If you are looking to buy a house, I have a bunch of home buying tips that will help you sort through all of your options, understand the real cost of a home (and help you save money), and make the right choice.
Buying a house is a huge purchase.
In fact, it is usually the largest purchase a person will ever make.
The median U.S. home value is $226,800 and the median price of homes currently listed is $291,900, according to Zillow. And, there are some areas that have much higher average home prices, like four to five times more.
Purchasing a house is a huge commitment, and it’s easy to get excited and forget to think about some very important things before plunking down a huge amount of money. There are just so many factors to think about, and not everyone will have the same concerns.
To help you through the home buying process, today’s post is going to be like a mini first time home buyer guide. I’m going to cover some of my best home buying tips, like:
- Whether or not you should rent instead of buy
- How to set a budget (one of the most important steps to buying a house)
- Deciding what you want in a home
- How to research the true cost of a house
- Thinking about how long you’ll live in an area (recouping your costs)
- How to avoid feeling rushed
- Do you really need the house you’re about to buy
Whether you are a first time home buyer or if this is your second house or more, these are all things you should be thinking about.
Actually, these are the exact same things me and Wes have thought about before buying our sailboat and RV. They might not be “normal” homes, but they are what we live in. Plus, they are still very large purchases that need to be carefully thought out.
The home buying tips that I’m about to give you are to help you analyze what’s best for your situation – whether that’s a 5000 sq. ft. house, a 500 sq. ft. tiny home, an RV, a condo, etc.
I’ve said it already, but buying a house is a large purchase! And, 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 that you should have thought out your purchase a little bit more.
No one wants to feel this way after buying a house!
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Here are my best home buying tips.
Should you rent instead?
Before we started RVing, we sold our house and rented one for a little while. This raised quite a few eyebrows and led to questions about renting vs. buying from nearly everyone.
I even had several people tell me that I was making a stupid mistake.
I wasn't surprised, though. Many people believe the myth that if you are renting a home you don't know how to manage your money and that buying is always better, no matter what.
That couldn't be further from the truth.
Sometimes buying can be the better decision, but there are times when renting can fit a person's situation much better.
Buying a house can have a lot of positives, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right step for everyone.
To determine if renting is better for you, you'll want to think about things such as:
- How long you think you'll live in the area.
- Whether or not you're ready to purchase a house, financially and/or responsibility wise.
- Buying a home sometimes may be cheaper than renting, and the other way around.
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 just 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 over renting one is the best and only decision for you.
For home more renting vs. home buying tips, please read My Opinion Of The Great Renting vs Buying Debate for more information.
Set a budget before you look at homes.
One of the first things you will want to do is to set a budget – you can’t go very far in the home buying process without one. It’s how you will know what you want to be pre-approved for, and a realtor will need that information to really help you shop for homes.
You will want to set yourself a budget when it comes to the home as well as all of the other expenses that go along with owning a home.
You will want to look at your overall financial situation and analyze:
- The income you earn.
- The stability of your job.
- The amount of money you have saved for the down payment, other home expenses, etc.
- Your credit history and credit score.
- 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 realizing all of these factors to understand what you can truly afford and be comfortable with.
However, many people justify buying a house that is over their budget, but that is a bad plan.
See, banks often pre-approve people for a mortgage payment that is higher than what they can afford to pay. You pre-approval number is not a good gauge of what you can afford because it doesn’t factor in the total cost of the house.
What you can afford takes that above list into consideration, not just the number a bank gives you. Because of that, it can be a very bad idea to go over the number the bank pre-approves you for. You should always stick to an amount that 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 of my home buying tips.
Think about what you want in a home.
If you are like most people, you’ve spent years thinking about what you want in a home.
Now is the time to make a list of those things.
Buying a 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. This even happens with houses that don’t have everything you need. And, it definitely happens with ones that have more than you need.
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:
- The square footage of the home
- Size of yard
- If you want a fenced in yard
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms you desire
- The age of the home
- The quality of the schools
- The parking situation and whether or not there is a garage
- The size of the kitchen
- Pool or no pool
- Style of home
- Whether you want to be in the country or the city
- 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.
Research all of the expenses.
Like you just read, the listing price of a home is not all that you should look at.
When you find a home that you think is right for you, you need to make sure that you can afford all of the costs that come with that home.
Just because you can pay the monthly mortgage 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 $9,400 per year in hidden homeownership costs, and maintenance expenses cost homeowners an average of $6,300 per year in unavoidable hidden costs, according to MarketWatch. These include things like homeowners insurance, property taxes, and utilities. So, this is one of the best home buying tips to help you stay out of a bad financial situation.
Before making a home purchase, you should think about how much the home 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.
- 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-$50 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! Those are big expenses that you will need to be able to save up for.
- 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!
Estimate how long you will live in the area.
This is one of the home buying tips you might not think of because you are so anxious to be moving. How could you possibly think about moving again already?!
Here’s why this is important to think about – it usually takes around five 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, due to 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.
This is why you'll want to think about how long you'll be living in the area before you purchase your home.
You'll want to make sure that the house will be suitable for you for at least five 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.
Don't feel rushed.
This is one of the home buying tips that is hard during a seller’s market, which is what’s happening in many areas right now. Knowing that homes are selling very quickly, you may feel rushed to find a house and put an offer in.
It’s also tempting to jump on a house the minute you find something you like, 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 your decision for at least 24 hours.
Plus, for all you know, you may even realize that you don't want the house at all!
Do you really need or want that home?
Finally, the last of my home buying tips is to think about whether or not you actually need the house you are about to buy. 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 spend time thinking about the rest of my tips?
Do you know the full cost of the house? Are you okay spending that much? Does the house have everything you need?
Purchasing a home is a huge investment, and it deserves a lot of time and thought for you to make the best decision.
Have you bought a home recently? What other home buying tips should people think about?
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