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Are You Ready For Home Ownership?
Home ownership has its benefits - no monthly rent checks, the freedom to do with your home as you please (notwithstanding neighborhood covenants), the ability to recoup your purchase price, and knowing that every month you’re building financial equity in the home.
However despite all the positive aspects of owning your own home, it isn’t always easy. Home ownership comes with responsibilities, headaches and financial burdens that we’re not always ready to tackle.
In this article, we’ll cover 5 tips and questions that you can use to evaluate whether you’re ready for home ownership.
1. Are you ready to stay put?
Unless the housing market is booming, it doesn’t often make sense to buy a home that you’ll be living in for less than 3 or 4 years. Basically, buying and selling property comes with a lot of transaction costs, and if you’re in the house for less than 2 years, you’ll have to pay capital gains tax on any profit.
So when the plan isn't to remain in the house for a long period of time, be ready to include the cost of the purchase and sale into your prospective budget - which typically includes thousands of dollars in residential and legal fees.
2. Sometimes it makes more sense to rent.
Depending on the housing market in your area, it could make more financial sense to rent an apartment or home for a few years. Calculate whether it costs more to rent or own in your area. Typically, if your monthly rental payments are more than 35 percent less than the cost of ownership (including taxes, mortgage payments and any ownership fees), then it’s a good idea to continue renting for now.
3. Is your credit healthy?
Before buying a home, you may want to commit a year or two rebuilding a healthy credit score. Bad or poor credit could mean you’re either turned down for a home loan or you’ll be offered a prohibitively expensive interest rate where you would end up paying tens of thousands of dollars more over the term of the mortgage loan.
Financially, it makes sense to wait a year or two while you build up your credit score.
4. Do you know what you can afford?
Do you understand the true cost of home ownership? Go beyond mortgage payments and be ready to evaluate all the true costs, including maintenance, upgrades and your own monthly personal expenses. Depending on the quality of the house structure, repairs alone could dry up your finances fairly quickly.
Typically, most prospective homeowners should budget for a house that costs about 2.5 times their gross annual salary (or less), while all monthly home payments shouldn’t exceed 30 percent of the gross income each month.
5. Can you raise a down payment?
Most lenders like to see at least a 20 percent down payment. If you’re unable to meet these terms, you may be able to get a piggyback loan or be required to take out what’s called PMI, or Private Mortgage Insurance, which is typically about .5 percent of your total mortgage amount. This is insurance for the benefit of the lender in the event you default on your home mortgage loan.
Before you can truly be ready for home ownership, you should determine the answers to these questions. And in doing so, don't make the mistake of being too quick to downplay the risks. A mortgage is typically a 30-year commitment. Many who jump in prematurely wind up in a foreclosure situation or in bankruptcy.
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