Buying your first home is a tremendous milestone. You can safely say that after your first home purchase, you officially qualify as a grown-up. While you may find a home that you love right away, it's essential to consider all of the hidden costs and long-term realities of owning a home. Make sure you're financially and mentally prepared for homeownership by following our list of considerations. Scroll through and see if owning a home makes sense for you.
- Make a wish list. Buying your first home is a big deal. Before you get started, create a wish list. This is the list for the house you dream of—with absolutely every amenity that you want. Then create a gotta-have-it list. This is your baseline. A house that does not meet these criteria isn't going to cut it. It's very important to lay out your base and stretch goals before you get going on your search.
- Figure out how much you can afford. Based on what you've saved, what you make, and any career plans for the future, come up with a safe number—i.e., a number that you can actually afford.
- Investigate potential hidden costs. There is the home you can afford, and then there is the complete cost of living. This includes sneaky but costly bills like property tax, insurance, homeowners association (HOA) fees, maintenance, and upkeep. To prevent costs you can't afford, make sure to factor these hidden requirements into your budget.
- Qualify for a loan. You'll need references, about 20% of the home value saved in cash, and a lot of research to get the best loan for you.
- Seek help from a professional. It's incredibly helpful for first-time buyers to consult a real estate professional. While a real estate agent represents the seller, a buy's broker or age represents your wants and needs. They will also be able to give you insider access to properties just as they come on the market (or before) and will provide you with expert knowledge throughout the process.
- Don’t rush it. This is a house you're buying, not a pair of shoes. Don't rush into a decision. Make sure you've checked out everything from the neighborhood to the craftsmanship of the structure before you decide on a property.
- Add a cover letter to your offer. If you've found an excellent home in a hot market like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, consider writing a cover letter to attach to your official offer. Explaining why you connect with the house and how you plan to live and make memories there will endear you to the seller and potentially put you ahead of other contenders.
- Get thorough inspections. You'll want to make sure that you have all of your appliances, your roof, your fireplace (if applicable), and all electrical inspected before you move in. If there is anything wrong, you can decide to walk away or factor in a deal with the buyer.
- Furnish in layers. Don't buy everything at once. Buy your staples and then furnish and build your décor in layers. You want to pick things that really speak to you, not just look okay. These are items you'll be living with, hopefully for a long time.
Shop our favorite home-hunting essentials below.
Have you been through the property-purchasing milestone? Share your insights in the comments below.