This is a very common question I get asked by prospective buyers given our current economic situation and the conflicting information they get from news, friends, family and coworkers.
Below is a list of questions to ask yourself as a guide to help you decide if now is a good time to buy for you.
1. How stable is my job/job field?
With the ever-changing economy as it is, you may want to gauge the stability of your current job/employer in addition to taking a look at how stable the job market is in your field. If you’re going to make a long-term investment, you need to make sure you have a reasonable expectation of long-term financial stability.
2. Do I have 3+ months available cash reserves/liquid assets?
Having 3+ months cash reserves as a budget is a good safety net in case of emergency or unforeseen events-i.e. job loss, heath issues, family emergency.
3. Do I have the minimum down payment?
MOST loans require the buyer to have a minimum down payment of 3.5% of the purchase price of the home. There are some exceptions, however, such as gift money from a family member and some special programs offered by cities and neighborhoods or governmental organizations. Check with a qualified lender as to the down payment required for your loan.
4. Will I be in this home for at least 4-5 years?
It is a good idea to look at how the home you want to buy will be able to meet your needs in the next few years i.e. will you outgrow your home due to life events (i.e. marriage and kids) or is there a chance that you will need to adjust location due to drive time to work, daycare, family or even relocate out of state? In times like these where the housing market is much more volatile, the near-term direction of the housing market is uncertain and the costs to purchase and sell a home are substantial and so it doesn’t make sense to put that much money into a home if you’re expecting a move in the next few years.
5. Will I have the funds for all the costs of homeownership?
Owning a home includes more costs than just monthly mortgage payment. Many homeowners want to decorate and furnish their new home. It is truly amazing how quickly little things add up. Plus, there are the costs of monthly utilities, occasional repair/maintenance items which pop up, and of course, the costs of snow & lawn equipment or service!
6. When something breaks, who will fix it?
You are your own landlord now-are you, your friends or family handy? If not, you will need to hire a contractor or handy man to fix what breaks and to do any improvements.
7. What is my current living situation?
If you are renting, make sure you know what, if anything, it will cost you if you break a rental lease. Also, keep in mind your moving timeline if you are looking to buy a “short sale” property, it may be months before you get a response back from the bank regarding your offer, and there are no guarantees that offer will move forward. Each situation is different and it is important to discuss your situation with your agent so that he/she can assist you in the transition.
8. How’s my credit?
There are interest rate penalties for buyer’s with lower credit scores and there may be some qualification hitches along the way. In some cases it may be 3-9 MONTHS before you can get approved for a loan if you have problems on your credit report that need to be fixed. It’s important to get pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) very early on in the process.
9. Can I find a home that fits my lifestyle?
Buying a new home=buying a lifestyle. If you aren’t around much, buying an association maintained property might work well for you, or depending on your level of activity, you way want to buy in an area where there are many walking/biking/running paths. Other lifestyle issues include: distance to school for kids, proximity to grocery stores, gas stations, shopping, work, etc. It is important to make a list of your wants and needs to help you narrow down your search.