7 Questions to Determine If You’re Ready to Buy a Home
Adulting is often about celebrating everyday victories. But sometimes you hit major milestones, like graduations and promotions, engagements, weddings (or heck, surviving wedding season when you’re single), and new babies. Plus there’s dealing with responsibilities like managing your money and finding the right place to call home — be it a rental or property you buy. While becoming a homeowner can be a smart investment, making the leap from renter status can be seriously overwhelming. When does it make sense to buy? How do you know which situation is the better fit for you? To get some clarity, we reached out to a few home pros. Read on for the Qs these experts say you should ask yourself before (literally!) making the move.
1. Am I making an emotional decision? Do you feel like you need to buy a house because everyone else is? Or maybe you fell in love with a “For Sale” sign down the street. In any instance, you’re not alone. Erika Dalager, an interior design specialist at home design and virtual staging studio RoOomy, notes that it’s common for people to buy out of emotion, advising, “One of the most important things to remember when house hunting is to buy with your head, not with your heart.” She tells us that while an emotional buy might make you happy at first, you could regret it later if a hasty decision means you eventually find flaws you can’t overlook or afford to fix.
2. Will I qualify for a mortgage/financing? Brad Malow, founder of New York real estate market guide Buying NYC, confirms that young people looking to buy begin their search way too often without taking the necessary steps to get preapproved for a mortgage. Since understanding what you can actually afford is ultra-important, Malow cautions, “Don’t fall in love with a home only to find out shortly after that you don’t qualify for financing. It’s an awful letdown.”
3. Can I afford the monthly payments? Malow also tells us that buyers often crunch numbers on total monthly payments *without* including anything else in the budget. Yikes! To get it right, he instructs, “Calculate ALL of your monthly expenses when assessing your affordability. This includes utilities, cell phone bills, credit card payments, student loans, auto payments, etc. Becoming a homeowner is a wonderful step in life, but just be sure you aren’t over-leveraging yourself.”
4. Will my current furniture fit? If you’ve thoughtfully collected or been given special pieces, it’s super-important to consider whether or not your prized possessions will fit the space you’re looking to buy. “In the event that you’re not looking to spend much on new furniture, this can often shape the home you end up choosing,” Dalager discloses. “When house-hunting, make sure to keep a tape measure handy!” Wise words.
5. Will I enjoy living in the neighborhood? Not all neighborhoods are equally appealing. “Although home shoppers can do some digging online to learn a little bit about the prospective home’s location, the real estate agent will be the most knowledgeable source you have,” observes Dalager. She says that outside of typical questions like the safety of the neighborhood, you should be sure to also ask about parking, regulations, and daily activities.
6. What are my goals? Buying a new home doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in that location, but it can be a hurdle to your flexibility. “In order to achieve your career goals, you might prefer the easy freedom you get by not purchasing a home,” points out Ali Wenzke from The Art of Happy Moving blog. The same applies when it comes to your personal life and the future you hope to create. Do you have a partner to consider, or will you make your purchase solo? Are you hoping to have children? Would you like to stay in this property for a few years or for a few decades? Being honest with yourself about your goals will help you make the best long-term decision. Malow agrees on the importance of looking to the future. “Some people aren’t made for long-term commitments, but when it comes to a home purchase, you’ll definitely want to stay in the relationship for a bit of time,” he advises. “Be cognizant of any tax consequences you might face if you sell in the short term, like those pertaining to capital gains when selling prior to two years of ownership.” Malow also emphasizes the importance of understanding that it’ll take time for the market to correct itself should it take a downturn right after you buy your home.
7. Am I ready to handle home repairs and maintenance? Wenzke reminds us that being a homeowner means there’s always work to be done around your house or condo — you’ll be the only person responsible for making sure it gets completed (and financing it). “Some people love being weekend warriors doing fix-it projects,” she admits. “Others would rather do *anything but* in their free time!” If you’re someone who relishes not having to handle those maintenance projects just yet, you might consider renting for a bit longer.
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(Photos via Getty)