When looking at homes, it’s easy to get caught up in things like furniture, artwork and fresh towels. Make sure you examine each home without these items to determine how spacious and well-suited it is for your needs. Also visit the neighborhood at different times to see how noisy it is.
1. Know Your Limits
Buying a home can be one of the largest financial commitments you make. Before you even consider a particular property, ask yourself if the right home is in the right location for your current and long-term needs.
Figure out how much you can afford to spend on a house before you start shopping by reviewing your credit report and score, getting preapproved for a mortgage and creating a budget. It is recommended to keep your monthly housing costs at or below 25% of your total take-home income.
It’s also important to factor in property taxes, insurance and utilities, plus HOA fees and periodic larger expenses like renovations or major repairs. Also, consider what amenities are most important to you. For example, do you like peace and quiet? Or do you need a place to live close to entertainment, restaurants and grocery stores?
2. Look for Value
The real estate market can be unpredictable. It may be hot in some areas and cooling off in others, but first-time home buyers can still make a smart move toward homeownership with advance planning.
One of the most important considerations is figuring out what you can afford in recurring costs like a mortgage, property taxes and insurance. It’s also wise to plan for unexpected expenses that could arise, including the cost of any repairs or upgrades you’ll need to do to the property once you’ve moved in.
To calculate a home’s fair market value, look at similar homes in the area that have sold recently. Factor in the size, number of bathrooms and bedrooms, square footage, location and home improvements. Then, compare that to what the property you’re interested in currently costs.
3. Don’t Be Pressured
Buying a home is a big decision and you should take your time with it. Don’t rush it because of market fluctuations.
Be sure to meet with a lender before you start looking so you have the documentation to prove that you can afford a mortgage. This will save you from the stress of falling in love with a house that is not within your budget.
If you’re not financially ready to buy a home, work on paying down debt and saving for a down payment. You may find that renting is the smarter choice until you can afford to own a home. In addition to the added security that comes with homeownership, you’ll also be building equity and improving your credit score. This
can set you up for financial success.
4. Don’t Go With Your Emotions
Homebuying is emotional, but it shouldn’t overwhelm you to the point that logic takes a back seat. Especially with today’s highly competitive housing market, the process can be a real roller coaster. When it comes to a house, it’s normal to let your emotions, intuition or “a gut feeling” guide you to the “one.”
It can also be easy to fall in love with a property and convince yourself that you can work around its flaws. But this can be a costly mistake. Buying your own home is a major financial decision and you should only do so when you’re ready to commit, want stability and have the income to cover your mortgage. It’s also important to avoid making any emotional decisions that could lead to regret in the long run.
5. Be Flexible
The home-buying process can feel like a wild ride. It’s important to have a flexible mindset and not take things too seriously.
It’s also important to consider the long-term costs of homeownership, including maintenance, utilities and potential HOA fees. Additionally, homeowners need to set aside money for unforeseen expenses such as a roof replacement or water heater. Factor in the cost of home warranty so you can avoid worrying about repairs and replacement of certain parts of your home.
Make sure that you are debt-free and have an emergency fund with 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses saved up before you start the buying process. Having these items in place will ensure that you are ready to buy and can stick to your budget. Also, be willing to compromise on a few things that may seem insignificant at the time, such as a location or neighborhood.