Buying your first home will likely be one of the most exciting and scary times of your life. Beyond the basic considerations - location, number of bathrooms, ranch style vs. multilevel - there are a number of important financial factors to determine before deciding which house is right for you.
1. Determine how a home purchase will affect your current lifestyle. In addition to the overall expense of the home, it is important to consider how long you plan to stay in the home, as well as your overall debt, both on credit cards and other loans. According to Investopedia.com, affordability should be the No. 1 thing you look for in a home, but you also need to be stable enough to know you are going to want to live in the home you pick for at least 10 years. If not, you could get stuck in a home you can't afford in a city you're ready to leave.
Not surprisingly, location not only affects affordability, but also potential resale value. Amy Hoak of MarketWatch states, "Homes located within walking distance of amenities such as schools, parks and shopping aren't only more convenient for their owners, often they're also worth more than homes in neighborhoods where driving is the rule." Consider your lifestyle when you choose a location. Spending more to live within strolling distance of your favorite shops and restaurants is only valuable if you'll take advantage of that proximity. BankRate.com offers a handy tool to help predict your monthly mortgage payments in different communities.
2. Consider your options for purchasing a home. Building a new home gives you greater control over style and finishes, though your move-in date will depend on the construction schedule. Newer existing homes will likely require fewer updates than an older home, but may be priced at a premium. If you are shopping for a starter home, consider your plans for the future. A smaller house may require less home maintenance and upkeep, but if you are looking for a larger long term investment and a place to grow and raise a family, opting for more space from the get-go may make the most sense.
3. Whatever the condition or age of the home you purchase, there's always the chance you'll want to make some changes, such as renovating a bathroom or upgrading your kitchen, or remodeling parts of the home to accommodate an expanding family. Try to anticipate and factor these costs into your total budget before purchasing a home. When it's time for these changes, will you be ready financially?
According to Consumer Reports, kitchen and bathrooms are at the top of homeowner's wish lists in terms of rooms that need work. Luckily, updating the kitchen or bathroom to reflect your personal style doesn't have to be an expensive task. Replacing your plumbing fixtures and finishes can dramatically transform the space.
Buying a home is one of life's major milestones. If you are just starting the house hunting process, consider starting your search online at sites such as Zillow, Houzz, and Pinterest to get a feel for the homes and decor styles that appeal to you most. In addition to finding styles you like, this research will also help you find potential options within your price range. Remember, before making any purchases, consider your total budget and make sure you're prepared for not just the mortgage, but also any necessary improvements.