I bought a house, yay – in 2015!
I realised so fast how much goes into buying a home for the beginner.
I was in a rush to move away from a rental property to my house.
The things I didn’t realise as a first-time homebuyer are that I’d have to pay more than a renter.
For example, I didn’t think of property tax, the cost of renovation or creating the home to be mine.
I ended up spending more money on renovations than what I paid for the house.
Buying your first house may be the dream for many Kenyans but it’s not about buying the house only.
Are you thinking about buying your first home?
Are you already in the home buying process and are looking for first time home buyer mistakes to avoid?
A lot of us want the best home buying experience especially if you are a first time home buyer and you do not understand what goes on.
Buying a house can be an uphill task.
From looking for the best homes to taking out a loan to pay for your house. It can be a lot of work and quite risky.
You will work with realtors you don’t know, read about on Google reviews, you will incur costs you didn’t plan for, put your money on the line – it’s stressful if not confusing.
You cannot afford to make a single mistake; otherwise, you can suffer huge losses on your finances.
For this, it is best to know what mistakes first time home buyers make and how you can avoid them.
25 Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make
These are the mistakes that first time home buyers make.
Look out for them if you want to have a smooth home buying experience.
- Not inspecting your new home.
When you are buying a house for the first time, the most responsible thing you can do is to do a thorough home inspection.
A home inspection allows you to identify any potential health and safety hazards that can cause any significant threat to you or your family.
Do not skimp on the home inspection.
Hire someone who is going to help you do a thorough and honest home inspection.
Do not just rely on what the seller is telling you about their house.
This is something that most forgets the time home buyers fall for and they end up with the short end of the stick once they realise that had been lied to.
- Not considering new housing types.
As a first time home buyer, the idea of settling into your desired home is exciting.
The rush of emotions that accompanies moving into a new home can be overwhelming.
It is important that you do not make the mistake of not considering other housing types with similar offerings.
You may find better affordable housing deals if you just slow down this process a little bit more.
You will also get a clear perspective on why you want to move into a home in a given area and not the other one.
- Not considering the quality of the neighbourhood and schools.
If you are going to move into this new home, you have to consider what the neighbourhood and the schools there are like.
Do not make the mistake of settling in your home without finding this out first. Is the neighbourhood peaceful or hostile?
How far is it off from the city?
Is it a safe neighbourhood?
What about your neighbours?
Are they likeable?
Are they of an age group you prefer?
Now let’s go to the schools.
Are they far from your new home?
Are they expensive or affordable schools?
What about their reputation?
If you like the neighbourhood and the schools that are near your new home, you can go ahead and move in, but do not do this if you have not established these facts.
- Not having written agreements
A written agreement between you and the seller of the property is mandated for court rulings and proceedings.
If there is something that you need to make sure you have proof of, ask the seller of the house to have a written agreement with you.
Most first time home buyers are too scared to ask for this because they do not want to come off as too untrustworthy. As I said, you cannot be too careful.
Do not make the mistake of getting into a verbal agreement, because then, it will be your word against theirs and this may or may not go well for you in case things get out of hand.
- Not planning your finances
A housing budget is important for any person who is buying a home for the first time.
You need to plan for the housing costs as well as all the expenses that you are going to incur when you are buying your new home.
Come up with a housing budget so that you do not fall short in your expenses.
Include money for a down payment, moving expenses, furnishing and decorating expenses, closing costs etc.
When you plan your finances, the home buying process will become much easier.
If you make the mistake of not planning your finances, you may end up finding yourself in huge debt.
- Not understanding how much house you can afford
What is your current income?
How much of your savings have you invested into buying this new home?
What is the size of the house you want to buy?
What is its location?
Can you afford it?
As a first time home buyer, you may be on a whim to find the best house possible with a limited budget.
However, it is illogical to want a house in Lavington with a budget that can only allow you to buy a house in Kasarani.
Always understand how much house you can afford and work around this budget.
- Opting out of the home buying process altogether
It is a rookie mistake to keep going back and forth in your home buying process.
While I’m not saying that it is not a good thing to pull out when you realise you have been given a bad end of the deal, it is wiser that you do thorough research on the home you are planning to buy.
You will save yourself a lot of time, energy and money pursuing something that you will drop along the way.
- Not considering the resale value
What would you sell the home for today if you were planning to move out?
Will it be at an appreciating or a depreciated value?
Will you need to do any renovations and improvements to the house before you can resell the house?
If you are not planning to stay in this new home for a long while, then do not make the mistake of failing to look at the resale value. It will be worth it especially if you consider this bee home an investment.
- Buying without a broker
This is another mistake that first time home buyers make.
Most first time home buyers want to do their own research into the real estate market, scout for houses and trust their gut when they want to buy a home.
This is wrong and a serious mistake.
If you do not have any experience or skills in real estate, it is best you hire professionals who are going to help you find the perfect home for you and your family.
A real estate broker can spot things in your new home that you cannot even figure out at a glance.
You are much safer when you are working with them.
- Buying a home when you are in debt
Buying a home is expensive. You will not get all the money you want to buy the home in cash.
Most first time home buyers want to take out a mortgage to buy their homes.
This is good.
However, if you have a series of debts that you are struggling to pay off, you may want to steer clear from buying a home just yet.
If you make the mistake of buying a home when you are already strapped in debt, it is going to be difficult to come out and your house may even be taken away if you cannot pay your creditors back.
- Putting in little savings for the down payment
You have to put in at least a 20% down payment when you are buying a new home.
If you set a good foundation for the down payment, the other series of payments thereafter will be much easier to take care of.
Do not make the mistake of saving little money for the down payment on your new home.
A bigger downpayment means not much cash or mortgage payment later.
- Having a wrong lender
When you are taking out a mortgage loan to buy a home, do not make the mistake that first time home buyers make.
You have to look at the reputation of the company you are getting your loan from as well as the terms of the agreement between you and your lender.
If what they have suits your needs, then you can go ahead and take a mortgage from the lender.
- Ignoring other costs that come with the house
What other expenses are you going to incur when you buy this home?
Are you going to be doing renovations?
Is there any maintenance that you need to do on the house?
You also have to think about other costs that are going to affect you outside your home, for example getting to the next supermarket or going to school.
You have to factor in all these costs.
Do not make the mistake of ignoring other costs that come with your new home because it is going to have a devastating effect on you later on.
- Not considering future functionality
Is this home you are buying only going to serve you?
How long do you intend to keep it?
When I talk about future functionality, I mean the ability of this new home to accommodate you and your family in the long term.
This is to say that if you intend to have a bigger extended family someday, you may want to buy a bigger home so that you do not have to keep moving out, say when you start getting kids or you have to live with your parents.
- Ignoring zoning regulations
I’ve heard a lot of incidents of people buying homes in places that have been marked off by the government without them knowing.
The result of this is usually hurtful to see.
If you make this mistake and do not check the zoning regulations, you may find the house you have bought was demolished by the state you are in.
Do thorough research and work with professionals to help you identify which spots are safe to buy your homes.
Avoid buying a home near busy roads or near public government institutions.
- Not looking for first time home buyer programs
If you are a first time home buyer and you do not have reliable people you can trust to help you in the home buying process.
Consider opting into the home buyer programs that will help you find the home of your dreams in a matter of days if not weeks or months.
There are government programs that are tailored towards helping low and middle-income earners to buy homes in Kenya.
For example, we have the Boma Yangu project which is under the Big Four Agenda that serves this purpose.
- Hunting for a home before a mortgage
Sometimes you may want to start house hunting before you get a mortgage on a house.
This is a common mistake I see a lot of people making.
You have to look for a mortgage and establish all the tax benefits and the interest you are going to get on a mortgage before you hunt for a house.
Most importantly, you need to know that you can even be approved for a mortgage loan.
Depending on the mortgage you have got, you can work within this budget to buy your home.
- Getting just one mortgage quote
When you have gotten the first mortgage quote from your lender, do not stop there.
A lot of first time home buyers make the mistake of going with the first deal that is placed before them.
Truth is, you may be settling for a bad deal.
Take your time and ask for a mortgage quote that satisfies all your needs.
You need to be careful here because you do not want to get stuck with a mortgage loan that you cannot afford to pay for the rest of your life.
Get more than one mortgage quote and make it a point to do your research and work with professionals.
- Depleting your credit before final loan approval
Do not deplete your credit before you are approved for a loan.
You may reach your credit card limit and then get disapproved of a loan.
How horrible is that going to be?
Do not count your eggs before they hatch.
This is a very important saying that can apply to you as a first time home buyer.
You want to make sure that you can save and retain your money well because it is going to come in handy for you when expenses start to pile up and you are running short of cash in your housing budget.
- Making decisions based on emotions
Buying a house is a very emotional thing.
From looking at houses online to taking out huge loans from the bank to buy your dream home.
You have to train yourself to always place logic over emotions.
This is a long term commitment that you will be investing a lot of money into.
Take this home buying process as an active minefield.
One wrong move can cause things to blow up before you can even say, Jon Snow.
Have an accountability partner to help you keep things in check at all times.
- Being unclear of your current financial status
What is your current financial position?
How much do you have available to buy a home and still maintain your day to day life activities?
If you are unsure about this and you still go ahead to buy a home, you are making a dangerous mistake.
You have to know that you can afford to buy a home with your current income and still be able to support yourself in this process.
If you find yourself struggling to do this, then you should put off buying a home and invest your money into saving for this house that you so badly want.
- Talking to only one lender
If you are taking out a loan to help you buy a home, do not make the mistake of talking to only one lender.
Ask for different lending options and look at the terms and conditions of taking out a mortgage from any lender before you make a decision.
I would advise you to go for a low interest-paying mortgage with positive tax benefits rather than settling for one which is going to drain your finances in terms of interest and tax benefits.
- Moving too fast
Sometimes you may be in a rush to settle in your new home because of a new job or anything else.
Please, do not rush this process.
Do your research and start the home buying process as soon as possible.
If you take the plunge into buying your first home without preparing yourself, you may get lied to, conned.
Getting lied to and conned wastes time, energy and money in a home that is not worthwhile.
Don’t make the mistakes that everyone else is making.
Take your time and you will find the best deal.
- Draining your savings
This here circles back to knowing your financial status before you choose to invest in any type of house.
You have to know that you are able to invest in the home you are choosing to buy without draining your savings or living yourself on the verge of financial ruin.
Save money to buy your first home.
The earlier you start doing this, the better it will be for you.
- Not budgeting for the closing costs.
Closing costs are the expenses that are incurred over the house’s prices that you will incur with the seller in order to complete a full transfer of the real estate transaction.
These costs include, but are not limited to taxes, title insurance, loan and appraisal fees among others.
You need to prepare for the closing costs and have a proper budget for these costs before you buy your home.
If you make the mistake of not budgeting for the closing costs, you will be operating at a loss.
First-Time Home Buyer Requirements in Kenya
Set/have a budget
Have a downpayment /save for a downpayment
Understand the hidden cost of homeownership
Compare rates from multiple lenders
Ask if a mortgage is necessary
Pick the right house and neighbourhood – think about your long term needs
Are you buying a new, fixer-upper, or are you building the house?
Pay for inspection of mould, pests, roof, crawl space/attic
Negotiate the price down
Things First-Time Home Buyers Need to Buy
The following are things you need for your first home and they include:
A Wi-fi enabled smart doorbell
Home security system
Took kit for hammers, screwdrivers, measuring tape, cordless drills
Safe – waterproof and fireproof, for keeping/storing birth certificates, cash, title deeds, banking records, tax reports/payments, will. A safe can be mounted to a shelf/wall
Garbage disposal /recycle plan
a garden for relaxing or getting vitamin D or for working
Resources Related to Mistakes First Time Home Buyers Make
Questions to Ask Before Buying Your First House in Kenya
How to Save For Your First House When Broke in Kenya
What are the Things You Need For Your First Home in Kenya
FAQs on Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make
- What should you avoid when buying a home for the first time?
Not knowing what you can afford
Use all your saving and not have money for repairs
Thinking that homeownership means no bills. There are bills like property taxes and insurance to consider
Not putting repairs/renovations in mind
2. What’s the best time to buy a house?
Any time is the best time to buy a house.
3. How much should I save before buying a house?
Before buying a house ensure you have a cash reserve and a year’s living expenses.
4. How expensive should your house be?
Your house should be as expensive as you can afford.
5. Should you use all your savings to buy a house?
NO, never use all your savings to buy a house.
6. What’s house poor?
House poor is spending your income on a mortgage, property taxes, maintenance, utilities, insurance. House poor happens you don’t realise the true cost of homeownership.
7. What do I do to avoid being house poor?
Do the following to avoid being house poor:
Buy an affordable house
ay debt before purchasing a house
Have an emergency fund
Try budgeting with one income.
Buying your first home can be thrilling.
You are going to make major decisions and if you are not careful, you may make some mistakes that you will probably regret immediately or later on.
As a first time home buyer, do your due diligence.
I’ve heard stories of many people who weren’t keen on their home buying process and they ended up paying by living in a house they don’t like and paying huge amounts of money to pay it off.
Research on things you do not know.
Work with professionals.
They are the people who will give you much-needed insight when it comes to buying your home as a first-timer.
They will also point you out of any mistakes that you will be making in the process.