After college expenses, choosing to purchase a home of any kind is the second largest expense you are likely to take on. The whole process, while intricate, doesn’t have to be complicated. However, it pays to be prepared. By taking the time to plan now and sticking to that plan, you could save thousands of dollars over the next few decades.
Know What You Can Afford (and Buy Less)
Never buy more house than you can afford. Life is unpredictable. One of the first things you should ask is, “How much house can I afford?” It’s better to buy a house that’s the size you need now rather than overextend yourself. Even if you plan to grow your family or expect a promotion soon, not everything may go as planned.
Further, choosing to purchase a smaller home now may allow you to pay it off faster, giving you more equity and more options if you do decide to move sooner rather than later. Spending less on a home can also give you more financial freedom, allowing for more vacations or retirement savings.
Alternatively, choosing a larger house right away is more likely to lead to an empty savings account and raises your potential of being unable to keep your home during a personal financial crisis. Larger homes, especially those with unused rooms, also come with a more significant mental burden- more stress and more potential for clutter to build up.
Stay on the Safe Side
Inspections cost money, and you may need to pay for them out of pocket before you even make an offer on the house. However, failing to have a home inspected by a third party can lead to many problems down the road.
For instance, a home may look fantastic during the middle of summer or late fall. Then, after a heavy snowfall the following winter and a wet spring you may find that not only is your “new” basement full of water, but the floor on the main level is perceptually damp. This could lead to water damage, mold, rot, and worse. Behind that coat of new paint, these things may have already been evident. Inspections are necessary. Talking to your potential new neighbors is also a good idea.
When looking to hire a home inspector, ask about their previous experience or for references. Only about half of all states require home inspectors to have any formal training or pass a licensing exam. A more experienced inspector may cost a little more, but it’s likely they’ll now which tests are needed in the area you’re looking at, etc.
Get to Know the Area
A new house often means new neighbors, new local customs, and sometimes a little bit of a culture shift. The type of neighborhood you choose can affect the quality of life you will have once you’re settled. It can affect your children even more.
It’s worth taking the time to have a conversation with your neighbors. See if they have any tips or advice to offer. Do they have pets? Tour the area at different times of the day. What are the parks like? This is where you might be spending every day, can you picture enjoying your time here?