This past summer, my fiancé and I became proud first-time homeowners. As a fan of almost all HGTV programs in existence, I couldn't wait to start looking at homes. But, the process wasn't nearly as smooth as it often appears on TV.
Knowing what I know now, here are five considerations to make before and during your house hunt.
- Attend a homebuying seminar. Many credit unions offer these seminars to help first-time homebuyers understand the process, clarify loan types and answer other questions related to homebuying. These seminars are a great place to start, as they can shed light on questions you didn’t know you had, and set realistic expectations before you begin looking.
- Live within your means. Before looking at any houses – virtually or in-person – meet with a mortgage loan officer to help you crunch the numbers and determine which type of loan will work best for you. It's easy to fall in love with a house, only to find out that between principal, interest, taxes, private mortgage insurance, and other payments, it's out of budget. Don’t make this mistake.
- Distinguish between wants and needs. Sure, a finished basement with a theater room and bar might be nice – but is it a necessity? Make a short list of non-negotiables – like having a good school district or a garage – and recognize that anything extra is an added bonus.
- Don’t tackle the process alone. Enlist a financially savvy friend or family member who has purchased a home to be your mentor. The process is much smoother when you have an ally outside of a realtor who is familiar with the steps.
- Remember no decision is the last decision. If you’re like the majority of Americans, your first house will not be your last house. So, don’t strain yourself financially to purchase your dream house immediately.
This also extends to cosmetics. Ugly green shag carpet from 1979 or a bathroom with bright orange paint shouldn’t deter you from buying a house. Try to disassociate yourself from the current appearance and imagine what the house could be given time and some TLC.