Growing up, each of us was taught one lesson that we never forgot: becoming a home owner is the ultimate American dream. As kids, we assumed that owning a home meant that you're mature, capable of being financially independent, and ready to start your family.
But eventually, we grew up — which shortly led to the realization that life is expensive and homes are, well, even more expensive. Reality Bites isn't just some '90s rom-com, it's also your mind coming to grips with the fact that you need to be ready to buy a six-figure property.
It's easy to say you need to be ready, but what does that even mean?
For a couple of years, I was anti-home-ownership forever. I figured, "Why should I buy a home that may or may not increase in value when I could rent for less and put the extra income I was saving toward investments?" I mean, wouldn't I be better off continuing to rent? I'd be avoiding stressors, like potential repairs, increases in mortgage rates, real estate crashes — the list goes on and on.
So why did I have a sudden change of heart? Was it our leaky fridge, the lack of office space, or the fact that our dinner table sits on white carpet? (I mean, who puts white carpet in an eating area?! How can I trust myself with red wine? Answer: I can't.)
I had to admit, it would be nice to come home to:
- An office.
- A guest bedroom for when friends and family visit from out of town.
- A backyard for my niece to play in.
- A backyard for my future adorable puppies to play in.
- A large enough space to entertain.
- My own everything. Me. Mine. Oh, and my husband's. I guess.
It was time for me to start looking at whether home ownership was something I could truly afford, both financially and mentally. That's when I broke out the checklist. I asked myself the following tough questions to consider when it comes to home ownership. Do you know your answers?
Before you even start to consider anything else on the checklist, can you afford a home? Find a handy mortgage calculator online and punch in the numbers to see how much you can afford based on your income, find out a down payment amount, and compare to your current savings.
Not only do you need a down payment to buy a home, you will also need money saved up to take care of lawyer fees, mortgage insurance, new furniture, and more. Write down a list of every cost you'll need covered before diving in.
Aside from having your down payment saved up, do you have an additional savings account that is purely for emergencies? Keep in mind that homes can unexpectedly need repairs and updates. By having an emergency fund, you'll eliminate much of the stress that can come along with being a first-time homeowner.
Owning a home means staying put in the same city for five to 10 years. If you are sure that your job won't take you across the country, your travel plans aren't too crazy, and you love the city or community you're planning to buy in, these are great signs that you may be ready for home ownership.
Unlike renting or living with your parents, you can't always call up a friend to help for free. Sometimes you'll need to do your own handiwork, and other times you'll need to call a professional to take care of any repairs. Not to mention Spring cleaning!
If you're not too savvy with investing and considering a home to be your future retirement fund, ensure that you are aware of the realistic inflation we'll see over the next 20-30 years. Although homes can be wonderful investments, they aren't always the money makers they once were. If that's the case, double-check your budget to ensure you can afford savings on top of your everyday expenses.
As I mentioned at the start of this piece, we were always told that home ownership is the goal. However, that does not mean that it needs to be yours. I'll leave you with a quote from a friend who purchased at a young age: "I associated too much of what it would look like, accomplishment-wise, instead of realizing that I don't in fact own my condo, the bank does, and I make payments to them (just like renting)."
Aside from all the difficult aspects of home ownership, there are some seriously amazing parts too. Having a place to call your own, the confidence in knowing where you'll be over the next few years, and the opportunity to build a family history are just a few of the reasons I'm still squirreling away money for my down payment.
Now it's your turn.