4 minutes read | June 9th 2020
Get Real with Yourself: What Can You Afford?
This one probably seems like it'll be easy to answer, but wait one minute. You might know the numbers that are standard fare for lenders when determining what you can afford — like that your housing costs should be about 28% or less of your gross income. But your budget considerations don't end there.
Dig deeper into the nitty-gritty details of all the potential costs you may need to cover. You won't just be making a mortgage payment; there'll be things like utilities, property taxes, HOA dues, random maintenance projects, emergency repairs, and homeowners insurance.
Beyond that, think about how those expenses could impact your life. You may not want to spend the full 28% because you want those funds for other expenditures. Figure out what the tradeoffs are, and then create a real budget. Shop around for the best rates from lenders, and map it all out before you even begin looking. Get preapproved for a mortgage, if possible. It'll make the process far less stressful and help you calibrate your expectations accordingly.
Think Carefully About the Long Term: Where Are You Now, and Where Do You Want to Be?
You may think that cool loft downtown is perfect with its bricks and exposed ductwork, but what about in three years when you and your new spouse welcome a baby? You may not feel the same admiration for your apartment when you're lugging a newborn, stroller, and groceries up multiple flights of stairs. And did you think about having to one day put that kid on a city bus across town to get to school? Or does your work mean you move to new cities often?
Think about how long you plan on staying in the home. Factor that into the locations you consider and the amenities you look for. Check the neighborhood for risks and typical repair costs. If you're not planning on living there longer than a couple years, you might be willing to forego some of the features you want. Life changes quickly, and it isn't so easy to pick up and move when you need to sell your home first.
Consider Your Happiness: What Do You Really Love?
Say you're not moving in a couple years; you're making this purchase for the long haul. If you're planting some roots, you better be sure you like the forest. Before beginning to search, think about what you love. This includes design and style — and so much more.
Do you like to work outside in the yard? If you don't, you may want to look at homes with smaller yards, budget for landscaping, or ensure you can find a teenager to cut your grass. If you love to cook, you might want a huge gourmet kitchen with a walk-in pantry. This requires thinking about who you are as a person and what you envision making you happy. Your house is an extension and a reflection of you, so it's important to be picky if this is your forever home.
Don't forget location, location, location (and not just in terms of investment potential). We're talking about your lifestyle, here — your day-to-day ease. Think about transportation; if you don't have or want a car, consider access to public transportation or walking communities. Be aware of how your life unfolds each day. Factor that into the area you choose and the houses you look at during your search.
Don't Forget the Essentials: What Do You Need — No, Really, What Do You Actually Need?
When a buyer's market is strong, you might be able to get more house for your money. But do you really want the extra expense of more square footage? More space means more upkeep and higher costs over the long run, even though it can also mean more equity. And it might seem trivial, but you'll want to think about things like who's going to clean all that space. If you're childfree and get a four-bedroom, you might be tempted to fill up those rooms with stuff. Really think about what you need, not just what looks good on paper.
Build your list based on the practical lifestyle you envision for yourself. How often do you have overnight visitors? Is it your ultimate dream to have a basement game room or crafting space? If you work from home, you might need an office, but not the three-car garage that'll make your heating bill skyrocket in winter.
There's so much more to consider beyond the financial and investment aspects. Buying property is one of those big life decisions, so take the time to figure out how it'll affect (and harmonize with) your lifestyle. One thing you won't have to worry about during the process of buying a house? Purchasing homeowners insurance. We'll get you set up — and perfectly protected — with our quick online process. Get a quote from Pickle today!