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If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Most people spend more on their homes than they will on anything else. Experts share strategies on how to avoid costly mistakes and offer suggestions for how to end up with the house of your dreams.

FINANCING

A poll conducted for TD Canada Trust found many homebuyers admit-ted to making rookie mistakes when they bought their first home.

These are the top three things new homeowners would change if they could do it again.

. Make a bigger down payment (61 per cent): "Buying a home is the biggest investment most people will ever make, so it's important to save a sizable down payment and prove to yourself that you are ready to take on the responsibility of a mortgage," says Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice for TD Canada Trust.

. Be more thorough when budgeting (54 per cent): Haque says home-owners should factor in expenses like property tax, insurance, repairs and utilities in addition to the monthly mortgage payments.

. Buy a home sooner (61 per cent): ?"I'm not surprised that even after becoming homeowners, people are split about whether their timing was right," Haque says.

BUYING AND SELLING

The majority of people generally purchase more than one home in their life-time. Each time they do, they incur a variety of costs, including real estate commission fees for the seller, mortgage fees for the buyer and a fee to break a mortgage (if applicable) for the seller.

Nicole Burgess, a six-year veteran with Pemberton Holmes, says people typically sell when their home no longer meets their needs.

To ensure you can sell your home when you need to, it's important to buy a house that appeals to a larger market. The real estate adage of location, location, location also applies, she says.

RENOVATIONS

While some people will buy a new property to get the features they desire, a less expensive way is to renovate an existing house over time.

Steve Copp, president of Steve Copp Construction says, "Half of our business comes from homeowners renovating and upgrading their homes. Some spread out their renovation projects over a span of two to three years, with us returning to work on one room at a time."

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