Are You Ready to Buy a New Home?
Is this the right time to buy your first house, or upgrade to something bigger and better if you're already a homeowner? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What can I afford? The Federal Housing Administration recommends that your entire monthly ownership expense--mortgage, taxes, insurance, fees--should be no more than 43% of your monthly income. While you're at it, in addition to figuring your total housing expenditures, you should calculate your other monthly debt payments: car loan, credit cards, student loans, etc. Some experts say your maximum purchase price should be 2.5 times your annual income, providing your income is stable.
- How long will I stay? If you've made a commitment to stay in a certain community for at least 4 years, go ahead and buy a home. However, if you're likely to move to another city within 4 years, you will be better off to rent than to buy.
- How's my credit? Get credit reports from the major agencies, and make sure they're accurate. Will your scores qualify you for an affordable mortgage? Get pre-approved for a loan so you won't waste your time looking at houses you can't afford.
- What is the current market like? Are home prices high? If so, are you willing to wait and see if they'll come down in a couple of years? Is the market currently down? If so, this may be a good time to buy a home.
- What is the neighborhood like? You might love the house, but what about the neighborhood? Look 5 or 10 years into the future. If the neighborhood appears to be going down or if it's likely to be built up with development that you don't like, keep looking.
- Am I ready to deal with the responsibilities of owning a home? When you rent, you make your payments and let the landlord worry about upkeep. When you own, you're responsible for all upkeep, such as lawn care, interior and exterior maintenance and repairs, as well as all payments for utilities, garbage, etc.