Buying your first home is one of life’s milestones that everyone should have the opportunity to experience if they choose. Owning a home gives you a feeling of accomplishment and as you make payments a portion is going to your personal net worth rather than a landlord. The process is exciting but one surefire piece of information that I wish I knew when buying my first home is that you will come across surprises. Whether it be a delay in closing, an issue with financing, or closing costs being higher than expected, it is important to know that you can do all the preparation possible and still be hit in the face with some setbacks.
This article will not only touch on some of the important considerations when buying your first home but will give examples of possible setbacks and how to avoid them.
Know Your Number
The most important piece of information to have when purchasing your home is how much you can spend. The purchase of your home should not be the only goal to consider. All of your other financial objectives such as paying off debt (i.e. college and unsecured) and saving for retirement must be taken into consideration. Also, it is recommended you have an emergency fund in place that would cover at least 4 months of your fixed expenses in case something happens with your job or some other event occurs. Knowing your number does not only include what you can afford today but how much you can afford monthly moving forward. If your monthly cash flow becomes dangerously low or negative with the addition of a mortgage payment (including mortgage/property taxes/homeowners), the house may be too expensive.
NOTE: Just because you are preapproved for a certain amount does not mean you need to spend that amount.
Choose An Agent You Trust
You will be spending a lot of time with your agent so choose them wisely. It should be someone you get along with and someone you can trust will look out for your best interests. If your agent just cares about receiving a commission, they may push you to purchase a home before looking at all of your options or buying a home you can’t afford. Remember, you are the client and therefore should be treated as such.
NOTE: Just because you never physically cut a check to your real estate agent doesn’t mean you aren’t paying them. In a typical transaction the seller will pay the commissions. An agreed upon percentage will come out of the sales proceeds and go to both real estate agents (the buyer’s and the seller’s) and therefore the cost is built into the price you pay.
Use Your Agent As An Asset
Your agent is likely much more knowledgeable about home buying than you so use that knowledge to your benefit. The agent should be able to help you value homes and determine whether the house is fairly priced. Ask them as many questions as possible throughout the entire process.
On The Fence
If you are on the fence whether or not to buy a home then take your time. If you may relocate because of your job or family don’t jump into purchasing a home. It is not worth paying the closing costs and going through the hassle of home buying if you may move in the near future. We typically use the “5 Year Rule” when making the determination. If you don’t see yourself being in the house for at least 5 years you should consider whether or not you will get your money back when you sell.
The banking industry is extremely competitive and it is worth shopping around for the best offer when choosing a mortgage provider. If you aren’t comfortable with numbers, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A difference of 0.10% on a 30 year mortgage could be the difference of thousands of dollars wasted on interest.
Don’t Cheap Out On Homeowners
Don’t choose your homeowners policy based on price. Of course price is one of the considerations but it is not the only one. Make sure your policy is the most comprehensive you can comfortably afford as the cost of increased premiums is likely much less than the cost of coming out of pocket for something not covered. Remember, insurance companies, like banks, are in a competitive industry so shop around.
Most lenders require a 20% down payment of the home value to avoid paying additional costs. This means if the value of the home is $200,000, you will have to pay $40,000 out of pocket! Most lenders offer Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans that allow you to put down as little as 3.5%. If you choose this type of loan you also have to purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This will be a cost added to your mortgage payment until the value of your home is adequate enough to remove the PMI. It is important to factor this in as a cost similar to interest because a 5% interest rate could quickly look like 6-7% if you have to pay PMI.
Closing And Other Additional Costs
There are a lot of out of pocket costs to consider when purchasing a home. Examples of these costs are listed below. An important piece of knowing your number is to consider all the costs that may come up during the process.
- Loan Origination Fee
- Attorney Fees
- Property Taxes
- Home Owners Insurance
- Appraisal Fee
- Inspection Fee
- Title Insurance
- Recording Fee
- Government Recording Charges
- Credit Report Fee
- Flood Determination Fee
How To Help Avoid Certain Complications
Situation: I bought a house at the top of my budget that I thought was move in ready but needs repairs.
Recommendation: Choose an inspector that has a great reputation and knows the location. There may be issues that are common to the area that one inspector may be more likely to identify. Also, bring a contractor or someone of similar background for a walk through. Repairs can be extremely costly and if you purchased a home at the top end of your budget you may not be able to afford certain fixes. It should be known that all issues cannot be foreseen but taking the necessary steps to diminish these situations will not hurt. Don’t purchase a home that will bankrupt you if repairs need to be done.
Situation: I bought a home I can’t fill.
Recommendation: Closing costs and repairs won’t be the only out of pocket expenses. Complete a summary of items you think you may need to buy after the purchase. This may include furniture, appliances, décor, and fixtures. In these situations it is always better to overestimate.
Situation: My lease is up in a month and I would like to purchase a home.
Recommendation: Purchasing a home is something that requires time and planning. The home will likely be the largest purchase you’ve ever made (depending on the college you choose) so it is not something to rush. If you are thinking of moving after your lease is up or when you relocate jobs, start planning as soon as possible. Feeling forced into purchasing something as important as a home will likely lead to regrets.
Hi, I’m Rob Mangold. I’m the Chief Operating Officer at Greenbush Financial Group and a contributor to the Money Smart Board blog. We created the blog to provide strategies that will help our readers personally , professionally, and financially. Our blog is meant to be a resource. If there are questions that you need answered, pleas feel free to join in on the discussion or contact me directly.