There’s a lot of things to think about before buying a home--some financial, others personal. Most people tend to focus on one or the other. However, both are instrumental in choosing the right house and buying at the right time.
In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can determine if you’re ready for homeownership. We’ll discuss things like credit scores and down payments, but also important life factors like your career and future plans.
Getting your finances in order
There are a few simple things you can do right now that will help you understand if you’re financially secure enough to start looking at houses. First, you’ll want to look up your credit score.
Lenders strongly consider your credit when determining how much risk is involved in lending to you. A higher credit score can not only get you approved for a mortgage, it can lower your interest rate and make you eligible to borrow without having to pay private mortgage insurance.
The amount of money this saves seems trivial in the short term, but over the lifespan of your loan it can save you tens of thousands of dollars. So, read a free credit report and if your credit is lower than 700 start finding ways to improve your credit.
In the meantime, you’ll want to save for a down payment. While it’s possible to buy a home with a small or no down payment, it can come back to haunt you in the form of interest as you pay off your loan. Furthermore, many lenders won’t pre-approve you unless you make a down payment of a minimum amount (often 20% of the loan).
If you have a high credit score and you’ve saved for a down payment, another thing to check off your list would be proving your stable income. This can be difficult for the self-employed, contract workers, or people who have recently changed jobs.
Lenders want to see that you have a stable income history to ensure that you’ll be able to pay your mortgage each month. If you recently changed jobs or are in between jobs, it could be to your benefit to wait 3-6 months before getting pre-approved. In that time, you can continue to raise your credit and save for a down payment, further increasing your chances of getting a low-interest loan.
Preparing for homeownership
While the financial aspects of homeownership are important, so are the personal aspects. You’ll want to consider several life factors before buying a home.
First, think about your longterm goals. Do you want to live in the same area for the next 10 to 30 years? Will your career bring you to different regions or will you attend school somewhere else? These questions will help you decide if it’s a good time to buy or a better investment to save money while renting.
If you have a family (or plan on having one soon), you’ll also have to find a way to balance all of your living needs.
Finally, ask yourself if you have time for homeownership. Many people who are used to renting aren’t aware of the amount of time and money it takes to maintain a home. You’ll have more bills, you’ll have to mow your own lawn, and you’ll be responsible for maintenance of your home.