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7 House Buying Tips for Saving Money

Couple talking with a realtor looking at a house

Whether you're ready to purchase your first house or are in the market for an upgrade, it's wise to make sure you're taking all the steps necessary to maximize your investment and save money. Use these seven house buying tips to guide and focus your search.

1. Go Under Budget

The first step is to figure out your budget. Use a calculator that considers interest rate, loan term and down payment to help you find your price range. Your best bet is to look at homes on the lower end so that you have a buffer for surprise expenses, like any modifications you may hope — or need — to make.

Build in room for extras like utility bills, repairs and maintenance, property tax and homeowners insurance. Commuting costs may go up, too, depending where you work and where you want to live.

2. Read the Contracts

Find out if any homes you're looking at are part of a homeowner's association, and take a look at the contract to see how this could affect you. If you're hoping at some point to make some extra cash by renting out a room or even the entire house, the contract may not allow it.

3. Pay Multiple Visits

When you're checking out a home, pop by at different times of day, including nights and weekends, to see what's happening in the neighborhood. Busy street? Rowdy neighbors? With a home costing so much, you're going to want to save yourself the stress of being locked into a spot you don't like — not to mention the trouble and cost of having to move again too quickly.

4. Survey the Property

Have a survey done on the property so you know exactly what you're buying. This can save you from disputes with neighbors and help you avoid buying a property that's actually smaller than you need. Property also helps determine property tax, which you'll want to know for your budget. Plus, plot size affects growth potential, including whether or not you can build a garage or other addition.

5. Note Major Repairs

Does it need a new roof? Is the hot water heater broken? As you visit homes, note any major repairs you'll have to make and knock them off your offer — or search for a different home altogether if it will involve too many headaches.

A home inspection will cover a lot, but be sure to ask questions, take notes and check things for yourself, too. The average inspection will cost a little over $300, according to HomeAdvisor. While this may seem like a large expense, it's insignificant compared to the cost of investing in a house that needs thousands of dollars in repairs.

6. Overcome Emotions

Bring a family member or friend who can offer an unbiased perspective and point things out you may overlook. Make a list of what you can change (cabinet fixtures, lighting) and what you can't (neighborhood, property size).

7. Plan for the Future

You may not want to think about selling a home before you've bought it, but take a long-term approach. Even if you don't have kids, school districts affect home value, and homes in "good" districts will have a higher resale value and attract more buyers.

Future neighborhood construction could push the value one way or another. Know what's slated in the community. A new development may interrupt views or add unwanted noise. Also remember that buying the biggest house in an area leaves less room to grow in value — and makes it harder to resell.

No matter what, take your time. Search neighborhoods you haven't considered. Check out the "ugly" mauve home that's been on the market for a year. You never know when you'll find the home that's right for you and your budget.

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