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What home buyers would have done differently 

Homeownership can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. And they can occur at all phases. Some are somewhat skeptical about their purchase initially but grow to absolutely love it. For others, it's the reverse - they adore their place in the beginning, but after a few months or years, aren't as wild about it as they were back then. 

It raises an interesting question: If first-time buyers had to do it all over again, or were given the opportunity to do so, what would they change? Here are a few of the most common mistakes first-time homebuyers make. Being cognizant of them —whether you're on the cusp of buying a house or are in the market a second or third time — can help you avoid making decisions that you may come to regret: 

1. Not factoring in the hidden costs  

When you see the price of a house you like and it's within your budget, it's a great thing. However, there are several added expenses that the price doesn't include, such as mortgage insurance, property taxes and repairs. According to a 2018 poll from Bankrate.com, in the average year, a homeowner pays roughly $2,000 just to maintain their place's upkeep. 

Rely on your real estate agent to give you the whole picture. If you are a debut or repeat buyer, run the numbers and evaluate all the costs that come with buying a house. You may not be able to get a precise figure, but the more people you talk to, the better off you'll be in determining what a house will cost you over the long term.  

2. Thinking with your heart rather than your head 

When it comes to buying a house, love at first sight really does exist. When you see a potential home that looks great from the listings —and visiting the place confirms your initial reaction — it's a wonderful feeling. The problem is the rush of emotion can lead to impulsivity, buying the house without doing your research into the property's history. It may also result in a bidding war, where you are keen on purchasing the home so long as it is within the range that was pre-approved by your lender. 

Instead, it's best to adjust your expectations and not let emotions guide your decisions. No house is perfect, so try to be as objective as possible and not rush into anything until you're certain you've covered all your bases before you make a formal commitment. 

3. Foregoing or paying a minimal down payment 

Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding people often have upon entering the home buying process is the down payment. Some think they're required to come up with a 20% down payment when in reality they can pay much less. Some mortgages don't require any down payment whatsoever. 

If you have the ability, consider putting as much toward the down payment as possible. In addition to the fact that this helps you build equity faster, a down payment helps you reduce how much you spend on monthly mortgage payments and will help you pay off your loan faster, potentially years quicker. 

It's important to note that you should only pay as much toward your down payment as you can reasonably afford. In other words, if it requires draining your savings dry, then it's probably too much. 

4. Not taking advantage of a land survey 

There are several reasons why buying a house is typically the biggest decision a person makes in their life. It's not only a significant investment, but it can result in opportunities as well.  

The extent of those opportunities may be available through a land survey. While getting one isn't required, it can be very helpful and give you more room to improve or use your land how you want. As noted by HGTV, a professional survey may determine that you have much more square footage of land area than the seller led you to believe. This means you have the legal right to use the extra space as you would like.  

5. Failing to refinance 

Interest rates have been low for quite some time now, but they're particularly low today, averaging 2.87% among 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, according to the most recent statistics available as of this writing from Freddie Mac.  

The general consensus is refinancing makes sense if you can lower your interest rate by even half a percent. Some may opt not to refinance because of the paperwork involved or feel like such a small percentage difference won't amount to much. In reality, it can save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. 

Your awareness of these pitfalls can help you make the most of your home buying experience so you never come to regret it.