Families with young children also err if they don't fully investigate the local schools serving a neighborhood, including a visit to the principal's office, Wheeler said. In addition, they should scour a neighborhood in search of playmates, either by counting kids' bicycles or by knocking on doors, she said.
Smart buyers will also investigate what's ahead for the community on the basis of local planning and zoning decisions. That way they won't be shocked a couple years later when an apartment tower rises near their little bungalow, for example, Wheeler says.
No. 5: Becoming "house poor" to the exclusion of other interests.
If housing leads a buyer's priority list, he or she may be willing to reach to the top of the affordability range to obtain a princely property rather than a more ordinary one.
But many people also want to accommodate other priorities, like a passion for skiing or scuba diving, which take discretionary income. For those with multiple interests, Wheeler offers this advice: "Don't overstretch and lay down your last dollar."
Martin is a syndicated real estate columnist. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.