This Was the Biggest Home Buying Mistake I Ever Made

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  • My husband and I have bought several homes over our lives.
  • In one instance, part of the land was on wetlands.
  • We didn't really consider the impact of this when we bought the property.

Overlooking important details can cost you.

Buying a home is a big decision. Even though my husband and I have bought and sold multiple properties during our lifetimes, we've still made mistakes during the process. In fact, we've learned something new with almost every transaction, starting from not opting for an adjustable-rate mortgage again after our first property purchase.

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One of our biggest home-buying mistakes, however, was not looking into the details when a survey revealed that part of our property was on wetlands.

The house had a lake behind it, and parts of that lake and the yard leading up to it were revealed to be in wetlands when our pre-purchase survey was conducted. The surveyor and our realtor didn't specifically mention this fact, and not being from the area originally, we didn't know enough to ask about the details.

Unfortunately, this became a huge problem over time.

Our property was subject to tons of restrictions

When a property is on wetlands, it means you are extremely limited in what you can do with the space. You are not allowed to make changes to it without getting special permits and, in some cases, paying for mitigation fees if you are disturbing protected land.

Since the wetland area was behind the house and not in an area where we would be building anything, we didn't think much of it. The problems, however, became apparent when we started to realize just how severely restricted you are. For example, when grasses started growing up that impacted our view of the lake, we couldn't just cut them down (at least not without breaking the rules). There were special requirements we had to follow and additional costs we had to incur.

We also couldn't do things like construct a dock to enjoy the water, or even put up a swing set in the area near where the wetlands were located. We didn't realize any of this until after we had bought the property when we moved in, and it affected our enjoyment of it for the entire time that we lived there.

It also made it harder for us to sell the property later on, because many potential buyers who had lived in Florida and who knew about wetland impact issues were aware of the downsides and didn't want to deal with them.

Always do your due diligence

Our experience making this big home-buying mistake reinforced the importance of asking questions and always doing your due diligence. Had we taken time to learn more about what the survey showed -- and what it meant for us -- we might have done something differently.

It also showed me that no matter how experienced you think you are, you can face unexpected surprises and cost. In fact, even after this bad experience, we had another wetlands issue later with a plot of land we bought when we didn't realize that our driveway would cross a small area of wetlands if we built on the lot. So, it helps to have an emergency fund so you're prepared to deal with unexpected costs that inevitably arise after moving in.

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