Many people live in rental properties for much of their early adulthood. This makes sense. Because of closing costs, it’s often a better deal to rent a property if you’re only going to live there for a few years. But as you grow older and your priorities change, you may find that your plans for housing do, too. You may get married and think about starting a family. You may think about settling down in a home that you’ll stay in for more than a few years — and, in many cases, plans and priorities like this will mean that you are better off buying your home.
First-time home buyers find themselves in an exciting position, but it’s fair to say that there will also be plenty of anxiety. There are questions to answer and decisions to make, budgets to calculate and loans to consider. Here’s what to expect and what to do as you navigate your first home-buying experience.
How much house can you afford?
Of all of the different things that first-time homeowners much consider, one is particularly important: their budget. Once you’re sure it’s the right time for you to buy a home, you’ll need to calculate “how much house” you can actually afford. This isn’t just about buying the biggest home you can pony up the down payment for, of course. This is about looking into the future and considering things like liquidity, your emergency fund, your monthly mortgage payments, taxes, and upkeep costs.
You’ll almost certainly be using a home loan to pay for your house, so you’ll want to use a home loan calculator to crunch some numbers and look at some potential rates. Shop around for a mortgage, and compare different lenders and rates. You should strongly consider getting preapproved for a mortgage; depending on how competitive and fast-moving the real estate market is in the area where you’re looking, you could find that failing to get pre approval could lead to you missing out on homes of distinction.
Think neighborhoods, not just houses
As the old real estate saying goes, it’s “location, location, location!” You don’t just want a nice home — you want a nice home that’s convenient to the places where you work and play. And as you consider homes in different locations, think about where the home is (rather than just what it’s close to). A neighborhood can make or break a home, especially if you’re concerned about things like the quality of a school district or age-appropriate playmates for the little ones. From safety and security to the curb appeal of the neighboring houses that you’ll have to look at day after day, it’s important to think about your potential future home in the context of its street and its neighborhood as well as in the context of the town or city that it is in or near.
The neighborhood will also help determine the future value of your home. While you may not be thinking about selling your home yet (you’re just considering buying it, after all), there may come a day when you want to move on. When that day comes, you’ll want your home to have held its value — or, better yet, have increased in value. That’s a lot more likely to happen when your home is situated in a wonderful neighborhood.
Get the help that you need
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a first-time home buyer, but plenty of experts involved in any home purchase do this sort of thing every day. From the real estate agent to the attorneys involved in the closing, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek the advice of anyone working on your home-buying project. That’s what they’re there for.
And don’t be surprised if some of the advice you hear is to let things go. Not everything in this process will be under your control, and you’ll have to be OK with that. Make the best decisions you can regarding things like extending offers, and then try to let it go. You’ll know soon enough if you were meant to be in this house!