“Am I ready to buy a house, or should I just keep renting?”
It’s one of the questions that we hear most often and something to which first-time home buyers often spend months, if not years, trying to figure out the answer. Below is a list of four tell-tale signs that you’re ready to bite the bullet and take the leap into homeownership:
Sign #1: You’re ready to settle down
The first sign that you’re in the right mindset to become a homeowner is that you’re ready to stay put — at least for a little while.
Conventional wisdom states that in order for your purchase to make financial sense, you’ll want to plan on staying put for at least the next five years. When you sit down to think about house hunting, you’ll want to use that time frame as your reference point.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Can you see yourself staying at your job for that long, or will you be looking for new opportunities?
- If the right position came along, would you be willing to move for it?
- Do you like the area you’re living in, or would you like to explore other options?
- Do you see your living situation changing soon?
- Are you planning on moving in with a significant other or expanding your family?
If these questions make you squirmy, the idea of looking five years into the future still feels a little too far ahead for you to grasp, or you still want to see where life takes you, you may want to consider renting for a bit longer or thinking about a for-a-few-years home vs. a forever home.
2. You’re done living paycheck-to-paycheck
Let’s face it, becoming a homeowner is expensive.
Not only is there a monthly mortgage payment to consider, which will likely be more than your current rent check, but prospective home buyers need to be prepared to come up with a sizable down payment, shoulder a portion of the closing costs, and have the dough to take care of any necessary repairs.
Luckily, there is a way that you can prepare for the added financial pressure before the big day comes and understand how many houses you can afford. Use a mortgage calculator to estimate what a monthly payment could base on the type of home you’re looking to buy.
Then, subtract the amount you pay in rent each month, and aim to put the remainder into savings.
Start by working towards a down payment that could be worth 3%-10% of a home’s sale price, and then move onto a separate emergency fund.
3. You’re ready for more responsibility
Once you find a home and actually buy it, that’s really where all the fun begins.
Yes, owning a home means that you have a lot more freedom to improve the property as you see fit — whether that means putting in an entirely new kitchen or redoing the hardwood floors.
However, in addition to that creative freedom comes an added layer of responsibility. As the homeowner, you’re the one who is responsible for any necessary maintenance and upkeep on the property.
Think about what you’re like as a tenant now.
Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and help with small tasks or are you relieved to know that you have someone to call? If you’re less handy, you may want to take some time to familiarize yourself with common home maintenance tasks before committing to buying anything. It always helps to have a fair idea of what you’re getting into.
4. You know what you’re looking for
Last but not least, though it may sound self-explanatory when you’re trying to determine whether or not you’re ready to buy a home, it’s useful to have an idea of what you’re looking for.
You don’t have to have every single detail set in stone. (In fact, it’s preferable if you leave some room to flexibility in your home search.) That said, though, having a basic set of parameters in mind will make the home buying process go much easier.
Here, you’ll want to think about the most important factors that you absolutely must have in a home. These will be the things that you would not feel comfortable buying a home without. This may include details like your preferred location, an ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a target sale price, or any specific must-have features like that perfect picture window view.
If you have a strong idea of your must-haves and can’t see that changing in the near future, and the above signs sound like you, you may just be ready to take the plunge into home ownership. If not, there’s no shame in the game waiting.