The Biggest Mistakes First-Time Buyers Make, According to TikTok
So, you’ve finally decided it’s time to ditch your tiny apartment (and your satanic Super) and make the move to the suburbs. Mazols! You’re one step closer to being a ‘real adult.’ But before you start browsing Zillow porn and making offers, there are a few first-time homebuying tricks you’ll want to keep in the back of your mind. Maybe you’ve already heard about the tennis ball test, which can save you thousands of dollars in foundation renovations. Or, maybe you know that a listing with ‘fixer upper’ in the description translates to: “this house is gonna need some work.” But there’s one source that you probably haven’t thought of when it comes to real estate advice: TikTok.
As it turns out, the app is a hidden gem for all things home, where the #FirstTimeHome hashtag has over 4.6 million views alone. The videos range from real estate brokers with expert tips for new homeowners to regular people who are sharing their biggest homebuying regrets (and, in turn, saving you thousands of dollars as you learn from their mistakes). So below, find five things to look out for before you close on that dream home—from re-prioritizing your ‘must have’ home features to checking cracks and air quality issues that could lead to unforeseen renovations down the line.
1. SKIPPING THE AIR QUALITY TESTOne feature the seller’s agent won’t advertise during the walk-through? The home’s slight mold problem. Take it from TikToker Jade Hooper, who moved into her dream home, only to be met with a toxic mold problem that led to a two-year lawsuit. “The best thing you can do—because you can’t see mold all the time—[is] an air quality test,” explains Hooper in the video above. Basically, you can either hire somebody to come in—or invest in an air quality pollution monitor—to test the air for mold spores that aren’t visible to the human eye. “The test is simple, easy and can totally save your ass,” Hooper adds.
2. IGNORING CRACKS THAT INDICATE STRUCTURAL ISSUESThe most important thing to look out for during a walk-through are cracks in the walls, ceilings, floors or foundation of the home. “Not every crack will be cause for concern, but normally the bigger they are, the bigger the issue,” explains TikToker Kyle Mattison in the video above. Often, cracks can be caused by structural issues—including subsidence, poor design, seasonal decay, brown plaster and water damage—which can cost you thousands of dollars in repairs down the line. “If there are cracks, look out for uneven flooring…Hairline cracks in plaster can be common, and these might just be a simple fix with filler. But when it comes to cracks, it's important to always get a survey,” Mattison adds.
3. MAKING LARGE FINANCIAL DECISIONS BEFORE YOU CLOSEThe easiest way to fail your credit check? By opening a new line of credit, making a large cash deposit, closing on a credit card, buying a car, changing jobs, increasing your credit limit or running up credit card debt. Basically, anything that significantly changes your bank account will be a huge red flag in the approval process. “It is all about debt to income ratio,” writes real estate broker Carys Eccleshall in the comments section of the TikTok above. Instead, wait until you close on the house to splurge on that new car (after all, you’re going to need somewhere to park it).
4. SACRIFICING HOME QUALITY FOR ‘MUST-HAVES’“If you limit your search criteria too much, you might miss out on the home that's actually a perfect fit,” says real estate broker Janine Nissa in the video above. Basically, you want to make sure you're paying attention to the quality of the home, instead of the ‘must haves’ you think you’re looking for. “Instead of saying, ‘[I’m looking for] a four-bedroom house, two stories, in this neighborhood,’ try prioritizing [what's] absolutely most important to you and keeping an open mind with the other aspects of the house. Maybe location is most important to you, so [you’d] prioritize that [first]. But maybe you can do a three bedroom or a one-story instead,” Nissa explains.
Real estate broker Paris Mcdonald backs this up in the TikTok below, saying: “Do not get distracted by the flashy details and ignore the quality of the home. A home could have beautiful countertops and bad plumbing. Or the foundation of the home could be great, but the paint inside is orange. The foundation and the potential of the home are much more important than the flashy details.”
5. TRYING TO GO ON YOUR OWNYes, when you work with a real estate agent, they get a percentage of the sale. But the money they save you can often outweigh those costs (not to mention preserve your sanity—a recent Zillow survey found 50 percent of people cried during the homebuying process).
“Even though mortgage rates have been fluctuating and recently spiked [past] 4 percent, if you have solid credit, you may want to lock in a good rate before they continue to rise,” Mcdonals says in the TikTok above. The best way to do this? By using a real estate broker who can help keep costs down. “Regardless of how great you are in math, there are a lot of unforeseen things that you [won’t] be able to calculate. [A real estate broker] can help you avoid overpaying for your home. [They] can also negotiate the sales price and the terms of the actual agreement.”
Beyond negotiating, they also have a stronger perspective of what homes in the area are worth and how to use the home inspection to your advantage.