3 Bits of Outdated Home Buying Advice You Should Ignore

If you’re looking for a new home, friends and family members may be eager to dish advice that worked for them when buying.

While well-intentioned, their “words of wisdom” on everything from down payments to bidding on a home may be out of date.

That’s because the real estate market is constantly evolving. What was once considered solid home buying advice may no longer be applicable in today’s housing market.

And in some cases, following that advice could hurt your chances of closing on your dream home. Here are three outdated bits of home buying advice you should ignore.

Cash saved because of outdated home buying advice.
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Outdated bit of advice #1: save 20% for a down payment

Saving up 20% to put towards a down payment has become a gold standard in home buying.

But, in reality, this so-called rule (that can be traced back to the Great Depression!) is outdated.

You can actually put much less down. In fact, the average down payment for first-time homebuyers is 5%, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

A flaw with the 20% down rule is that it could end up costing you because market growth may outpace your savings.

For example, the $1 million home you’re looking at today could increase to $1.2 million during the timeframe in which you’re trying to save 20%. All the while, you could be losing out on the opportunity to earn equity and grow wealth with a home that’s appreciating in value.

Even if you could manage to put 20% down, it may make more sense for you to have that money liquid so you can put it in a high-interest savings account, have a sizeable emergency fund, or have a pool of money for home renovations that can increase your home’s value.

The bottom line: There is no one-size-fits-all for home financing. Always talk with a financial adviser and trusted real estate agent before deciding on the down payment option that’s best for you.

Outdated bit of advice #2: wait until summer to move

Summer is known as the most popular time to move. The temperatures are warm and school is on break.

Driving this opinion is the idea that there will be more inventory on the market. While that may be true, there will also most likely be a lot more competition.

Buying in winter or spring—or any other time that’s not considered the high peak of moving—comes with its own set of perks. Movers are more readily available and sellers are likely fielding less offers.

Outdated bit of advice #3: come in low on your offer

A family member may be nudging you to lowball your offer by 10% or 15%, claiming this gives you room to negotiate.

But the reality is this could offend sellers, and in competitive markets, sellers may not even entertain your offer. In fact, some sellers are entertaining so many offers that prospective buyers are writing “buyers’ letters” to help win bids.

However, you may have a little wiggle room if a home has been on the market for several months. Homes in the luxury market, for example, are selling slightly above 96% of their list prices, according to the August 2019 report from the Institute of Luxury Home Marketing.

Your best bet is to allow your agent to run the comps to see what homes nearby are selling for so you can make a fair offer.

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