Buying a home is a highly personal decision. There are many excellent reasons to become a homeowner, but it’s also essential to weigh practical factors like your finances, lifestyle, and plans.
The following questions can help ensure you’ve covered all the crucial bases before deciding if, when, and how you want to move forward with a home purchase.
1. How much will you spend each month on housing-related expenses?
When determining your budget, be sure to include all the most significant costs:
The size of your payments depends on the amount borrowed, your interest rate, and the length of your loan. If your down payment is below 20 percent, you must also budget for mortgage insurance.
Real estate taxes vary considerably, depending on where you live, but are usually a deductible expense on your income taxes.
If you’re applying for a mortgage, your lender will require this type of insurance, but it’s usually a good idea for all homeowners.
As a renter, some utilities may have been included in your monthly payments, but homeowners must cover these costs independently.
Maintenance and repairs
It’s hard to predict how much you’ll need to spend on preventative and unplanned maintenance, but it’s easier to deal with these expenses if your budget sets aside some money for home maintenance.
Homeowners association (HOA)
This doesn’t apply to all homeowners, but many condos, townhomes, and gated communities have homeowners associations that assess monthly dues.
2. How long do you expect to live in the home?
Home purchases involve significant one-time expenses like closing costs, mortgage fees, real estate commissions, and moving expenses. So it’s best if you can stay in a home long enough that it will increase in value and offset the costs associated with buying and selling property, at a minimum.
3. Do you qualify for any buyer assistance programs that can help reduce the cost of home ownership?
Numerous programs are designed to help people—including first-time buyers—make home ownership more affordable. They’re offered at the national, state, and local levels and include various qualification guidelines.
4. Are you ready to assume the responsibilities of maintaining a home?
One of the key advantages of renting is that you can count on your landlord (or possibly your HOA) to deal with preventative home maintenance and repairs.
But once you own a property, these chores fall on your shoulders, and you’ll need to carve out time and money for things like maintaining your driveway, cleaning up your yard in the fall, and getting your home ready for winter.
5. How will your housing needs change?
Of course, it’s difficult to know where life will lead, but if you think your household will expand (or contract), how will this impact what you need and want in a home?
Job changes can also significantly affect where you want to live since you may have to commute further or relocate to a different part of the country—or you may need to carve out space to work from home.
6. What are your long-term real estate objectives?
It’s never too early to consider real estate as part of a total investment strategy. For example, if you move into a different home, would you want to continue owning your first home and use it as a rental property for additional income? If so, you’ll want to factor that long-term goal into your home-buying decisions.
Once you’re comfortable that buying a home fits your budget, lifestyle, and long-term goals, your next step is to seek the advice of a real estate professional who can assist you in finding an ideal property and advise you on current conditions in your local market.
Ideally, you’ll want to work with an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) because they’ve completed specialized training in representing buyers. Learn more about the many reasons to work with an ABR®!