Many home buyers start out starry-eyed when they first embark on shopping for a house, with visions of a big backyard, a home office, a cute coffee shop down the block—and much, much more.
The problem? If budgets are tight (as they usually are), then all too soon, those dreams collide hard with reality. It can be a devastating mental adjustment for buyers who aren’t prepared.
Worried your own home search standards might be too much of a stretch? To help, allow us to point out some top dream home hopes that experts say you should ditch.
Trust us, it’s best you know these delusions upfront rather than down the road!
1. The hope that you won’t have to settle
Yes, daydreaming about the house you’ll own one day is fun. So is window shopping real estate listings online.
However, keep in mind that listing photos show a house in its best light, and the visions in your head are just a fantasy. The more you invest in these fantasies, the more jarring it can be to match those with a brick-and-mortar house.
So let’s just break it to you upfront: Odds are, your dream home won’t have everything on your wish list. OK? You’ll almost certainly have to sacrifice something and settle.
To get a more realistic barometer of properties you might consider, stop daydreaming, stop window-shopping, and set foot in a few open houses sooner rather than later. This will help ground your dreams and keep them from veering too much into flights of true fancy.
2. The hope that your dream home will be right on (or under) budget
Lots of buyers run into trouble when they combine big expectations with small budgets. Jessica Edwards, a real estate broker in North Carolina, explains that the problem often comes from buyers zeroing in on one number: the home’s purchase price.
“Many buyers get caught up on the purchase number,” she says, but the reality is that a home costs much more than just that.
“A house is always more expensive than you think it will be,” says Kevin Michels, a financial planner in Utah. “You may have factored in the mortgage payments, insurance, and property taxes. But what about the cost of new furniture, home improvements, home maintenance, utilities, cable and internet, yard maintenance, and HOA dues?”
Michels advises that buyers look at a home’s PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) to get a better idea of how much it will cost. “As a rule of thumb,” he says, “if your PITI cost is close to the budget you set for yourself, you’re buying too much home.”
3. The hope that your house will be huge
The thing about dream homes is that, in your imagination, they can get pretty large and luxurious. You might be fantasizing about lots of extra rooms for friends and family, a big backyard, a formal dining room, and maybe even a movie theater, but if you get too ambitious, you can run into problems.
Orell Anderson, president of Strategic Property Analytics, explains, “With house upkeep, cleaning, landscaping, pools, and other amenities, the costs associated with a larger home can really add up. Too much is not always good.”
While you may be thinking that you’d love a fabulous mansion with all the bells and whistles, that kind of home can be extremely pricy. And it will cost even more to maintain it.
Anderson suggests that you carefully consider what you truly need in your dream home, not just what you want.
“Think about the how much space you need to live in,” he says, “Are you planning on having any kids? If so, how many? Do you really need a home that is 3,500 square feet?”
4. The hope that your dream home will look just like houses on Instagram
After watching renovation shows on TV and following designers’ social media accounts, you may have high expectations for how your home should look.
“In the world of reality TV and social media, it seems like everyone has the most amazing designer home with all of the bells and whistles,” says “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” real estate agent James Harris. “Expectations can become skewed for buyers.”
So don’t expect a home to look Insta-worthy the instant you walk through the door. It’s likely to take time and your personal touch to bring it up to snuff.
5. The hope that your dream house won’t need repairs
Many home buyers assume that as long as they conduct a home inspection on a house and it comes out OK, they won’t have to do any major repairs for many years to come. That’s just not true.
“Home inspections really only point out the glaringly obvious problems that need to be fixed, and maybe not ones a few years down the road,” says Tyler Drew, a California real estate developer. “This can include siding and fascia degradation, trees growing through the main sewer or septic lines, or appliances, cabinetry, or windows nearing the end of their functional lives.”
It can be difficult to step into the role of homeowner.
As Drew says, “This is especially hard on long-time renters used to having landlords fix issues.”
6. The hope that remodeling your home will be easy (and cheap)
Want to make over the home so that it’s exactly to your liking? That’s fine, just keep in mind that even small upgrades can add up. This is especially true if you hire a professional to get it done right. Thinking you’ll dabble in a little DIY? That’s fine, but Harris warns that you shouldn’t get too excited.
“It is important to set realistic goals for the entire process that are within your reach,” he says.
In other words, go ahead and make your own cosmetic changes, but before you start knocking down walls or swapping out electrical components, do your research and make sure it’s within your skill set, and safe. For guidance, here are six home improvement projects never to try yourself.
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