When is it time to buy a house? There are some milestones in life that are pretty defined, like the requirements to graduate college, or the age when you’re legally able to vote. But most milestones fall into a grey area, including renting vs. buying a home. We’d all love to receive a piece of mail someday that says, “Congratulations! You can now buy a house!”
In reality, the answer to the question “am I ready to buy a home” varies from person to person, and depends on a lot of factors including finances, geography and your personal life. If you’re thinking about buying a home, answer these questions to help get you started with your decision.
I want to buy a house, but… Do I have enough saved for a down payment?
If you’re just starting to think about how to start saving for a house, you will need to consider the different options. The standard of a 20% down payment isn’t always necessary anymore, however a lower down payment may mean higher costs over time. Before you buy a home, you’ll want to know what type of mortgage you want, which can serve as a guideline for how much you need to save to meet the down payment requirements. If you already have the desired amount saved, or are willing to consider a different mortgage option based on what you have, chalk one up in the “ready to buy” column!
I want to buy a house, but… Can I afford the ongoing costs?
After you have the down payment taken care of, you’ll want to determine if your current income can cover the ongoing costs of keeping up a home. According to Trulia, in 2016 buying a home with a 20% down payment was 37.7% percent cheaper than renting nationwide. However, that number varies based on where you live, and there are costs associated with buying a home other than your monthly mortgage payment.
There are upfront costs, like paying for movers or furnishing rooms you didn’t previously have in your rental, and ongoing costs, like insurance, Homeowner’s Association fees, or utilities that were previously covered by your landlord. Speaking of landlords, you’ll also be assuming the upkeep of your home, which may involve projects you can do yourself, like fixing a leaky faucet, but may require you to hire a professional depending on your expertise. While some of these expenses can be easier to predict than others, err on the side of caution when budgeting for your new home. If you already have an emergency fund, consider contributing a bit more each month to cover these unexpected costs. If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, now is a great time to start one!
I want to buy a house, but… What about my existing debt?
Did you know that there’s a difference between good and bad debt? While not everything neatly fits into each category, you can at least look at what you owe and consider which debt is better to have. An example of good debt is relatively low-interest debt that could help you earn more over time, like student loans. Compare this to high-interest credit card debt that you’re struggling to pay off each month, or even worse, payday loans. If you have manageable, relatively “good” debt, it’s alright to consider taking on more debt with homeownership. Keep in mind however, that during the home buying process, you should not make drastic changes that can affect your credit such as applying for a new credit card or cancelling an existing one.
I want to buy a house, but… Are there any big changes coming up in my life?
Even if you’re financially ready to buy a house, that doesn’t mean you’re personally ready! While you don’t have to have everything figured out, you can’t entirely discount your personal life when making such a big decision. Consider:
- Location: Do you know what area you want to live in, and are you committed to staying there long-term? Would future career changes affect this commitment? Are you considering getting a new job in the next 5 years?
- Relationship Status: Are you planning to buy alone, or with a partner? If you are unmarried, have you looked into the implications of buying a home with a romantic partner if the relationship ends? Or, if you’re currently buying alone but are in a relationship, are you going to take their preferences into account if they move in with you in the future?
- Parental Status: You might not have kids now, but are they on the horizon? Are you prepared to buy a home that will accommodate a growing family?
If you are already aware of significant life changes coming up, you might want to pause on starting the home buying process. Take some time to think about the length of commitment you want to make to a house in relation to the stability of your personal life.
I want to buy a house, but… Who should I talk to about getting started?
You’ve considered all of these questions and you’re ready to take the plunge, or you think you’re in a good place but want to talk it through with an expert. Schedule some time to talk to a local mortgage specialist about next steps! A trusted mortgage specialist will help walk you through the process of getting pre-approved, applying for a mortgage and buying a home, so now is a great time to pick a mortgage lender and start seriously discussing your options.
Ready to buy? Pre-qualify now.