This article was contributed by financial expert and blogger Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP, author, speaker, and founder of Workable Wealth. She provides financial coaching for individuals and couples in their 20s to 40s across the country, helping them make smart, educated choices with their money.
Buying a home comes with a huge financial stake, a lot of responsibility, and even more fine print. While investing in this aspect of the American dream is exciting, it’s important to reflect on your current and future plans before buying. Here are five questions to consider:
1. What Are Your Goals for the Next 5 to 7 Years?
Are you happy with your job and feeling content with how your life is going? Do you anticipate any career, family, or financial changes in the next few years?
If you’re considering growing your family or changing careers, factor into your budget any anticipated changes, such as extra room for a baby or an income cut. That’s better than taking a financial loss by having to turn around and sell your new property.
2. What Will It Cost to Both Purchase and Own Your New Property?
A general rule of thumb is to keep your PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) costs below 28% of your gross monthly income, while your overall debt-to-income ratio should be no more than 36%.
Are you buying a bigger space than what you currently have? Don’t forget to factor in increased heating and cooling costs. Also, plan for homeowner’s association dues if applicable.
In addition to the funds you have for your down payment, don’t overlook the following expenses you’ll incur once you purchase your home:
- Moving costs
- Closing costs
- Home repairs
- New appliances
I recommend opening a separate savings account in addition to your down payment fund to save for these expenses.
3. What’s Your Credit Score?
Your credit score is your financial report card, except it will follow you long after college. This number can either save or cost you thousands of dollars when it comes to locking in an interest rate on your mortgage. The lower your score, the higher your interest rate and the more you’ll pay to borrow from a lender. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest and the more money you’ll keep in your pocket.
If you have any issues on your credit report, tackle them as soon as possible.
4. How Will You Handle Home Repairs and Maintenance?
Is there a lawn to mow or a pool to clean? Do you enjoy the idea of tinkering with appliances and fixing things around the house? Consider if you’ll DIY or delegate. If you’re a delegator, price services ahead of time to ensure there’s room in your budget.
One of the first things I told my husband upon seeing our new backyard was that I don’t do landscaping. Apparently, neither does he, because 12 months in, we have a monthly line item in our budget for a gardener.
5. How Will Your Ideal Location Affect Your Monthly Nut?
It’s important to consider more than just the home price in your desired community. Will you be farther from or closer to work? How will your home’s location affect your commuting costs? Our family purchased in a community that has a toll road, so we’ve added tolls to the monthly budget.
In addition to transportation costs, consider whether your food and utility costs will increase or decrease, and whether you’ll enroll kids in the local school district or opt for private schooling.