A lot of buyers, especially first-timers, worry about whether or not they’re going about their home search the right way.
On the one hand, buyers fret that if they find their "dream home" too early, they might be missing out on something better. But, on the other, if the process takes a while, they worry that they’ll never find a home that works for them. The FOMO is real.
Keep reading to find out if you’re on track with your home search and what you should do if you find that you need to go back to the drawing board.
How many homes should you see?Honestly, that depends. While we understand the impulse to try and rely on hard-and-fast statistics, homebuying is a truly personal experience rather than a science.
Trust your intuition. You know your needs, likes, and dislikes better than anyone else. You’ll know when you’ve landed on the property that makes the most sense for you to call home.
That said, though, there are a few things you can do to help speed your search along:
If you’ve been looking for a while and haven’t really found anything that meets your needs, it might be time to redefine search criteria. Sit down and take some time to think about which features you really need to have in your new home versus which are more nice-to-have, wishlist items.
Narrowing your searchSometimes, narrowing search criteria can get tricky. If you’re unsure of where to start, try using the following as a starting point.
Focusing in on a particular area is one of the easiest ways to refine your search. You can start by doing research into different neighborhoods by you. Think about what you commute to work will look like, if the area has amenities that you enjoy, the quality of the school district, and home values.
With that in mind, though, you getting too hung up on a particular zip code can also limit your criteria. The key is keep an ideal location in mind while still staying open to possibility.
Bedrooms & bathrooms
When searching for a house, you should have a firm idea of how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’re after. Whether you’re just looking to accommodate yourself and the occasional guest, are thinking about starting a family in the near future, or want the option to convert a spare bedroom into an office, this information will surely help narrow your search.
We advise against compromising on this feature because, while it is possible to put an addition on later, doing so takes a substantial amount of time and effort. More often than not, homeowners find that they would rather put their home on the market than go through the hassle of trying to renovate it to fit their changing needs.
This is the big one. Once you have the above two details settled, it’s time to narrow your search results further to only those homes that you can truly afford. If you’ve already applied for a pre-approval, that number can be a good place to start. However, remember that a pre-approval shows the maximum amount that you can ask for in a loan. You may not want to borrow up to that amount once you factor in the rest of your monthly expenses.
To find a more comfortable sale price, we recommend using a mortgage calculator to get a sense of what your monthly payment could look like at various loan amounts and interest rates. Then, once you’ve landed on a number that works for you, try plugging that into your monthly budget to get a sense of how the payment will feel in addition to your other costs.
Now what?The good news is that once you’ve narrowed your search down, your pool of available properties will likely be much smaller than it was before - and much more targeted to meet your needs. From here, your search will be about zeroing in on your perfect match on the basis of which property was the best fit for your personal tates.
You’ll know when a property feels like it could become home versus when you’d be trying to make the best of an imperfect situation. Keep hunting until you find the former.
This article originally appeared on OpenListings.
“Am I ready to buy a house, or should I just keep renting?”
It’s one of the questions that we hear most often and something to which first-time homebuyers often spend months, if not years, trying to figure out the answer.
Below are a list of four tell-tale signs that you’re ready to bite the bullet and take the leap into home ownership:
Sign #1: You're ready to settle down
The first sign that you’re in the right mindset to become a homeowner is that you’re ready to stay put -- at least for a little while.
Conventional wisdom states that in order for your purchase to make financial sense, you’ll want to plan on staying put for at least the next five years. When you sit down to think about house hunting, you’ll want to use that time frame as your reference point.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Can you see yourself staying at your job for that long, or will you be looking for new opportunities
- If the right position came along, would you be willing to move for it?
- Do you like the area you’re living in, or would you like to explore other options?
- Do you see your living situation changing soon?
- Are you planning on moving in with a significant other or expanding your family?
If these questions make you squirmy, the idea of looking five years into the future still feels a little too far ahead for you to grasp, or you still want to see where life life takes you, you may want to consider renting for a bit longer or thinking about a for-a-few-years home vs. a forever home.
2. You’re done living paycheck-to-paycheck
Let’s face it, becoming a homeowner is expensive.
Not only is there a monthly mortgage mortgage payment to consider, which will likely be more than your
current rent check, but prospective homebuyers need to be prepared to come up with a sizable down payment, shoulder a portion of the closing costs, and have the dough to take care of any necessary repairs.
Luckily, there is a way that you can prepare for the added financial pressure before the big day comes and understand how much house you can afford. Use a mortgage calculator to estimate what a monthly payment could based on the type of home you’re looking to buy.
Then, subtract the amount you pay in rent each month, and aim to put the the remainder into savings.
Start by working towards a down payment that could be worth 3%-10% of a home’s sale price, and then move onto a separate emergency fund.
3. You’re ready for more responsibility
Once you find a home and actually buy it, that’s really where all the fun begins.
Yes, owning a home means that you have a lot more freedom to improve the property as you see fit -- whether that means putting in an entirely new kitchen or redoing the hardwood floors.
However, in addition to that creative freedom comes an added layer of responsibility. As the homeowner, you’re the one who is responsible for any necessary maintenance and upkeep on the property.
Think about what you’re like as a tenant now.
Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and help with small tasks or are you relieved to know that you have someone to call? If you’re less handy, you may want to take some time to familiarize yourself with common home maintenance tasks before committing to buying anything. It always helps to have a fair idea of what you’re getting into.
4. You know what you’re looking for
Last but not least, though it may sound self-explanatory, when you’re trying to determine whether or not you’re ready to buy a home, it’s useful to have an idea of what you’re looking for.
You don’t have to have every single detail set in stone. (In fact, it’s preferable if you leave some room to flexibility in your home search.) That said, though, having a basic set of parameters in mind will make the homebuying process go much easier.
Here, you’ll want to think about the most important factors that you absolutely must have in a home. These will be the things that you would not feel comfortable buying a home without. This may include details like your preferred location, an ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a target sale price, or any specific must-have features like that perfect picture window view.
If you have a strong idea of your must-haves and can't see that changing in the near future, and the above signs sound like you, you may just be ready to take the plunge into home ownership. If not, there’s no shame in the game waiting.
This article originally appeared on OpenListings.