Is it your dream to own a home, or are you just tired of throwing away money on rent every month? Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided to forego rent to own once and for all, you’ve got a job ahead of you — but it should also be a prospect that brings you more excitement than stress. There’s no doubt that buying your first home isn’t a decision to be made without a lot of thought, planning, and saving. We’ve outlined a few tips to get you started on your path to saying goodbye to rent, and hello to your dream home.
Get real about your budget
Finances are no fun to think or talk about, but they are a necessary part of the equation in buying your new home. For a general overview on market insights, check out the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) comprehensive housing market analysis on your city. Home prices can change dramatically, but having a sense of the market can prepare you to look at how much home you can afford. You’ve likely already been saving for a down payment on your new home, and getting real about your budget will tell you when it’s time to take the plunge and buy.
Know your must haves
Not only do you need to know how much home you can afford, you also need to consider your must-haves. Do you love cooking, perhaps you’d rather go for a gourmet kitchen than more square footage? Or, if you like entertaining, perhaps having outdoor space is important. Whatever your requirements are, make a list and know your deal breakers. You also want to assess what you are willing to compromise on.
Determine your ideal neighborhood
Do you know where you want to live? When you’re renting, you have the freedom to try out different areas and move if you don’t like your neighborhood or neighbors. But when you buy, your investment means that you can’t just up and move. If you’re not sure where you want to buy, it’s ideal to rent a home in that area and see how you like it first. Important factors to consider are commute time, school districts (if you have a family or want to start one), and other amenities like walkability, parks, and access to shopping and restaurants. Even staying in the neighborhood temporarily, such as through a housing swap, or a short-term apartment rental can give you a sense of what it will be like to live there for good.
Hire a professional
Buying a home isn’t a task that you want to handle on your own. Getting a professional real estate agent behind you will help you find homes that are a match. An agent knows the market inside and out and can save you the leg work of having to search through pages of listings. They will also be your advocate when it comes to the all important negotiation stage. While you will need to pay them a commission, the time and money you save by not doing everything on your own will be worth it.
The decision to buy a house — one of the most important purchases of your life — is a big one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But with a little pre-planning and research you can be well on your way to having a place that’s all yours.