Making the move from renter to homeowner can be a big step. While homeownership comes with a lot of perks, it's also a huge financial responsibility. How do you know if you're ready to buy?
Are you ready for a more stable home? Rental rates vary year to year, and as a renter you are at the mercy of your apartment's management. Are they good at addressing problems, or are you left with a dwelling full of needed repairs.
Owning a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, the form of mortgage our experts recommend, means you know exactly what your monthly payment will be for the life of the loan. When a problem arises, you have the ability to fix it without having to jump through red management tape.
Stability goes further than just a fixed monthly payment. Studies have shown that owning a home brings stability to both your family (higher graduation rates, lower crime rates) and your community (more civic involvement). And you can't put a price on the privacy and space a home affords you. Single-family detached homes generally comes with yards and bigger square footage than apartments.
Now that you've thought about the dynamics of homeownership, it's time to consider the financial logistics. Does buying a home make financial sense right now? This answer depends on a few important factors.
First, do you have steady employment? There is no backup for making your payments. When you sign a mortgage loan, you are agreeing to make a payment every month. Do you expect your job to continue well into the future. If not, do you have marketable skills that are needed in today's economy?
Second, do you have an 8-month emergency fund? Savings and downpayment aren't enough to ensure security for your family. You must have at least 8-months worth of bill money saved away. If your monthly expenses add up to $3,000 a month, then you need $24,000 in an emergency fund that you don't touch.
Third, do you have good credit? Interest rates are at historic lows, but lending is tight. You must have an excellent credit score to get the best rates. And a sub-par credit score may have you sitting on the sidelines altogether.
Fourth, do you have savings for a downpayment? Financial experts recommend having at least 20 percent to put down. That means on a $200,000 house you'll need $40,000 for a downpayment. If you don't have the money, will family be contributing?
Consider these issues when you deciding whether or not now is the time to buy. If you have all your "ducks in a row," then now is a great time to buy.