Reuters reported last week that home prices have been slowly but steadily rising for the last few months and it is anticipated that the low mortgage rates that we have seen over the last few years will soon begin to rise as well.
So is now the time to buy? Well, it depends. There is more to this decision than just the state of the housing market.
My wife and I, for example, have owned our own home for just over three years and have thoroughly enjoyed it. We love living in a house that is ours where we can decide to paint a room and do it. We don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. When I want to change the landscaping, I do. We love the independence we feel because we own our home.
However, home ownership is more than doing what you want. You also have significantly more responsibility. When something breaks, you have to fix it yourself or pay someone to fix it. When you are renting you just call the landlord and they take care of it. I have had to take time off of work on a few occasions to fix a broken air conditioner, repair a leaking pipe, and make repairs to my roof. In other words, with increased freedom comes increased responsibility.
Because of the increased responsibility of home ownership and the significant financial investment one makes to purchase a home, making the choice between renting and buying can be difficult. Here are six things to consider when you are thinking about buying a home.
- Weigh the monthly costs. How much are you paying in rent? How much would your monthly mortgage payment be? Could you pay your mortgage and put money aside for future repairs and improvements to your home for less than your current rent?
- Consider your mobility. According to the United States Census Bureau, 14 million people between the ages of 20 and 34 moved at least once during 2012. The fact of the matter is, relocation is often a part of modern life. Once you buy a home you are typically settling down. You lose your mobility. When you rent you can move if you decide you do not like a new neighbor, want to be closer to work or simply want a change of scenery. Once you buy you are locked into that house, so if you are not ready to settle down, now is probably not the right time for you to buy.
- What are your motives? Why do you want to buy a home right now? Often people feel pressured to buy a home because it is “the grown up thing to do”: You are an adult, so you should own a home. Not true. Do not buy a home because others expect you to. You will regret it. Before we purchased our home we felt pressure for years, but we were not ready. Buying before we were ready would have been a financial disaster for us.
- Consider your time. How much time do you have to invest in your home? When you own a home you generally spend more time on chores than when you are renting. I spend an average of eight to 10 hours a week in our yard during the summer, but I should spend more (we have a big yard). Are you ready and willing to invest more time in your home?
- Cash. How much cash do you have on hand? Down payments, closing costs, home inspections, realtor fees, repairs and modifications (like painting, new kitchen sink, etc.), and things like lawn mowers and other equipment to maintain your home and property are all part of the initial costs of owning a home. Do you have enough cash, and if you do, are you willing to part with it to pay for these things?
- Make a wish list. How long will the home you are considering buying meet your family’s needs? When we bought our home we had two children. Now we are about to welcome our fourth child into our family. Thankfully, we thought ahead and purchased a home big enough for the six of us. However, there were a few things that we did not think about, and because we did not think of them we do not have them — like a dishwasher. Our bathroom is a little small as well. I recommend that you create a wish list of things that you want (or do not want) in your future house and then do your best, within your means, to find a house that meets your needs and wants. If you rent a place that does not meet your needs, you can move. Once you have purchased a home, you live with it (and in it). The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has a helpful checklist that potential homebuyers can use to help them develop their wishlist.
Buying can be a great choice both financially and personally, but it needs to be at the right time. Consider your options, think about your needs and take your time. There are definitely some days that I wish I could call a landlord to fix something, but on the whole I am glad that we made the choice to purchase our home when we did.
Tyson Cooper is the editor of www.uplifting-love.com, a blog dedicated to helping marriages be as happy as they can be. He has a master’s degree in business from Liberty University and a bachelor’s degree from Southern Virginia University.