6 Important Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying A Home

The spring and summer months are usually the most popular months for buying a house. And, buying a house is probably the largest purchase a person will ever make. According to Zillow, the median U.S. home value is $195,300 and the median price of homes currently listed is $234,900. Nearly everyone says that a house…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 27, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

The spring and summer months are usually the most popular months for buying a house. And, buying a house is probably the largest purchase a person will ever make.

Before buying a house, you should ask yourself questions. These questions are for first time homebuyers, or even those who are on their second or more!According to Zillow, the median U.S. home value is $195,300 and the median price of homes currently listed is $234,900.

Nearly everyone says that a house is a good investment. Many people will even go as far to say that doing anything other than owning a house would be a complete waste of money.

However, I don’t agree with that at all.

Buying a house isn’t for everyone. You shouldn’t jump at the opportunity to buy a house, especially any ol’ house. And, you should think about all of the factors before deciding that buying a house is the best and only decision for you.

Deciding to buy a house is a huge commitment, and problems may arise if you don’t fully think about how this big purchase will affect your life.

There are many questions to ask yourself before you buy a house, and not everyone will have the same answers. This is why it’s important to analyze your situation first.

Whether you are a first time home buyer or if this is your second or third house (or more!), you should still ask yourself these questions.

Related articles on a first time home buyer guide:

Everyone has felt that dreadful feeling that comes after making a large purchase and realizing that you have made a mistake. Perhaps you don’t realize for months or years later, but you eventually understand what a waste of money the purchase was.

And, no one wants to feel this way after buying a house!

Related:

What to ask yourself before buying a house.

 

Can you afford it?

Before you ask yourself any other questions about buying a house, you should most definitely make sure that affordability is a top priority.

If you can’t afford it, then you should not be buying that house.

It’s really that simple.

You will want to look at your overall financial situation and analyze:

  • How much you make.
  • Your job stability.
  • How much you have saved.
  • Your credit history.
  • The total monthly amount you feel comfortable paying for a home. Make sure you look at all the costs involved!
  • Your total amount of debt.

When buying a house, it takes analyzing all of these factors to realize what you can truly afford.

Many people try to justify a buying a house that is over their budget, but that is a horrible idea. Banks will usually pre-approve you for a mortgage payment that is higher than what you can actually afford. So, it’s a bad idea to go over that number or even beyond one that you are comfortable with.

AND, you should not just take what the bank pre-approves you for as the amount that you can actually afford. Like I said, banks tend to pre-approve for more, so that number is not a good gauge of what you can afford.

When determining what you can afford, you will want to think about ALL of the costs that come with buying a house and living in it. This means that your research should not end with the purchase price of the house – it actually goes way past that, as discussed in a later section.

 

Why do you want THIS house?

Buying house can lead to a crazy amount of new feelings – happiness, stress, excitement, and more. This can sometimes make every house you look at seem like the perfect one, and that’s because they all seem so new and exciting.

Before you put an offer on a house, you should think about the reasons for why you want a specific house. This is one of the first steps to finding a house that’s right for you, as this can make sure you are getting exactly what you want and need, rather than just being happy with any home.

I recommend creating a wish list that includes all of the things you want in a home. Your wish list could include things like::

  • Whether you want to be in the country or the city.
  • If you want a fenced in yard.
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms you need.
  • The age of the home.
  • The quality of the schools.
  • The size of the kitchen.
  • Your budget, and this one is extremely important!

And, you’ll also want to create a list of things that you want to stay away from, such as if you don’t want a place with a pool, a home with a lot of yard maintenance, a home that is a fixer upper, and so on.

By having this wish list on hand, you’ll know exactly what you should be looking at, and what you should avoid.

 

What other costs do you need to factor in?

When you find a house that you think is right for you, you need to make sure that you can afford ALL of the costs that come with that house.

Just because you can pay the monthly house payment doesn’t mean that you can afford everything else that goes with it. There are ongoing costs when buying a house, which is something that many homebuyers forget about.

In fact, U.S. homeowners, on average, spend more than $9,000 per year in hidden homeownership costs and maintenance expenses cost homeowners an average of $6,042 per year in unavoidable hidden costs. These include things like homeowners insurance, property taxes, and utilities.

Before making a home purchase, you should think about how much this house will cost you in the long run. There are many ways to think of this, such as:

  • Property taxes- These vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may vary by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually, and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Gas– Many homes use gas to run the hot water heater, the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity– Generally, the bigger your home, the higher your electricity bill.
  • Sewer–  This isn’t super expensive, but it is generally around $30 a month.
  • Trash–  This isn’t super expensive either, but it does cost money.
  • Water (and possibly irrigation)-  Depending on how you use water and where you live, water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred dollars each month.
  • Home insurance- Home insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance, and know that it can add up quickly depending on where you live.
  • Maintenance and repairs- No matter how old your home is (even brand new homes), repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play. In fact, U.S. homeowners pay an average of $3,435 per year in annual optional costs, including house cleaning, yard care, gutter cleaning, carpet cleaning, and pressure washing. But, don’t forget about things like needing a new roof or other repairs that may come up!
  • Homeowners association fees- This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is part of an HOA. Often, the fees are high and involve rules you may not like.
  • Home furnishings- Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes and can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

Always remember to add up the total cost when deciding to buy a house!

 

How long do you plan to live in the area?

It usually takes around 5 years to recoup the costs you paid to purchase a house. If you only live in a house for one or two years, then you may lose money on closing costs, because of the volatility of the real estate market, and more. Plus, it usually takes some time and legwork to buy a house, so you may not want to do it again so soon.

Due to this, you’ll want to think about how long you’ll be living in the area.

You’ll want to make sure that the house will be suitable for you for at least 5 years, so you’ll want to think about things such as:

  • Are you happy with the area?
  • How are the schools?
  • Is the house big enough if you plan on starting a family?
  • Do you plan on working in the area for at least 5 years?

And so on.

You really need to think about your future when deciding to buy a house.

 

Can buying a house wait 24 hours?

I know it’s tempting to jump on a house when you find it, but if the purchase can wait 24 hours, then you may want to delay it. This will allow you more time to think about the purchase, go over your budget again, let any butterflies you have about the home purchase go away, and so on.

You will be able to make a much more rational decision if you think about it for at least 24 hours.

Plus, for all you know, you may even realize that you don’t want the house at all!

Yes, I realize that some houses will sell rather quickly, but when you think you have a limited time frame, it can sometimes cause you to make a rush decision that isn’t good for you.

If you can, take 24 hours to make sure this house is right for you.

 

Do you really need/want this house?

Finally, the last question you should ask yourself is whether or not you actually need the house. It sounds easy enough, but many people do not even think about asking this question. When in fact, it is one of the most important questions to ask when buying a house (or any large purchase for that matter).

Really dig deep and ask yourself this simple question. Sure, you might think you want the house, but have you also been able to answer all of these other questions positively?

Buying a house is huge investment, and it deserves a lot of time and thought to make the best decision.

What other questions should a person ask themselves when buying a house?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. The Giving Budget

    I’m a big believer is knowing what you can afford before you purchase the house or anything else for that matter.

    I have moved 7 times in my young life each time buying some sort of house, most have been flipper houses.

    I remember our first house we got approved for and they gave us almost $75k more than we thought we could afford! This didn’t include all the upkeep and hidden costs. I’m glad we didn’t go off the banks affording cost!

    Also it’s not worth it to own a huge house and barely being able to afford the mortgage if it’s causing you money stress and you can’t even afford to buy stuff like you said.

    Great post!

    1. Yeah, our first house was for much more than what we could afford. What a disaster that could have been!

    2. Maggie

      I’m with you guys on this one too. We got into a “too much house” situation the first time as well. We had to forgo a life to afford the house. No vacations or life experiences for years and then being under water on our mortgage even after years of payments was the turning point. We wised up and got out from under it.We now live in the same size house but pay 2/3 less than what we used to pay. So it’s not always the size of the house that is “too much house” but the size of the mortgage.

  2. Mustard Seed Money

    I think another great question to ask before you buy is will you like the neighbors. There are certain neighborhoods around us that we know that we wouldn’t fit into. I’ve read and heard from people over the years that had trouble fitting into certain neighborhoods and some of the pressures of getting up with the Joneses. They eventually left to move into neighborhoods that made more sense. So investigating neighbors is huge ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Ryan @ Just Another Dollar

      Great tip! Even with rentals, we always make a point to park and take a decent stroll around the neighborhood to see what kind of area it is. Also good to check in different times/days so you have a good picture. It’d be pretty rough to end up next to the house with 5 barking dogs just because they weren’t outside when you toured the house. Especially important if you’re going to own it.

      1. Yes, learning more about the neighborhood is always a good idea!

    2. I never thought about that really. Interesting!

  3. One of the very best pieces of house-buying advice we got when we were younger was to ask ourselves this question when considering a house: “Could you live there forever if you had to?” Many times people buy “starter” houses that they’re not thrilled with due to location or layout or whatever, and assume that they’ll just move in a few years. But that’s not always possible. The market might crash, one’s income might drop or whatever. It’s important if you’re going to buy to have that long-term perspective about the house, just in case. Great tips here. And I agree – home ownership is not always a good idea.

    1. Yes, what a great question to ask!

  4. These are all great question. When my husband and I saw the first house that we wanted to buy, we wanted to wait for a day. By the time we got back to our realtor, that house was already under contract. We felt really bad about it.

    But we eventually found another house that we liked. We bought it and now think it’s much better than any house we have wanted to buy before.

  5. We left a situation in an expensive part of the country where we just flat out bought too much house. It was (barely) manageable until we decided to have my wife stay at home full-time with our son. Then, we really had to make a decision to leave our first home. Not a fun choice to make.

    Today, we’re in a cheaper area with a more modest (but still nice) home. However, we’re dealing with HOA problems. There are plenty of people in the neighborhood in their 60s or older who like to feel in control of others. Now, we have to get approval to plant a darn bush in our own yard. We had an HOA in our first neighborhood, but it wasn’t as big of a pain.

    I will NEVER go with an HOA again. Ever. I don’t care if my neighbor has a hot pink door. Lol.

    1. Yeah, I’m not a fan of HOAs.

      1. There are also those pesky HOA assessments. Often the Board doesn’t need to get a vote from all owners if they want to fix a roof or redesign a parking lot (and the latter may be because it’s important to them, not you). An unexpected increase of hundreds of dollars a month may apply, especially if it’s a condo or town home in a city.

    2. Violet

      I agree! A condo or townhouse may be the right solution for some people, but, HOA’s can be a total pain. I am a disabled veteran and I thought it would be easier to live in a house with an HOA. It was a headache for 3 years. I sold that house and went to the local Aging and Disability Center, they have vetted folks who do yard work, house cleaning ect… I hired this local kid to mow my lawn and do snow removal. Much cheaper, much easier..no headaches.

    3. Brian Cassidy

      Get a copy of the rules & regulations and also Bylaws. Some HOA officers have little else to do and want to enforce their own rules. If it is not in the rules & regs / bylaws it is unenforceable.

  6. Ongoing maintenance is something I see people often forget to budget for. You should be budgeting at about 1% of your home value for maintenance costs. That’s pure maintenance and doesn’t include upkeep like carpet cleaning/gutter cleaning/lawn care etc. So that $3,435 figure for annual upkeep seems very accurate. My wife and I put aside $2,400 per year into a “house fund”. This covers any maintenance costs that may arise. It also builds each year to cover big repairs like a new roof.

  7. Mike Collins

    The house we bought when we first got married was a big mistake. The real estate market in NJ was booming and we were getting outbid left and right for anything decent. We ended up jumping on the house because we were afraid we’d never get into a house if we didn’t do it now. It ended up being a money pit on a busy street which I hated. And then the real estate bubble popped and we were stuck there way longer than we planned. We moved out a few years ago and our second home purchase was a lot wiser.

    1. You live and learn ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Wendy @ The Prescribed Life

    I think it’s also super important to look at the housing market as a whole right now– I know in Atlanta, the market is soooo very inflated, so buying a house at this point is simply not wise. And as much as people think rent is “throwing away money,” it can also be cost-saving when big repairs or job transfers come into play!

    1. Yes, definitely a good thing to look into.

  9. We recently purchased a home and I would be lying if I was not a little nervous. It is a foreclosure and I pray we do not end up with any issues once we are living in it. Seems like we got a good deal with some built in equity. Fingers crossed!

  10. Ryan @ Just Another Dollar

    The part about knowing how much you are willing to pay is very important. With our income, we could qualify for over $700k on our first house. Rather than buying ourselves a McMansion with all the bells and whistles, we’re more likely to choose a small, simple house for about half the price. Keeping our eyes on the target of early retirement means a comfortable mortgage payment and reasonable lifestyle, despite what the banks and our broke friends would have us doing. Very informative post. Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  11. Nayeli

    Thank you Michelle! These were spot on. I just bought my house last year, and went through all of these questions (and some more) before I finally signed off on the mortgage. Buying a house is a huge commitment and it’s not for everyone… I know of people who only bought a house to say that they did (and a very expensive one at that)…had to give up the house in less than a year.

    In any case, thank you so much for this post ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Love your 6 questions. Pausing to ask them can save a lot of time, money and heartache! And you’re spot-on about staying within your personal budget instead of what the banks say you can afford!

    I agree that home-ownership like you’re discussing (as in owning the home you live in) isn’t for everyone. But I think there’s a lot to be said for property ownership, as in owning rental homes, and this is becoming an overlooked investment strategy for the next generation. I recently wrote a post about the many advantages of buying real estate as an investment if you’re interested: https://www.savingsandsangria.com/three-reasons-you-should-buy-real-estate/

    Of course, nearly all these questions still apply to investment property purchases ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for a great post!

  13. My hubby is a realtor and we live in the mindset that just because the bank approves you for an $800k home, doesn’t mean you can’t live well in $300k home. Never the less, he still has clients wanting to buy huge houses they don’t need and it’s not his place to persuade them otherwise. I’m happy to see online influencers helping home buyers to reconsider their buying decisions. I personally like owning my own home as I like doing renovations and adding our personal touch. It helps provide our family with stability as well. However, I don’t fall for the “bigger is better.”

  14. Buying a house is never something that should be rushed. It’s a huge commitment that we did not totally understand when we bought our first house at 23.

    Luckily we bought a very small house 1,250 square feet that are very easy to maintain and built in 2007 so no major repairs in the near future.

    One of the biggest obstacles we did not understand is the taxes! Our taxes are just as much as our mortgage.

    Take your time, if a house falls through and someone else buys it, it was not meant for you. Keep a level head and always purchase a home smaller than you need.

    The payoff of owning a house on average is 5 years to offset the closing costs. Always make sure you plan on staying for at least that long.

    Our house has appreciated almost $25,000 over the last 4 years of owning it. If you take the proper steps before jumping you can turn a home purchase into a great investment.

    1. Yes, taxes are so important to think about.

  15. Really Make Cents

    Great things to consider when purchasing a home. I recently just purchased my first home and I definitely thought long and hard about whether it was the right thing to do. The additional costs of having to repair everything yourself rather than just having your landlord fix them can add up quickly. I don’t think you should think of your primary home as an investment, but as your sanctuary.

  16. I agree with everything on this list. I bought a house last summer and ended up buying a brand new house that was under my budget. It seems many people tend to go over budget for various reasons when buying a house. I think the HGTV phenomenon has contributed to this as you tend to see people on many of those shows go over their budget like it’s nothing.

    I opted to buy a house because where I live rents for 1 bedroom apartments in nice neighborhoods keep rising, plus I was paying extra for most of the utilities. The mortgage (which includes insurance and taxes), HOA and utilities for my 4 bedroom house are equal to the rent + utilities I was paying for a 1 bedroom apartment!

  17. Cameron

    So many great points here. Maintenance and remodeling costs have been a huge pain for us in our first home. We love the home and knew there would be some small renovations needed which was fine.

    Our inspector did a very poor job and now we are needing some foundation work, siding work, and roof work all because of a poor inspector. These added costs are really killing our budget now but in the end we will be better off. The good thing is we intend to stay in the house for a long time and we have a nice amount of equity in the home.

    Home buying can be fun if you follow the above steps, take your time to find the perfect house, it is out there and you will find it eventually! Never a need to rush into something because you feel like you have to. Great article!

  18. Travis

    Great questions to ask yourself.

    Another question to ask…is this house really in good shape? I have seen friends purchase a house w/out getting a home inspection and then have to put thousands into fixing things. Make sure you get a home inspection…it’s worth the $500. If you can’t afford the $500 then you shouldn’t buy the house!!!!

  19. Last time when i buy a small house for my family. i was glad but they told me about the hidden cost i was disappoint. but i manage its all in my budget.

  20. Oliver @ Appreneurinvestor.com

    Many people don’t have knowledge about buying a house and drain their money in very bad way. Buying a house is a big deal and you need to have perfect knowledge about different steps involve in this activity. Well, you guide the beginners and those who don’t have enough knowledge about buying a house, in relatively appreciative way. Thanks for all your guidelines.

  21. Yep – I can sympathize with each one. MY wife and I carefully discussed each one of these questions before we just purchased our first home. Would strongly recommend this listing to any homebuyer and it is a detailed, thoughtful list of all things to ask yourself before beginning the process.

    Thanks for the great read!

    Bert

  22. I think one of the most import factors is how long you place on staying in the area. You have to live somewhere, and if your planning on staying in the area for more then 5-7 years then I think buying a home is a good investment, if you can afford it. The principle portion of your monthly payment is basically like saving account over the long run.

  23. We purchased our first home earlier this year and it was the best decision we’ve made. After years of renting we finally decided to take the plunge and just do it. We’ve seen a good increase in our equity within only 6 months of purchasing and we’re not paying someone else’s mortgage too. I’ve always viewed renting as dead money – you might as well be paying down your own mortgage and enjoying the benefits of having your own home.

  24. Ridley Fitzgerald

    I love your advice for buying a home. My wife and I both think it’s time to get a home, but it’s good for us to double-check, just to be sure. Thanks for the list of costs associated with owning a home; we hadn’t factored in trash and sewer costs. We’ll work that into our budget!

  25. It was only last year when we purchased our first home which was a foreclosure. We got a great deal on the home but my partner was pretty nervous about it. It seems like it has all worked out okay and I would happy do it again.

  26. Steven Mills

    These questions also apply to those who are looking for apartment in the city. Most of the problem of renters are the noise from the street and the noisy neighbors living beside. Many thanks for the handful tips, Michelle.

  27. This is a great list to start the thinking process. As a financial counselor, I all too often see young people tell me their only reason for purchasing is so they aren’t “throwing away their rent money”. This is NOT a good reason to buy.