7 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home


After saving your hard-earned cash, assessing your options and wondering if the time and market conditions are right, you've finally decided to buy a new home. Now, we all know this can be one of the most stressful times in anyone's life, but how can you make it easier? Of course, the last thing you need is to be making avoidable errors at this point. 

So, what mistakes do people make when buying a home? Let’s explore these in more detail:

Key Takeaways

  • The home buying process is a jog, not a sprint — it’s important to carefully calculate every move to set yourself up for more comfort in the future.
  • Professionals are here for a reason. Don’t try to go through this process alone. Mortgage brokers, real estate agents, lawyers, and other professionals can give you sound advice — and most people need this guidance and clarification; there’s no shame in it!
  • Think about the big picture when buying a home. This includes the costs associated with homeownership and other factors, like your location and tolerance for repair jobs.

1. Not Securing Pre-Approval from a Lender

It's going to be an awful disappointment if you find the perfect home only to discover that there’s no mortgage solution possible for you, even with your deposit. Securing pre-approval will allow you to know what you can afford before you even start looking, enabling you to avoid this kind of heartbreak. It also makes your negotiations much easier as you can demonstrate to the seller that you are a qualified buyer.

However, don’t confuse pre-approval with pre-qualification. The latter will give you an idea of your price range, but it is not as in-depth of a review as the former. If you need more information on how mortgage pre-approvals work, take a look at my blog post on this topic.

2. Going Solo

Many people think they can save money (and a few extra steps) by not using a real estate agent. However, there are many pitfalls that using a real estate agent would save you from. Real estate agents have a boatload of experience with buying homes that most people just don't have, and you can bet that they’ll help you dart around a few icebergs along your journey toward home ownership. They will be able to suggest:

  • What you need to look for that you may have never considered.
  • The problematic elements of the sale.
  • The correct background checks you need, such as an in-depth review of the property in question. 
  • Reputable home inspectors and other professionals, such as real estate lawyers.

3. Not Checking Out the Neighbourhood Before Buying

This may seem like an obvious point, but there are many aspects to it. Hopefully, you're going to spend many years in this area, so you should get to know it inside out. In my experience, many people don't look into this deeply enough, so here are a few pointers:

  • If you’re planning on having children or already have little ones of your own, what are the local schools like? You need to be sure they meet your standards and requirements.
  • Check the local amenities. You don't want to have to travel for miles just to get a loaf of bread!
  • Does the area have the transport connections that you need? Would commuting be easy?
  • Is there somewhere to walk the dog? A playground for the kids to use?
  • Is there a high crime rate?

Of course, these are just a few examples. You will surely have your own personal priorities. Make a list of what you need from your neighbourhood, and then research a little to determine its suitability.

4. Failing to Consider Additional Expenses

Everyone knows that when they buy a house, they will have to come up with monthly mortgage payments, but there's more to owning a home than that! Unfortunately, many people fail to account for all the expenses and, therefore, may struggle because they took a mortgage that was more than they could afford once other costs were added to their plates. Here are a few other expenses that you should consider:

  • Utility bills
  • Property taxes
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Home insurance
  • Life insurance

This list is not exhaustive, and other costs may be specific to the property, such as condo or home association fees. If you need a bit of extra help with this, take a look at my mortgage affordability guide.

5. Making Snap Decisions

The most significant influence on most buyers' decisions when choosing a home is their first impression. However, this can lead you astray! Before you even enter a property, you should make a conscious decision to be as objective as possible. Minimizing bias maximizes focus. Remember that sellers often rely on that first impression to sway potential buyers such as yourself.

That means not falling for the set dressing. For instance, the seller may have just redecorated to cover some otherwise obvious faults. They may have put in expensive decor to give the impression of a luxurious home. Even if you love a house at first sight, ensure that you still get all the proper checks done and that the place ticks all the boxes you need.

On the other hand, a place may look like a total mess and have the most awful decor imaginable, but underneath all that could be some good bones, so to speak. Dig deeper and spend time really getting to know the place. No doubt it’ll look fantastic once your own decorating preferences, mementos, and furnishings have been added.

6. Not Reading All the Paperwork

Understanding the paperwork involved in buying a home is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your investment. Here’s why:

Buying a Home is a Big Financial Commitment

The paperwork involved in this process is complex. You’ll likely be signing contracts, agreements, and disclosures that outline the terms of the sale, your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner, and any conditions or contingencies that need to be met before the sale can be finalized.

Paperwork is Legally Binding

This is a fancy way of saying: Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, you agree to the terms of the contract, and it can be difficult or impossible to make changes later on. For example, if you don’t read the fine print and later realize you’re responsible for paying for updates and repairs you didn’t expect, you’ll be on the hook for those costs.

So, how can you ensure you understand all the information in your paperwork? Here are some tips:

  • Take your time. Don’t rush through the documentation. We’re all guilty of quickly scrolling through terms and conditions and checking “accept,” but if there’s any case not to continue that habit, it’s here. Read each document carefully, and take notes or ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand — this is your future we’re talking about. 
  • Ask for help. If you have a hard time comprehending what’s in front of you, don’t be afraid to ask your real estate agent, lawyer, or mortgage broker for help. They have years of experience seeing and interpreting technical terminology, and they can explain things in plain language so you know what you’re getting into before you sign.
  • Review the documents in advance. No rule says you have to sign your documents right on the spot. For extra reassurance, ask your agent or lawyer to provide you with copies of all the documents you’ll need to sign. This will give you time to go home, review them, ask for opinions, and sleep on any other thoughts in advance.
  • Get everything in writing. If there’s something that you and the seller have agreed to that isn’t included in the paperwork, make sure it makes it into the final contract before you sign. Failure to do this increases the likelihood that the spoken agreement will fall through the cracks.

7. Not Getting a Home Inspection

This step, while not legally required, is one of the most important in the home-buying process. Some people forgo this in order to save a little extra money. But it may end up costing them more in the long run. 

A home inspection is a thorough examination of the physical structure and systems of a home conducted by a professional. During this process, your inspector will look at things like the condition of the roof, foundation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and more. They will also point out any potential problems, such as water damage, mould, or pests. Getting a home inspection is crucial for several reasons:

  • Identifying potential problems: A home inspection can uncover problems that may not be apparent at first glance when you visually walk through a potential property. This can include issues with the foundation, roof, or behind-the-wall problems. Identifying these before you buy can help you avoid costly repairs down the line.
  • Negotiating repairs or price: If your inspector reveals any issues, you may be able to negotiate with the seller to have the repairs made or to adjust the price of the home to reflect the necessary repairs.
  • Peace of mind: No one wants to move into a home only to find that it’s not what they thought it was. A home inspection simply provides peace of mind knowing your investment is in good condition and won’t give you significant headaches in the future.

So, how can you ensure you’re getting a proper home inspection? First, ensure you choose a reputable home inspector — as mentioned above, when you work with professionals like real estate agents and mortgage brokers, they likely will have some contacts you can refer to. Here’s what else you should keep in mind:

  • Attend the inspection. Walk through the home with the inspector so you can see these issues first-hand and ask any questions on the spot. For example, you may want to know if a particular concern is urgent or not.
  • Review the report: After the inspection, ensure you review the report in detail and ask for help if you don’t understand it.

As Your Mortgage Broker, I Can Help You Avoid Mistakes

Buying a new home is a big decision, but that doesn’t mean taking giant, careless leaps toward the big closing date. Make sure you take your time with it and consider the fundamentals in terms of budget, suitability, and lender approval. Your mortgage broker can help with many of these factors. As an experienced mortgage broker, I offer the resources you need for a smooth homebuying process. Get in touch today, and let's chat!

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About Andrew Thake

Andrew Thake is a seasoned mortgage broker with over 15 years of industry experience. He’s assisted more than 2,200 clients in finding their ideal mortgage solutions. Recognized for his excellence, Andrew has received high honours and awards, including the National Rookie of the Year from TD Canada Trust and recognition as a Top 10 Ottawa Mortgage Broker in 2023. He has also been inducted into the Hall of Fame at Dominion Lending Centres and has consistently received their Platinum Award during his tenure as a mortgage broker.

Andrew’s dedication lies in serving his clients and prioritizing their needs with an empathetic approach. Throughout the application process, he provides tailored, informed, and efficient services to ensure the best mortgage solutions for his client’s unique circumstances. The best part of Andrew’s job is when he gets to see the joy on his clients’ faces following their mortgage approval.

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