6. Being swept away

Minor upgrades and cosmetic fixes are inexpensive tricks that play on your emotions and elicit a much higher price. Sellers may pay $2,000 for minimal upgrades or staging that you'll end up paying $40,000 for. If you're on a budget, look for homes whose full potential has yet to be realized. Also, first-time homebuyers should always look for a house they can add value to; this ensures a bump in equity to help you up the property ladder.

7. Compromising on the important things

Don't get a two-bedroom home when you know you're planning to have kids and will want at least three bedrooms. By the same token, don't buy a condo just because it's cheaper when one of the main reasons you're over apartment life is because you hate sharing walls with neighbors. It's true that you'll probably have to make some compromises to be able to afford your first home, but don't make a compromise that will be a major strain.

8. Neglecting to inspect

It's tempting to think that you're a homeowner the moment you go into escrow, but before you close on the sale, you need to know what kind of shape the house is in. You don't want to get stuck with a money pit or with the headache of performing a lot of unexpected repairs. Keeping your feelings in check until you have a full picture of the house's physical condition and the soundness of your potential investment will help you avoid making a serious financial mistake.

9. Not hiring your own agent or using the seller's agent

Once you're seriously shopping for a home, don't walk into an open house without having an agent (or at least being prepared to throw out a name of someone you're supposedly working with). Agents are held to the ethical rule that they must act in the best interest of their clients, but if you're a buyer, you'll probably have a stronger advocate for your interests if you use your own agent and not the seller's.

10. Not thinking about the future

It's impossible to perfectly predict the future of your chosen neighborhood, but paying attention to the information that is available to you now can help you avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

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Some questions you should ask about your prospective property include:

  • What kind of development plans are in the works for your neighborhood?
  • Is your street likely to become a major street or a popular rush-hour shortcut?
  • Will a highway be built in your backyard in five years?
  • What are the zoning laws in your area?
  • If there is a lot of undeveloped land? What is likely to get built there?
  • Have home values in the neighborhood been declining?

If you're happy with the answers to these questions, your house's location can keep its luster.

Buying a first home can seem stressful and overwhelming, and it isn't without its share of potential pitfalls. If you're aware of those issues ahead of time, though, you can protect yourself from costly mistakes and shop with confidence.

For many people, a home is the largest purchase they will ever make, but that doesn't mean it has to be the most difficult.

This article was reported by Amy Fontinelle for Investopedia.