Q: My husband and I recently decided to buy our first home. Some friends of our had lots of trouble with the process and wound up buying one they can't really afford. What can we do to buy our dream home without that grief?
A: Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make, and there are common mistakes that many first-time homeowners regret making. Here's how you can avoid them.
1.) Not Knowing Your Housing Budget.
Avoid buying a home that is out of your financial comfort zone. After all, you don't want to wind up being "house poor."
You likely already have a budget and some idea of your expenses for running your current household. Now is the time to review that budget. Some of your expenses are going to increase in a new home - like utilities and insurance.
Some other budget items may change, too. Also, some expenses, like Laundromat costs, may drop off the list completely. Add up all your expenses, but leave out rent or mortgage payments. When you subtract the total of this list form your take-home pay, you will have a good idea of how much you have left for mortgage payments. Find a mortgage calculator online and use it to calculate mortgage payments based on various available interest rates. Generally, housing costs should be 30% of less of your before-tax income.
2.) Looking Outside Your Housing Budget.
Don't even look at houses that fall beyond your budget; it'll only set you up for disappointment. Even if you manage to buy the home, you'll find yourself with too much house and too little money.
After doing your research, you'll know how much house you can afford. You can then pinpoint properties in that price range.
Most home purchases require compromise. Maybe you'll decide on a smaller house in a neighborhood with the best schools. If space is your highest priority, though, you might choose a larger house is a less-exclusive neighborhood. Every house has advantages and disadvantages, but keep your search within your financial comfort zone.
3.) Purchasing Based On Future Changes.
If you are having trouble finding a house in your price range, consider ways to reduce your current expenses. This will mean having more money available to make a larger monthly mortgage payment. Many people mistakenly assume they will make these changes once they own a house. Ideally, these budget changes should be in place before you buy a house, even if it means delaying the purchase. Give yourself at least six months to see if you can stick to your new budget.
4.) Treating Your Home As An Investment.
First-time buyers often anticipate selling their house for a large profit in 5 to 10 years. The last decade has brought major changes to every housing market. While a house in certain areas was almost guaranteed to appreciate in value, that is no longer a sure thing.