Buying a house is a big step — especially if it's your first home.
It's not something you should enter into lightly. As great as the feeling of owning your own home can be, many new homeowners have suffered because of not doing enough research and planning.
If you're thinking about purchasing a home, here to help you every step of the way — that starts with making an informed decision. Here's what every prospective buyer should know before buying a home:
- Understand the process
The home buying process isn't as confusing as it's often made out to be, but it can seem that way if you don't have a lot of real estate experience. Learn all you can about the process before you get started. This is where it helps to have an experienced real estate agent working with you.
- Decide if it's worth it
In most major cities, it's cheaper, in the long run, to buy a house than to rent, but that doesn't mean it's the right choice for everyone. You'll have to weigh the financial pros and cons to decide if it's the right move for you.
- Know your credit score
Few things have a greater impact on your ability to get a mortgage with good terms than your credit score. Know your score, and take the time to improve it if necessary before you start looking for a home.
- Watch out for fixer-uppers
There's an undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes with restoring an older home and transforming it into a palace. But some fixer-uppers turn out to be money pits, especially those that have problems with the basement or foundation. When deciding between an older or newer home, be sure to fully consider all renovation costs.
- Save for a down payment
It's rare to be able to buy a home without putting down a sizable down payment, and the more you're able to pay upfront, the better mortgage rate you'll be able to get. Plan on putting down 20 percent of the home's total cost as a down payment.
- Know the neighbors
A home's surroundings are just as important as the home itself. So explore the neighborhood, check out local businesses, and get to know your new neighbors before you commit to a home.
- Work with a trusted real estate agent
Finding a knowledgeable, trustworthy real estate agent is one of the best ways to ensure that you are able to find the right home and pay a fair price for it.
- Understand the long-term costs
Some new homeowners end up making themselves "house-poor" by buying a home that they can just barely afford. Don't forget to think about long-term costs, like maintenance, repairs, and property taxes down the line.
- Make a checklist
Create a list of your "must-haves," "want-to-haves," and "dream features" that you can use to evaluate every home. This checklist will make it easier to find a home that offers everything you need.
- Take your time
Feeling rushed often leads to bad decisions. Take your time, relax, and shop around. Try to avoid feeling pressured — just because you find a home you like doesn't mean you have to immediately make an offer.
If you've done your homework and are working with a real estate agent you can trust, buying a new home can be one of the best investments you've ever made.