Since I got my real estate license in 2005, I've heard all kinds of complaints from buyers about the house they ended up choosing. Even with an agent helping you focus on making the right decision, sometimes a buyer just falls in love with a house and all logic goes out the window and the purchase becomes emotional.
You can learn from the mistakes of other buyers. Here are the 5 of most frequent things I've heard over the past 6 years...
1. I hate the neighborhood. Drive by your target house MULTIPLE times at different times of the day and night. What seems like a quiet neighborhood during your Sunday morning showing could be completely different when the bar district 5 blocks away gets hopping on Friday night. Realtors like to use the "N.A.T." approach to finding out information about the area - Neighbors Always Tell. Go knock on a door or two and chat up the neighbors to find out the real scoop.
2. I can't afford these power bills. That charming Victorian may be full of character, but one thing it may not be full of is insulation. This is especially true if the upper rooms are finished attic space. Also, don't be fooled by windows that look new in an older house - many times they are single pane glass which is not energy efficient.
3. The floor plan isn't functional. Sure, that house looked adorable all dolled up with staging materials. The paint was neutral, the cabinets and counters were new, heck it even had stainless appliances... but did you notice all the bedrooms are upstairs and the only bathroom is downstairs? That's right. Better cut off all liquids 3 hours before bed or be prepared to sleep on the couch.
4. The zoning is completely ruining my re-sale value. Look carefully at the surroundings of your target house. Is there an apartment building across the street? A gas station next door? If your new home is in a mixed use area, be prepared to make a price adjustment downward when you have to sell it.
5. The street is too busy. The first lots in the subdivision are usually corner lots and look great, but every single person that lives in that neighborhood is going to drive past your house when they are coming or going. Also, houses that are located on a busy street are a turn off for future buyers and will impact your resale value.
You can avoid making these mistakes by working with an agent that helps you focus, not only on the things listed above, but other really important things you may not think of. For example, that 1960s ranch that is a time capsule in need of updating might need some work compared to the recently remodeled two-story - but if that 60s ranch is in a great location, on a quiet street, has a functional floor plan and good "bones", you will be much happier in the long run.