1. 99% of the time, for those of us on a budget, you can't get everything on your list. Prioritize on what is more important and what you can improve. For us, the cost, size, and location were things we were set on. The style of the house and amount of improvements/renovations were something we were willing to take on.
2. Your estimated mortgage doesn't usually include the property taxes, home owner's insurance, or HOA fees (if you have them). Take that into consideration when calculating your budget.
3. Chances are that something big will break within the first year. So before you blow through all of your renovation budget, make sure you have enough to cover the most expensive thing that could break in your home. Either that, or if you have a warranty, enough to cover the deductible.
4. Yards require attention year long. It's not just mowing in the summer months. There are leaves in the fall, snow in the winter, weeding and trimming trees and bushes all year long.
5. Fix the necessities and the things you can't stand first. You will inevitably run out of money and if you have put off the important things for new furniture, you could be in trouble.
6. Even if you don't have kids, check into the school system. Good school systems add value to your property.
7. If you see something you like when you tour the home, ask for it. The worst they can say is no, but often times, especially if the house has been on the market for a while, they'll agree. We got a bookcase, a push mower, a ride on mower, and a cabinet just for asking.
8. Read your HOA manual before closing. There may be building restrictions, material limits, or pet number limitations, that you may want to be aware of when planning your home.
9. There's no such thing as a simple project. Always allow double the time that you estimate for something to take. Something will mess up, not work how you planned, or require extra materials. Otherwise you may end up trying to install a valence as your entire extended family arrives, only to realize it requires wall anchors :)
10. Try to figure out how to do things on your own, but know when to quit. Yes, doing it yourself will save you money, but if you have to buy 10 different tools, spend two days on it, and still can't fix it, it's probably worth just calling someone.
11. Get a Life Insurance Policy. You're young, it will be cheap, and totally worth it if for some reason something happened to you. You have this big investment that is directly connected to you now, protect it and your family from having to sell it.
12. At least in my house, the water bill was not that big of an add on coming from an apartment. However, my home is significantly larger than my apartment was (not hard to do at 700 sq. feet) and the increase in electricity bill is something you should budget for!
13. Just because you qualify for that amount on a loan doesn't mean you have to spend it. for most people, you're locked into a loan for 15, 20, even 30 years. In my opinion, it's better to have a lower monthly payment and then use extra money to fix it up. That way if you hit any financial trouble you can pump the breaks on any projects you're working on and still afford your mortgage. It's always better to live below your means from a financial perspective.
14. Resist the urge to finance everything, even if it's interest free. Two or three projects can really add up quickly in your monthly bills. Try and pay for them as you go so that you're bills stay the same, even if you have to wait a little longer.
15. Find out your property lines before purchasing to figure out anything that could be encroaching from a neighbors yard or vice versa. Also helps to determine back or side yard limits.
16. Ask about and get the paperwork on the expensive items and when they were last updated. Roof, doors, windows, HVAC, ect. If you know something is going to need to be replaced in the coming years, it's better to know that before you buy the home so you can plan.
17. Before you buy, visit the house at different times of day. Get a feel for traffic, neighbors, school bus routes ect. that will affect your daily routine.
18. Take before pictures. I have done this in both places we lived, and my mom took them in all three places we lived growing up. Before we moved, we took after photos, or if a room was undergoing major renovations we would take them too. Such a fun way to track progress as you make your home yours.
19. A big yard is wonderful, but is hellish to maintain. Unless you can afford someone to do it for you (congratulations) make sure it's within reason to keep up with.
20. Buy all of the safety items before decor, i.e. fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide monitors, check your fire alarms ect. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.