Buying a house is an exciting but scary step. Home ownership means making an investment in your future, but it also means committing to stay put, at least for a while. Before you make that commitment, you should ensure you are making an informed decision, and not one based on how beautiful the home is or your desire to be on your own.
1. Your Financial Situation
Just because you qualify for a loan does not necessarily mean you should take a loan. On the other hand, if you don't think you can qualify for a loan, you might be mistaken. When you consider buying a home, sit down with a professional--a loan counselor at your bank or a representative from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, for instance--and discuss your options. Have tax and income documents ready, as well as a list of your expenses and a copy of your credit report.
According to CNN Money, you should try to find a home that is two and a half times your yearly salary. So, if you have a yearly salary of $40,000, you should not choose a house that costs more than $120,000. However, if you have large loan payments or other expenses, you may not want to, or be qualified to, go that high. Ask the professional to help you get a good picture of your earnings, expenses and how they would change if you bought a home.
2. Home's History
A beautiful home on several acres of green yard might look appealing, but that pretty picture could be hiding problems that will cost you thousands of dollars and hours of lost sleep in the long run. According to the American Association of Realtors, you should find out as much as you can about the home before you buy.
Even issues that have been repaired can give you insight into what problems you might be facing a few years down the road. Get a home inspection and carefully go over the results with your inspector. If anything in the home makes you suspicious, don't hesitate to order another inspection from a different company.
A wonderful home isn't much good if it is in a terrible neighborhood, so find out as much as you can about the neighborhood before you buy. Talk to potential neighbors about any issues the area has been facing, and check to see if there is a neighborhood association or club. Scan newspaper police blotters to see if there is a large amount of crime in the area, and interview principals and teachers at the area schools, if you have children. You might also seek out PTA members or parents of children at those schools to learn more about the climate inside them.
The aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood is also important. You probably would not want to move into a home where yours is the only house on the street that is not falling down.
4. What Comes with the Home
It is customary for home owners to leave some major appliances, like the refrigerator and dishwasher, when they leave the home, but if you see anything else that you like, check if it is for sale. Some sellers won't mind throwing their furniture or decorations in with the home since they are moving anyway.
Make sure you and the seller understand exactly what is coming with the home before you sign the contract, and list the items on the contract if it makes you feel more comfortable. Also, confirm the land boundaries and whether outdoor structures, like portable sheds and above-ground pools, will be included before you sign on the dotted line.
5. "Annoying" Factors
Every home has its annoyances: the third step creaks, or the neighbor's cat likes to lounge on your porch. Even if you are moving to a brand-new home, there are bound to be some annoying factors about your new home and your new location. However, try your hardest before you buy your home to know the difference between small annoying issues and deal breakers.
For instance, the American Association of Realtors notes that extra traffic and noise caused by a school might not be something you are willing to deal with. Further, consider how having a difficult-to-remodel home will affect you in five years. Visit the home you are planning to buy as many times as you can; stay overnight if possible. Look for anything that would bother you on a daily basis, and if you find something, look for another home.