You remember how psyched you were when you got to sign the lease for your current apartment. Especially in a huge city where finding a place that meets your specifications can be like searching for the holy grail, once you find that perfect spot, you hold on tight.
That makes sense. But even if you’re happy paying rent for your place now and have been for the last several years, you might have moved up in your career since then, or you’re thinking about having a kid and need a place that’s nearer to school districts than bars. Plus, depending on marketing conditions, putting that rent money toward owning a place would likely become a great investment.
In that goal, you’re not alone, According to a 2018 Homebuyer Insights Report , 72% of millennials say that owning a home is a top priority.
It’s an exciting time, for sure, but a major financial decision like buying a home can be daunting—or even terrifying, especially if you have student loans to worry about.
Since you don’t want to be hasty or over-buy and hinder your efforts to reach financial wellness, here a few ways to help you know if you’re ready to take the leap to homeownership.
You’ve Saved for a Down Payment & Homeownership Costs
This is one of the most important steps in the home buying process. According to a 2018 report report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), of the buyers who took out a mortgage, 5% of them made a downpayment worth 6% or less of their home value. So, the traditional 20% down isn’t as common as believed. But, 6% down is still a chunk of change. And, the down payment is just one of the costs associated with buying a home.
It is important to consider other costs such as mortgage payment, closing costs, insurance, taxes, and more. So, when you are thinking about buying a home you should factor in all of these potential costs and make sure you have that saved or a plan of action to pay for these costs.
You’re a Good Candidate for a Mortgage Loan
Not surprisingly, mortgage lenders pay close attention to job continuity and consistent income.
Another biggie is your debt-to-income ratio, which will give lenders insight into whether you can truly afford mortgage payments (seeing whether or not you have too much debt to buy a house). To determine your ratio, it is a good idea to get prequalified for a mortgage loan to see what you would qualify for.
Then, you would take that estimated housing payment which would include principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and HOA (if applicable, along with ongoing monthly debt payments to help you understand what your DTI is.
If you’re at that threshold, but haven’t saved enough for a huge down payment, don’t worry. Some lenders are prepared to help—SoFi, for example, offers flexible down payment options starting at as little as 10% on loans up to $3 million, with competitive rates and no hidden fees.
Remember, there’s a lot of competition among lenders, so shop around to choose the one that offers terms to suit your needs.
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You’re Ready to be Your Own Landlord
Are you ready to handle home repairs? If something breaks it is all on you.
A condo can be a good choice if you travel a lot or if you don’t want the responsibility of maintaining a yard. Condos can be a good stepping stone to owning a house as the property is less time consuming because you don’t have any exterior or lawn maintenance to handle.
But you’ll still need to be prepared to make small repairs yourself, hire a pro, and replace big-ticket items, such as major appliances, now and then. So make sure there’s enough money in your reserve fund to cover the routine stuff and the surprises.
A good rule of thumb is to set aside about 1-3% of the home’s value each year. Some years, you might not need to pay that much. But, if you live in your home long enough, you’ll likely shell out for hefty repairs in other years. Once you buy your home you can use SoFi’s Home Improvement Cost Calculator to get an idea of how much your renovation projects will cost.
You’re Ready to Settle Down
It is harder to move cities once you buy a home. You can’t just pick up and leave as you can if you are renting. Buying a home is a big decision, so it is important to make sure you are ready to settle down in that location for a while.
You Know Location is Everything
Ernst and Young’s The Millennial Economy 2018 study reported that 62% of Millennials live outside of the city either in the suburbs, small towns, or in rural areas. The location of your home—whether it’s a big city or on the outskirts—could impact your budget and overall enjoyment as a homeowner.
If you’re serious about buying your first home, you’ve already taken the time to scope out neighborhoods and to understand how to choose a location best fits your lifestyle. You know that the overall feel of a neighborhood, the quality of life it offers, and its proximity to your job matters—a lot.
Preparing to Take the Next Big Step
If you’re definitely ready for homeownership, you’ll need to get your financial ducks in a row. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Getting Out of the Student Loan Debt Shadow
Don’t fret if your student loans aren’t paid off yet. You can Look into refinancing your student loans, which may lower your monthly payments, and/or decrease the loan term, and allow you to save faster for a home down payment.
Hitting the Homebuyer Books
Download The SoFi Guide to First Time Home Buying to learn some essential steps to take, the types of mortgages available, and common real estate terms.
Keeping Track of Your Credit Blemishes
Your credit score is one factor that will help a lender determine if you qualify for the loan; if it’s high enough, you could possibly snag better terms on your mortgage loan.
Follow a step-by-step plan for paying down debt so you can work toward boosting your credit rating. Buying a home with a significant other or a spouse is a huge personal accomplishment and major financial milestone.
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