BEND, Ore. (CNN/Money) – When Patty Olson-Lindsey and Andy Lindsey first laid eyes on a new 1,500 square-foot house in Bend, Ore., they were smitten with its high ceilings, quality craftsmanship and airy floor plan.
But the honeymoon of homeownership didn't last long. It was, as they say, the little things that got to them.
Many of the neighbors were renters, here today and gone tomorrow. The yard was too small, the storage space inadequate. The open floor plan they liked so much at first was, well, too open.
Despite the real estate agent's reassurances, the train tracks behind the house were also a problem. "We woke up at around 2:00 a.m. to really loud industrial noises," Patty recalled. "Right there was where the trains shifted tracks."
The love was gone, and within three years the Lindseys were gone, too.
"When you shop for a house, you're there about 10 or 15 minutes," said Frank Cook, author of "You're Not Buying That House Are You?" (Dearborn Trade).
That's not enough time to think through the kind of flaws that are too trivial to show up on a home inspection but still enough to drive you mad.
"Things often don't seem strange until after you move in," said Cook, who himself failed to notice that the formal dining room in his Portsmouth, N.H., house has unobstructed views of the laundry room.
I don't like my neighbors
The house is perfect. The location is perfect. Then you discover that the neighborhood is governed by a two-inch book of rules concerning everything from what kind of trees you plant to where you park your car.
An estimated four out of five houses built since the late 1990s are now part of a homeowners association, according to the Community Association Institute. And while many homeowners have no problem living by the rules, others say that buying in a neighborhood with a homeowners association was their biggest regret. (See "Hate your homeowners association?")
To avoid problems, said Cook, pay as much attention to the neighborhood as you do your house. Get a copy of the association rules before you make your offer and find out whether there is a history of conflict with the association board.
While you're at it, try to get a feel for your neighbors. In the end, they may be your home's best or worst feature.
I can't take the traffic
Before buying his house in Ormond Beach, Fla., Robert Page probably circled the block at least 20 times. "I checked everything twice," he said.
Yet, he somehow overlooked the fact that his house was near one of two entrances to his 500-home subdivision.
"I had no idea how heavy the traffic is during the morning and evening rush hours," said the father of three young children. "I work like everyone else, so I never checked the house or the neighborhood at 8:00 a.m. or 5:30 p.m."
The noise of gravel trucks whizzing along the road behind his house all day eventually drove Carl to put his place on the market. (He asked us not to use his last name because he's in the process of selling.) "I just didn't really think about it because I wanted the house and it was in my price range," he said.
But Carl won't make the same mistake twice. "My new house is all about peace and quiet," he said.
I'm no Bob Vila
In theory, buying an old house or "handyman's special" is a great idea. But, many people quickly learn they aren't up for the task.
Last October, Angie Seigler bought a 1950s home in a St. Louis suburb for about $50,000 less than the appraised value. But 10 weeks into what was supposed to be a three-week kitchen remodel, Seigler was ready to call it quits.
"I will never buy another house that isn't move-in ready," said Seigler, who is dreading an upcoming bathroom remodel. "As a matter of fact, when this house is finished I plan to sell it and find something else."
In particular, first-time buyers and anyone with young children should think twice about buying a house that is older than they are, said Cook. The potential for trouble may not be worth the possible payoff at that stage of the game.
"When people say they like a house they're often responding to a 'feel' of a house," said Diane Saatchi, vice president of real estate sales for the Corcoran Group in the Hamptons. Sellers stage houses accordingly. They redecorate, bake cookies and plan open houses for the time of day when the sun is just right.
Not surprisingly, buyers are often disappointed when they move in and realize that the house isn't as perfect as it had seemed.
"What it comes down to is you take your chances," said Cook. "You either get used to the quirks of your house or you eventually just move on."
If you make a mistake, get over it, said Cook. "It's just a house."