It starts innocently enough… you pass a house in a neighborhood you like, you hear someone is selling their home, you happen to look up home prices online. Before you know it, youʼre knee-deep in home shopping and open house visits. This can actually be exceedingly dangerous to your financial future.
Falling in love with a home before you actually know what you want in a home is risky. To avoid the “buy first, think later” syndrome that burdens family finances, marriages, and work life, ask yourself these important questions:
1. How much do we want to spend each month on home expenses? Thereʼs a tendency for people who shop first to try and “make the math work” on purchasing a home. Often this leads to stretching the home budget and ignoring crucial expenses such as maintenance and property taxes in order to “make the mortgage.” Determine a comfortable, conservative range for home expenses first.
2. Which neighborhoods make sense from multiple angles? You may love a neighborhood for its leafy streets and family-friendly atmosphere, but what if it adds thirty minutes to your commute? Are the schools good? What are the crime stats like? Whatʼs the walkability score? Donʼt view a neighborhood with rose-colored glasses based on a single quality you like.
3. Whatʼs a priority and whatʼs a nice extra? You may think you want extra bedrooms for guests and a home office, but which one is more important? Rank the must haves against the “nice to haves.”
4. Whatʼs our long-term ownership picture look like? Are you settling in for ten years, or do you suspect youʼll need to move in four? While you canʼt predict the future, you can make some estimates. Those estimates will help you understand how much home you should buy, what kind of down-payment youʼll want to have, and what the picture might look like in terms of renovations.
5. When can you move vs. when would you like to move? Rental leases, selling your current home, and job and schooling factors all impact the timeline for a purchase. Wrap your head around the pragmatic timeline as best you can.