Owning a home is part of the American dream, but only about 60 percent of U.S. residents have achieved this goal. No matter where you are on your home buying journey — years away or ready to sign on the dotted line — there are financial and life circumstances that should figure into the equation. As you talk to family members and friends about their successes and stumbling blocks, keep these key points in mind.
The more you can plan and save in advance, the more options you’ll have for what you are able to buy. If you can, create a line item in your monthly budget dedicated to saving for a down payment, and prioritize debt repayment so you have fewer financial obligations once you decide to buy a home.
Decide what you need to save.
As you determine how much to save for a down payment, consider what price point you can afford for your house. For example, financial institutions are prohibited from issuing a mortgage that’s more than 35 percent of your monthly income, and many advise no more than 28 percent of that total. And be aware that owning a home includes other costs, such as homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance, repair, and upgrades you might make to a home. As you add to any down payment savings you’ve started, keep this number in mind: 20 percent. That’s the total down payment toward your purchase price that enables you to get a mortgage without the monthly expense of private mortgage insurance.
Do your research.
About 5 million home sales happen each year in the United States according to the National Association of Realtors. To find the perfect match for you, consider what’s most important to you about your lifestyle to prioritize your list of mandatories. For example, you might want a certain number of bedrooms, desire a shorter commute, or need space for a dog.
It can be helpful during this research phase to get preapproved for a mortgage and to find a real estate agent. You also may want to attend a few open houses to get an idea of how the process works.
Move on or move up.
People who already own a home are familiar with much of the home buying journey. But when you sell one home and buy another, you have different considerations. For example, you may offer to purchase a new home but place contingencies on your offer, such as the ability to sell your existing home within a certain time frame. Use the same financial guidelines as with your first home purchase: Buy what you can afford and what works with your life and financial goals.