New homebuyers' top 3 regrets—and how you can avoid them

Being a new homeowner comes with a lot of stress. Here are the most common ones buyers cited in conjunction with their most recent home purchases

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The decision to buy a home isn't one to be taken lightly. When you buy a home, you're signing up not just for a mortgage payment, but for a host of unavoidable expenses, like property taxes and insurance. You're also responsible for maintaining your property, whether it means getting up to mow the lawn or spending your weekends staining the deck, repainting the fence, and doing the million other tasks that come with having your name on that deed.

It's for these reasons that you'll need to approach the homebuying process carefully and strategically. While many buyers do just that, others inevitably come away with regrets. Here are the most common ones buyers cited in conjunction with their most recent home purchases, according to home services company Porch.

1. Not putting more money down

For 39% of homeowners, the biggest regret stems from not coming up with enough of a down payment. Ideally, you should aim to put down 20% of your home's purchase price at closing, because if you don't, you'll be hit with private mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI is a premium that's added to your monthly mortgage costs, thereby making your payments more expensive, so it's best to avoid it if you can. That could mean delaying homeownership for a year or two to boost your savings in the interim, or buying a less expensive home so that the sum you put down constitutes 20% of its cost.

Keep in mind that putting down 20% on your home will also give you equity in the property sooner. That could be crucial if you encounter a major repair and need to take out a home equity loan or line of credit to pay for it.

2. Not negotiating a better purchase price

A good 37% of homebuyers regret not pushing for a lower price on the properties they bought. If you're working with a real estate agent, he or she should be in a position to tell you how much wiggle room you have when it comes to the purchase price. If you're buying in a hot market with little inventory, you may not be able to negotiate downward. But if you're buying a home in an area where property values have held steady for years, then you may be able to get your seller to come down on price if you can make a compelling case for it.

For example, you might agree to a quick closing if that's what the seller wants. Or you might do the opposite—agree to a delayed closing if that suits the seller. You can also try pointing to flaws with the property as a reason to go below the asking price, but chances are, the seller has already accounted for those in establishing that number.

3. Not shopping around for a better mortgage

One major regret for 25% of homeowners is not snagging a better deal on a mortgage. Remember, in many cases, the mortgage rate you lock in will dictate your payments for the next 30 years, so it pays to explore your options and find the most competitive offer. At the same time, it definitely helps to boost your credit in the months leading up to your mortgage application. You can do so by paying bills on time and in full, paying down a chunk of your outstanding debt, and avoiding new credit card applications until your mortgage is locked in.

The mistakes you make in the process of buying a home could haunt you for years to come. Avoid these blunders to kick off homeownership on the positive note you deserve to enjoy.

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Article copyright 2019 by Maurie Backman from The Motley Fool. Reprinted from June 8, 2019 issue with permission from The Motley Fool.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
This reprint is supplied by Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC.
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