Purchasing a home is an emotional decision, and it’s about even more than deciding where you and your family are going to live; it’s probably one of the biggest investments you’re ever going to make! Here are 10 things everyone should consider before buying a house.
1. Know exactly what you can afford.
You’ll work with your mortgage lender to find out what your monthly mortgage payment will be, but it’s important to remember that your mortgage won’t be the only thing you have to pay for. Homeowners have more responsibilities and more expenses than renters. You’ll also need to pay for homeowners insurance, real estate taxes, homeowners association fees, and necessary repairs. Be sure to consider more than just the purchase price.
2. Understand your local market.
Every market is different and each market has its own considerations. Some are buyers markets and others are sellers markets. Some areas have a good long-term outlook while others are susceptible to a crash. There are places where you should buy right away and others where it makes more sense to wait.
3. Don’t rely on the home mortgage interest deduction.
The home mortgage interest deduction is an advantage for homeowners — but only for homeowners who can use it. You’ll only be able to deduct your mortgage interest if you itemize on your tax return, which only about one-third of taxpayers do. Even if you do itemize, your out-of-pocket cost will still be more than you’ll get for the deduction. And with the recent tax reform, you won’t be able to deduct your state and local real estate taxes.
4. Know what you want your future to look like.
Buying isn’t like renting. When you buy a home, you aren’t just making a decision about where you want to live right now — you’re also making a decision about where you want to live years or even decades from now. Do you see yourself starting or adding to your family? Will you be happy in this city or neighborhood for years to come? Don’t just think about what your life looks like right now — also imagine what you want it to look like 10 or 20 years from now.
5. Understand your priorities.
The home you buy is likely the home you will be in for the foreseeable future, so think long and hard about your priorities. Is it more important for you to have the perfect location or that extra bedroom? How much space do you want? What kind of yard or property is right for you? There are a lot of decisions to make, so list out your top priorities before you make a final decision.
6. Know your credit score.
Your credit score will impact your mortgage options, so know in advance what your credit score is and how it is likely to affect you. Some mortgage options are for people with great credit, but some are specifically tailored to buyers with low or no credit. Understanding your credit score is the first step to understanding your home buying options.
7. Understand your mortgage options.
First-time home buyers have a number of options available to them, from FHA loans to private lenders. Make sure to research all of your options before making your final decision.
8. Know the ins and outs of the purchase process.
From pre-qualification and pre-approval to closing, there are a lot of steps to the home buying process. Before you get started, it’s best to understand what you’re getting yourself into!
9. Know how much you can afford to put down and pay at closing.
There are options for everyone, but before you decide which option is right for you, you’ll need to know exactly how much money you can afford to put down on a home. Can you afford to put a lot of money down, or will you need to find a low or no down payment option? How much will your closing costs be? Do you qualify for any grants to help you with the down payment or closing costs?
10. Real estate agents are experts — use their expertise.
One of the most important things you can do when buying a home is to find the right real estate agent. Local real estate agents are experts in both the home-buying process and the ins and outs of buying in your area. A good real estate agent will walk you through the process and help you figure out the answers to the rest of the questions posed here.