics didn’t have remorse.

Homebuyers who have owned before understand the benefits and costs of homeownership, and they value stability and certainty. Perhaps millennials think more about the immediate and not about the impact the purchase several years down the road.

All homebuyers—and millennials in particular—can help combat remorse by asking themselves, “Will this neighborhood/home still be the best place for me to call home 7–10 years from now?”

When snapping up a property under the assumption it will appreciate in value, many people have regrets. Don’t just rely on a blind assumption that ‘the area is hot,’ or that ‘all property goes up in value.’ A wise homebuyer will require evidence of price-appreciation trends on that specific type of home in that specific area.

In other words: do your homework.

The Other Side of Homebuyer’s Remorse

I have also encountered other types of remorse, including buying at the top of the market. Consider your long-term outlook when buying a property at a historically maxed-out price for the area.

When prices begin to cool, a buyer may often be left feeling resentful that they overpaid and now have a 30-year mortgage. However, most common is homebuyers underestimating operating costs and maintenance expenses, something that can be coupled with being overly optimistic about financial projections.

Just because you can make the math work in terms of the monthly mortgage, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to handle all of the other ancillary expenses. If just about everything must go ‘right’ with your home purchase for the numbers to work out, you should keep away.

Another type of regret I’ve seen involves homebuyers wishing a property was closer to work or wishing the boundary lines sent their kids to a different school. Still, when most people hear the term “buyer’s remorse,” they’re thinking about something they bought. It’s also important to consider “reverse buyer’s remorse”—regret for not buying something.

I’ve had people know that everything about a home was right for them, but then they didn’t make a timely decision because they needed to think about it more, get a second opinion, or they just wanted to see more options. They delayed their decision, and they ended up losing out on the home they really wanted.

In all, avoiding homebuyer’s remorse comes down to understanding the homebuying process and feeling confident in your decision so you can make it in a timely fashion. It’s also important to understand several myths about homeownership and the hidden costs of homeownership.

5 Tips for Preventing Homebuyer’s Remorse

Here are more tips on how to avoid any regrets about your new home:

1. KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION

Talk to multiple lenders, and go through a thorough qualifying process with them so you know exactly what you can afford and exactly what payments you are comfortable with.

2. RETHINK “DREAM HOME” FOR THE “RIGHT HOME”

When you understand your financial picture, you may learn that you can actually buy your dream home and the payments will be in your comfort level.

Vice versa, you may learn that you have to change your search parameters. Stop looking for the dream home that isn’t possible, and instead, look for the right home that isn’t going to have you stressed out every month about whether or not you can make the mortgage payment and keep the lights on.

3. DON’T FORGET ABOUT FIX-ITS

Understand maintenance issues will come up, and you are responsible for fixing them when they occur. This goes back to knowing your financial situation.

4. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Noting that another common reason for remorse is a great house in a not-so-great area, before you get sucked in by looking at professional photographs of homes for sale, learn the area and the neighborhood first. Not just the actual neighborhood of surrounding homes, but drive around the outskirts of the community, go to the stores you would if you lived there, and even visit the schools if you have or plan on having kids.

5. THINK LONG-TERM

Don’t look at your home purchase with a short view and think you can always move in a year and make money in the process. It’s OK to outgrow a home, or perhaps a situation happens where you need a different place to live—that’s part of life. But you never want to be stuck because you weren’t prepared or you rushed into a decision.