Older couple talking with woman in living space

Don't blindly listen to advice from family and friends when searching for a new home. (Getty Images)

When you're buying a home, a lot can go wrong. Your seller, the lender, the appraiser or your real estate agent could do something to inadvertently sabotage the purchase of your new home. And, yes, even you could make a mistake. Homebuyers make plenty of them.

And in today's homebuying market, where demand is high and supply isn't, you can't afford to make any mistakes. This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what could go wrong, but if you're looking to buy a house, do what you can to avoid making these classic homebuying blunders.

[See: How to Talk to Millennials About Money.]

Not having your financing ready when you make an offer. If you want a house, and you love it, you don't have any time to waste, says Ryan Critch, chief executive officer of Ocean400 International Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"In today's environment if you love the house, don't leave without putting in your offer, or the next family will," he says. "Countless times over the last year families have experienced heartbreak by thinking about it. Get your offer in fast, and think about it during the negotiation. Don't lose your dream home."

Critch also says that when you make your offer, you shouldn't suggest you pay less than what the homeowner is asking. "In today's seller's market, we're often in multiple offer situations, and sellers have little patience for low offers," he says.

Not looking at homes before you're ready to make an offer. This is the period of homebuying where you're window shopping and learning about buying a house. But many homebuyers skip this stage, says Kate Ziegler, a realtor in Boston.

She recommends going to open houses as soon as you know you're in the mindset that you want to buy a house. Just know that even if you fall in love with a home, you won't make an offer since you haven't lined up the financing yet.

"The more properties you can visit in the early stages of a search, the more confident you'll feel signing the offer when you do find – the one," Ziegler says.


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By looking at a lot of homes early in the process, "it will help you learn what you're really looking for, give you practice evaluating potential homes with some emotional detachment, since you're not ready to offer anyway, and motivate you to keep moving forward as you see things come on and off the market," she says.

And this goes for any homeowner, and not necessarily first-time buyers, Ziegler says, adding: "If you've been off the market for more than a year, you're out of practice."

[See: 10 Money Leaks to Shut Down Now.]

Skipping or skimping on the home inspection. Many real estate agents say this is happening more and more, especially in a climate where homebuyers are trying to close a deal before anyone else does.

But don't do that, says Daniel Gyomory, a realtor with Century 21 Town & Country in Northville, Michigan.

"Some buyers want to save a few hundred dollars by not having an inspection done or by having their family member who isn't a licensed inspector do the inspection. This is a very big mistake," Gyomory says.

The reasons why it's a mistake should be obvious – if there are roof leaks you don't know about, foundation problems, mold issues or any number of reasons you might not want to buy a house, an inspector will probably find them. Otherwise, you'll find them – someday.

Blindly listening to advice from friends and family members. So you think you've found a house, but this is your first one, and you think it'd be a good idea to bring in Mom and Dad to take a look at the home with you. That can be a bad move, says Joshua Jarvis, a real estate agent and owner of Jarvis Team Realty in Duluth, Georgia.

"This one is common with first-timers," says Jarvis. "They go see 10 homes after eliminating 50 on the internet, and they invite the parents or Uncle Joe to see the home."

Because your parents and uncle care about you, any potential problem that they spot, they'll share with you. And while that's admirable that they're looking out for you, they didn't look at 50 homes on the internet or go to those other homes, Jarvis says.

"They're basing their decisions on their current perspective of their living situation. If you're going to rely on advice, then make the person go through as much of the process as you can," Jarvis says.

And, sure, Jarvis is speaking from the perspective of an agent who has often been close to a sale, only to have a well-meaning relative sabotage it. But chances are, if you start talking to friends who are homebuyers, they'll tell you stories of how a parent or in-law once talked you out of buying a home, and how ever since they've wistfully wondered if they made the right decision.

[See: 25 Ways to Fix Your Finances Fast.]

Buying too expensive of a home. Gyomory says that this happens a lot.

"Some buyers get their preapproval letter and want to look at houses that are at the very top of their price range, without thinking it through," he says.

Gyomory says that you should be thinking about not just those monthly mortgage payments but the cost of owning a home.

That is, you need to be thinking about how much it'll set you back when you buy a lawn mower or pay a service to cut your grass. You'll want to keep in mind that when you buy a home, you'll soon be making the owner of a local furniture store very happy. If you plan on having kids, someday you'll be begging them to turn off the lights and asking, "Do you think I'm made of money?"

In other words, to have a better future, think about those future costs.

The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2017


Slideshow

Live cheaper in these metro areas.

(Getty Images)

Living in the city of your dreams might be a nightmare if you can’t afford to live the way you would like. To help determine the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings, U.S. News broke down affordability in the 100 largest metro areas in the country. We examined what portion of the median blended annual household income went to the average cost of owning or renting a home, as well as the average cost of utilities and taxes. Read on for the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2017.

25. Washington, D.C.

25. Washington, D.C.

Washington DC, USA at the tidal basin with Washington Monument in spring season.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 4
Metro Population: 5,949,403
Median Annual Salary: $65,910
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.68 percent

Despite the District of Columbia having the fifth-highest cost of living out of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., the nation's capital is the 25th best affordable place to live. The District’s median blended annual household income – the median total income for households (rather than individuals) that rent or own a home in the area – is more than $95,000. This makes the blended annual cost of living – factoring in mortgage payments, rent, utilities and taxes – of slightly more than $25,000 comparatively affordable.

24. Charlotte, North Carolina

24. Charlotte, North Carolina

A foggy and colorful sunrise in Charlotte, North Carolina during the morning rush hour traffic.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 14
Metro Population: 2,338,792
Median Annual Salary: $48,370
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.66 percent

Charlotte comes in at No. 24, with residents spending 26.66 percent of the median blended annual household income on housing costs. With high scores in other categories, including net migration to the area and desirability among U.S. residents, Charlotte ranks 14th on the overall Best Places to Live list.

23. Tulsa, Oklahoma

23. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa downtown skyline with trees and the Arkansas river in the foreground.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 59
Metro Population: 962,676
Median Annual Salary: $43,730
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.54 percent

One spot behind another Oklahoma metro area, Tulsa keeps money in its residents’ pockets, with a blended annual cost of living at just 26.54 percent. With a median home price of just $148,788, according to real estate information company Zillow, homeownership is more accessible here than in many other U.S. metro areas.

22. Oklahoma City

22. Oklahoma City

Office buildings of Oklahoma city downtown, USA

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 36
Metro Population: 1,318,408
Median Annual Salary: $44,280
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.49 percent

With a median home price of $149,646, according to Zillow, purchasing a home in Oklahoma City is more than $50,000 less than the national average. Residents of Oklahoma’s capital spend just 26.49 percent of the median blended household income on housing.

21. Columbus, Ohio

21. Columbus, Ohio

Downtown Columbus, Ohio On A Sunny Summer Day With Reflection In The River.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 57
Metro Population: 1,972,375
Median Annual Salary: $47,420
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.47 percent

At No. 21 on the list, Ohio’s capital has a median home price of just $167,688, according to Zillow. On the overall Best Places to Live list, Columbus receives its highest scores for affordability and its growing job market, with finance and insurance and health care among the area's top industries.

20. Houston

20. Houston

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 20
Metro Population: 6,346,653
Median Annual Salary: $51,830
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.47 percent

The largest metro area to make the Best Affordable Places to Live list, Houston residents spend 26.47 percent of the median blended household income on housing. The Texas metro area also sees a relatively low cost of living despite the significant number of people moving there. Houston's population grew by 6.84 percent between 2011 and 2015 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

19. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

19. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The churches and neighborhoods seen from the South Street Parking Garage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 34
Metro Population: 558,198
Median Annual Salary: $46,520
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.41 percent

If you’re looking for an inexpensive home, Harrisburg is certainly the place. The median home price is just $83,500, according to Zillow. And while the median blended annual household income is also on the lower end, it balances well with the cheap cost of living, with residents spending just 26.41 percent of their income on housing.

18. St. Louis

18. St. Louis

This is a photograph of the old courthouse in front of the St. Louis arch in the middle of the day.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 65
Metro Population: 2,801,914
Median Annual Salary: $47,200
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.38 percent

On the eastern edge of Missouri, St. Louis remains affordable for residents despite being the state's largest metro area. Households in the St. Louis area spend 26.38 percent of their blended annual income on housing and utilities.

17. Kansas City, Missouri

17. Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri, USA – Aug. 16th, 2015.  A view of The Power & Light District in Kansas City

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 48
Metro Population: 2,055,675
Median Annual Salary: $47,640
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.31 percent

As a metro area straddling two states – Missouri and Kansas – Kansas City keeps the cost of living cheap for residents of both states. With housing and utilities typically costing just over 26.3 percent of the blended annual household income, Kansas City moved up two spots on the Best Affordable Places to Live list this year, when it ranked No. 19 in 2016.

16. Wichita, Kansas

16. Wichita, Kansas

A photograph of downtown Wichita, Kansas.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 68
Metro Population: 638,884
Median Annual Salary: $42,400
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.01 percent

The largest metro area in Kansas, Wichita has a population of just 638,884 people – on the smaller end of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. But a smaller population helps to make the area relatively affordable. Wichita residents spend just over 26 percent of their annual household income on housing and utilities.

15. Little Rock, Arkansas

15. Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock, AR, USA - June 12, 2015: View of W Markham Street in downtown Little Rock city, Arkinsas

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 38
Metro Population: 722,684
Median Annual Salary: $42,530
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.01 percent

Little Rock was the fourth Best Affordable Place to Live in the U.S. in 2016, but it has moved back on the list despite its residents spending less on housing and utilities this year. Little Rock residents currently spend 26.01 percent of their income on housing, compared to 27.21 percent last year.

14. Cincinnati

14. Cincinnati

Fountain square with the Tyler Davidson Fountain in Cincinnati.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 53
Metro Population: 2,139,466
Median Annual Salary: $47,030
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.97 percent

At No. 14, Cincinnati makes living easy on its residents, who spend less than 26 percent of their income on housing and utilities. With a median home price of $154,434, according to Zillow, Cincinnati’s housing market has seen modest increases in home values since 2014.

13. Louisville, Kentucky

13. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky, USA - April 10, 2016: Fourth Street Live, an entertainment and retail complex located in Louisville Kentucky.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 43
Metro Population: 1,261,936
Median Annual Salary: $43,410
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.91 percent

A ways south on the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Louisville’s cost of living consumes a slightly smaller percentage of residents' blended annual household incomes. A consistently declining unemployment rate and modest population growth due to net migration also contributed to Louisville’s No. 43 ranking in the overall Best Places to Live in the U.S. list.

12. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

12. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Durham, North Carolina, USA downtown cityscape.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 7
Metro Population: 1,750,865
Median Annual Salary: $51,150
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.85 percent

The fact that the Raleigh and Durham metro area is relatively affordable – with residents spending just 25.85 percent of the blended annual household income on housing and utilities – contributes to the trend in businesses and residents flocking to this North Carolina hot spot. Raleigh and Durham grew by 6.42 percent between 2011 and 2015 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it the 10th fastest-growing metro area due to net migration out of the 100 largest in the U.S.

11. Salt Lake City

11. Salt Lake City

"Skyline of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA in early spring as the sun sets.Prominent is the downtown district highlighting religious buildings that make up Temple Square including:  the Salt Lake temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the Joseph Smith Building (formerly the Hotel Utah), t and the historic pioneer Tabernacle. Also visible are the Eagle Gate Building, bank high rise buildings, and apartment condominiums of the City Creek Plaza. The snow-capped mountains of the Wasatch Front rise majestically in a compressed background.OTHER IMAGES OF SALT LAKE CITY"

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 10
Metro Population: 2,325,531
Median Annual Salary: $44,752
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.78 percent

Both the capital of Utah and the state’s largest city, Salt Lake City is also a popular stop for many skiers and outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore the nearby Wasatch Mountain Range. But the area also remains affordable for residents. Salt Lakers spend 25.78 percent of the blended annual household income on housing and utilities.

10. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

10. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 63
Metro Population: 819,861
Median Annual Salary: $43,700
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.74 percent

Louisiana’s capital rounds out the top 10, with residents spending 25.74 percent of their income on living expenses. Roughly two-thirds the size of its more widely visited in-state counterpart New Orleans, Baton Rouge attracts many college sports fans as the home of Louisiana State University.

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA – June 28, 2015: Central business district of Minneapolis. Together, Minneapolis and St. Paul anchor the second largest economic center in the Midwest behind Chicago.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 17
Metro Population: 3,458,790
Median Annual Salary: $53,450
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.71 percent

Minneapolis-St. Paul scores high for its flourishing job market and quality of life, but the area increases its appeal with a low cost of living. The Twin Cities have a median home value of $223,995, according to Zillow, which is slightly over the national average at $211,731. But residents still only pay 25.71 percent of the blended annual household income toward housing and utilities.

8. Syracuse, New York

8. Syracuse, New York

view of the city of Syracuse, new york

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 28
Metro Population: 661,914
Median Annual Salary: $47,330
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.66 percent

The first of two Upstate New York metro areas on the list, Syracuse is affordable for renters in particular, as the average monthly rent is just $771, according to Zillow. Whether they own or rent, Syracuse residents pay 25.66 percent of the blended annual household income toward housing and utilities.

7. Buffalo, New York

7. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, behind New York City.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 33
Metro Population: 1,135,734
Median Annual Salary: $45,060
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.54 percent

As one of the country's former industrial hubs, Buffalo has shrunk significantly over the last 60 years. But the good news is area residents benefit from a low cost of living. Spending just 25.54 percent of the blended annual household income on housing and utilities, Buffalonians have also been enjoying steadily declining unemployment rates since 2012, dropping from 8.5 percent that year to 5 percent in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

6. Pittsburgh

6. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Skyline shot from the North Side. Park benches in the foreground.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 58
Metro Population: 2,358,926
Median Annual Salary: $46,270
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.49 percent

Moving up from the No. 11 spot in the 2016 ranking for the Best Affordable Places to Live, Pittsburgh's residents spend less than 25.5 percent of the blended annual household income on housing and utilities. With a median home price of $141,577, homeownership in the Steel City is roughly $70,000 below the national average, according to Zillow.

5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

bikers and walkers use the Razorback Greenway over the dam at Lake Fayetteville in Northwest Arkansas on a sunny day with whit clouds

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 5
Metro Population: 493,095
Median Annual Salary: $43,570
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.47 percent

The fastest-growing metro area in Arkansas takes the No. 5 spot. Residents spend 25.47 percent of the blended annual household income on a mortgage or rent and utilities. Also coming in the overall Best Places to Live list at No. 5, Fayetteville is seeing significant population growth, plus a short commute time and low crime rate contribute to its appeal among the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S.

4. Grand Rapids, Michigan

4. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Aerial shot, looking north, up the Grand River over downtown Grand Rapids.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 19
Metro Population: 1,017,877
Median Annual Salary: $42,950
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.36 percent

Turning back to the Midwest for the remaining four Best Affordable Places, this western Michigan metro area costs residents little, with just 25.36 percent of the blended annual household income going toward housing and utilities. Like Fayetteville, Grand Rapids also lands in the top 20 of the overall Best Places to Live ranking, with a strong job market and high college readiness scores among high school students.

3. Indianapolis

3. Indianapolis

Image of the Indianapolis skyline with busy traffic and dramatic sky.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 55
Metro Population: 1,950,674
Median Annual Salary: $45,780
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.24 percent

At No. 3, Indianapolis costs its residents 25.24 percent of the blended annual household income for housing and utilities. In the past year, Indiana's capital has become a more affordable city for its residents, as housing took up 27.31 percent of the typical household income in 2016.

2. Omaha, Nebraska

2. Omaha, Nebraska

"Photograph of Omaha, Nebraska."

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 25
Metro Population: 895,919
Median Annual Salary: $44,920
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.18 percent

Omaha ranks the second Best Affordable Place to Live in the U.S., with residents spending 25.18 percent of the blended annual household income on housing and utilities. With a median home price of just $152,450, according to Zillow, homeownership is achievable for many residents in the metro area.

1. Des Moines, Iowa

1. Des Moines, Iowa

Urban cityscape

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 9
Metro Population: 601,187
Median Annual Salary: $47,170
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 23.8 percent

Iowa’s capital is 2017’s Best Affordable Place to Live is the only one out of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. to have a cost of living below 25 percent of the blended annual household income. Des Moines moves up one spot on the Best Affordable list from last year, where it ranked second to Fayetteville.

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Tags: money, personal finance, real estate, housing market, financial literacy


Geoff Williams has been a contributor to U.S. News and World Report since 2013, writing about a variety of personal finance topics, from insurance and spending strategies to small business and tax-filing tips.

Williams got his start working in entertainment reporting in 1993, as an associate editor at "BOP," a teen entertainment magazine, and freelancing for publications, including Entertainment Weekly. He later moved to Ohio and worked for several years as a part-time features reporter at The Cincinnati Post and continued freelancing. His articles have been featured in outlets such as Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and Ohio Magazine.

For the past 15 years, Williams has specialized in personal finance and small business issues. His articles on personal finance and business have appeared in CNNMoney.com, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes.com and American Express OPEN Forum. Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Williams lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his two teenage daughters and is a graduate of Indiana University. To learn more about Geoff Williams, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow his Twitter page.

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