20 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Jan 13, 2020 4 min read

It’s easy to fall in love with a house over the course of a few visits, but the countless issues you discover after moving in may make for a short honeymoon. Basic first-time homebuyer tips can help you know what to look for when buying a home, but what hidden red flags should you watch for? Some might surprise you.

The Property

  1. A Sloped Yard: If the yard slopes toward the house, it can cause foundation damage and water in your basement. Make sure to get an idea of any previous issues there may have been with the yard and how it might affect your house in the future.
  2. Low Water Pressure: You don’t want the first shower in your new home to be a weak dribble. Test the showerheads and all faucets throughout the house before purchasing.
  3. Concerning Foliage: Walnuts can be toxic to dogs, while falling fruit from mulberry and blackberry trees can cover your car (and shoes) in a sticky, staining mess. Does poison ivy lurk in the bushes? Will allergies be an issue in the spring? Check out the plant life to get an idea of whether or not the landscaping will affect your home.
  4. Slippery Hills/Driveways: If you’re buying in summer, consider what the property will be like in winter. Rolling hills could become an icy, slippery mess. Would the driveway be too steep to drive down if there’s ice on it? Or if there’s a dip at the end, will it turn into a sheet of ice?
  5. Monthly Fees: Inquire about the average monthly bills (like heat and electric) to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay. What is the property tax? Are there any monthly neighborhood or clubhouse fees you should know about?
  6. The Neighborhood

  7. Potential Neighbors: Make time to chat with a few of the neighbors. It will help you get an idea of what they’re like, and you can get their take on the local schools and what they like about the neighborhood to help you decide if you want to live in the area. 
  8. Night Disturbances: Most home visits happen during the day. Is there a train track nearby that will lead to 3 a.m. train whistles? Does a hooting owl take up residence in your tree? Ask the neighbors if your “quiet neighborhood” is quiet 24/7. Better yet, take a walk around the block in the evening, and see for yourself what it’s like after your potential neighbors are home from work.
  9. Rental Market: Find out how many rental properties are in the surrounding area. If you’re buying a home and looking to cultivate a community or put down roots, you might prefer to do it in a neighborhood where there are other more permanent residents like yourself. 
  10. Nearby Businesses: Some people want the convenience of living close to schools, grocery stores or other businesses. This could be a huge advantage if you don’t have a car, prefer to bike or walk, or wish to use public transportation. For others, proximity could be a drawback. A drugstore or grocery store might attract late traffic and congestion during school drop-off hours, or Sunday morning church services might make it hard to find street parking for your guests. 
  11. The House

  12. Windows That Don’t Work: On the first beautiful day of spring in your new home, you don’t want to suddenly realize your windows don’t open or are in need of repair. If you are buying a home during colder months, double-check that the windows open easily and aren’t damaged. 
  13. Entry Doors: Front and side doors stay open for walk-throughs or open houses, but they could also be concealing an issue. Make sure the doors open and close easily. Try to lock and unlock the doors; the last thing you need is to be relegated to using a side or less-convenient door in your new home.
  14. Laundry Room Location: Having the washer and dryer near a main living area will make your life a little easier. Check to see if the laundry room or laundry hookups are in a spot that’s convenient for you or if it’s tucked away in a dingy basement corner. Also, make sure all the equipment works and find out whether any equipment will soon need to be repaired or replaced. If so, this is a good time to consider whether or not a home warranty is worth it.
  15. Natural Light: Unfortunately, many factors outside of your control affect the natural lighting: the direction the house faces, size of the windows, neighbors’ trees and the shadows of surrounding houses. But you want to at least know what you’re getting into when buying your first home. Visit the home in the morning and afternoon. Pay attention to how much light the windows let into the rooms. Is it bright enough for you? Is it too bright?
  16. Wallpaper Woes: Are the rooms wallpapered? If you plan on painting the walls, wallpaper shouldn’t prevent you from purchasing a home, but it might be nice to know if there are two layers — or 10 — of wallpaper to remove. 
  17. Condition of the Floors: Homebuyers love to hear that a solid hardwood floor lies beneath a layer of smelly carpet. If a seller tells you this, ask about the condition of the wood floor and ask if they’ve seen it before. 
  18. Storage Space: Storage space is valuable but also often overlooked. Imagine where you will keep your vacuum cleaner, towels, linens and boxes of junk. If needed, is there room for additional cupboards or shelves to be built? 
  19. Hidden Issues: The seller doesn’t necessarily have to tell you about problems. In fact, they might use furniture and décor to hide lurking issues. Move the furniture around and check for wall cracks or floor problems that might be covered. 
  20. Functioning Faucets (and More!): Literally! Turn on every faucet and light switch, open every window and door, flush the toilets, check the water pressure and drains, and taste the water. You need to know how everything works firsthand and do your best to find out if there are any potential problems. 
  21. The Technology

  22. Cell Reception: You won’t be able to go without a landline if your cell phone keeps cutting out. Try checking reception in various parts of the house.
  23. Internet Access: Can you get high-speed internet, or are you limited to dial-up? If you’re in a rural area, you may be limited to more expensive satellite internet.

It’s important to inspect these things when buying a house for the first time so you reduce the likelihood of missing something that could be a major issue in the future.

Protect Your Home

When it comes to buying a house, compromises are inevitable. Make sure you’re informed about what concessions you’re making when buying your first home and stay prepared with adequate home insurance coverage. For help insuring your home, talk to you Farm Bureau agent today.

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.