If you're tired of paying rent every month for the privilege of living on someone else's property, maybe it's time to put that money toward a place of your own. Do you want to take the plunge? Here are 10 signs that you may be ready for homeownership.
By Timothy Dale
Attention Prospective Home Buyers!
The mere fact that you clicked on this article probably means that you've been thinking about owning your own home. Perhaps you're tired of paying rent to a landlord who is always there to complain but never around to fix that dripping faucet. Or maybe you need to get away from your parents-cum-landlords who keep trying to place restrictions on their adult children. But even though you may be itching to break free from the renting life, you may not be ready. Read on for 10 signs that you are truly prepared to own your own home.
You Have a Great Track Record
A history of responsible behavior, both financial and social, is one of the first signs that you are ready to buy your own home. If you're scrambling to pay your rent each month, or always behind on your bills, or living off ramen noodles, you have no business looking for a house. To handle a mortgage, you have to be the sort of person who regularly pays the rent on time (or early). But settling debts promptly isn't enough. You also need to exhibit social maturity, be respectful of neighbors and their property, and conscientious about caring for your own property. A little courtesy goes a long way toward maintaining cordial relationships within a community.
You're Tired of Housemate Horrors
Because living on your own can get expensive, renters frequently have to put up with roommates. But relatively few roommates connect well enough to live together indefinitely, and even those combinations that work at first can deteriorate over time. In fact, tension between roommates is often what drives renters to move on to a house of their own. If you've been through the roommate roulette a few too many times and can't bear the thought of having to share your space with yet another stranger, it may very well be time for you to start house-hunting.
You Want More Control
Renters are rarely permitted to make changes to their apartment. They're typically prohibited from renovating, making changes to the landscaping, or swapping out appliances. If you are aching for the freedom to change your space to suit your needs and your tastes, then homeownership may be the answer. Just keep in mind that while owning your own home gives you complete control over your surroundings, you're also stuck with any household repairs.
You're Ready to Commit
Owning a home requires a significant amount of money up front and entails plenty of ongoing costs outside of monthly mortgage payments. While a single person may find it challenging to carry a mortgage and still maintain a reasonable standard of living, it's a far easier stretch for a couple with two incomes. For many couples, buying a house is a rational next step in the path toward a secure romantic and financial relationship. Though making such a significant financial commitment with another person is a big decision, it's one that can be rewarding for those ready to start the next chapter of their lives.
Your Tastes Are Evolving
Sometimes the sign that you are ready to own your own home isn’t as tangible as a wedding ring or as quantifiable as a good credit score. Sometimes it's as subtle as a shift in attitudes, a transformation from carefree apartment-hopper to nesting DIYer. Pay attention to your internal compass (and maybe even your internet search history) to figure out what matters to you. If you find you're googling the latest trends in dining sets instead of the latest bands, or if you're more keen on watching real estate shows than bringing the newest hit series, it may be time to start saving for a house.
You Know What You Want (and What It Will Cost)
The limitations of apartment living can easily set you to dreaming about your ideal house: the number of rooms and bathrooms, the size of the yard, a fireplace, or an expansive deck. But anyone can dream. To make that dream a reality, you need to connect your dream to a very real budget. Figure out how much you can handle in monthly payments, taking into account not only mortgage payments but also property tax, utilities, maintenance, and transportation costs. Then determine what you truly need in a house, research a few neighborhoods, and find out what the going price is for homes that meet your requirements. Use this process as a reality check. If your dream house and budget don't align, trim back your must-haves, switch neighborhoods, or build up your savings. Remember: It's not enough to find the house of your dreams; you need to be able to afford it too. Having the financial maturity to make a clear-eyed evaluation of your budget and your needs is a sign that you're ready to buy your own house.
You Have a Stable Income
Having a stable and secure income is one of the surest signs that you are ready to own. Before you start looking, you should have been in a steady job for at least six months, and this job must pay enough to comfortably cover your rent, utilities, and any other necessary expenses. If you live alone, your rent should equal about 25 to 35 percent of your income, and if you're living with a partner or roommate, the rent should equal 25 to 35 percent of your combined household income. If you have these finances well in hand, you may be ready to take on a monthly mortgage.
You Have Your Down Payment
If you are financially stable, you may be anxious to jump into the housing market. But before you get carried away, make sure you've saved up a down payment. First-time home buyers typically make an upfront payment of between 5 and 10 percent of the price of the house, though this figure varies depending on the lender and the amount of the loan, among other things. You may even need a larger down payment, in which case you would have to bulk up your savings before you could buy. But in general, if you've accumulated a down payment of around 10 percent of the price you're willing to pay for a house, you're a in a good position to find a real estate agent and start shopping.
You Have Extra Cash Set Aside
Even with a stable job, steady salary, and a sizable down payment in hand, you still may not be ready to buy a house. Though the down payment is the biggest chunk of money you'll need, there are plenty of additional costs. For instance, competition from other bidders can force you to increase your offer on the house. And then when you finally close on the house, there are hidden costs, such as legal fees, fees for inspection and appraisal, the real estate agent's fee, property taxes, and other expenses. After the closing, you'll want to have cash on hand to take care of any improvements or repairs required to make your new home safer, more efficient, and more comfortable.
You're in It for the Long Term
Buying a home gives you security and stability, but it also anchors you to one spot, and this can make some people feel trapped and claustrophobic. If you're not comfortable living in one location for an extended period, you're probably not ready to own your own home. A house may be the biggest investment you'll make in your lifetime, so before you take the leap, be sure you and your family not only love the house but are enthusiastic about the city, the neighborhood, and the schools, and can envision living there happily for the next 5 to 10 years.