Are You Truly Ready to Buy A House?
Updated: Feb 2, 2020
It’s the largest purchase most of us will ever make.
Since that’s the case, what’s the best way to know when you are truly ready to buy a house?
Financially there is much to be considered before taking the plunge.
How much money should we set aside for a down payment?
Which is better: a 15-year or 30-year fixed rate mortgage?
What other costs are involved besides the cost of the house itself?
How much should we have in our emergency fund before purchasing a house?
Where should we stand with debt before going through this process?
Though all of those questions are VERY important, there’s more to consider.
Before I begin, please understand that my intention is to help others with any advice I give. I know folks have different ways of going about the home buying process, and I respect that. I also understand things happen that can disrupt plans to buy or build a house. We are not homeowners yet, but we have walked through the process of getting ready and have faced a few setbacks along the way - so I get it. I know how tempting it can be to bypass the parts of the process that take extra time and intentionality. But I also know how much more smoothly things go when solid preparation has taken place.
How do we know if we are ready to buy?
First - there is not a magic number to throw out there - like, if you are 25 years old that means you are fully prepared to buy your first home. Nothing could be further from the truth. And since we are on the subject, please do not think that this purchase has to be accomplished by a certain age - it does NOT. You are not behind in life if you haven’t bought a house by age 28. Being truly wise about the home buying process means considering lots more than just the number of years you’ve been alive.
Next, please make sure that you do not buy a house until you and your spouse are relationally and emotionally ready for it.
One of the dreams of a newlywed couple is to purchase a beautiful home together. It’s an exciting process and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this dream, but all of the right steps should be taken before the dream becomes a reality. Though there may be a few exceptions, one good rule of thumb is to wait to purchase a home until after the first year of marriage. Dave Ramsey shares that advice often on his podcast, as do others. Here are several good reasons to thoughtfully consider this piece of advice:
1) You both need time to really get to know each other before you pick out a home together. Spend your first year together on each other - enjoy each other’s company, strengthen your communication skills, learn how to navigate a disagreement well, learn each other’s love languages, etc. For lots of couples, the first year of marriage is one of the tougher years - it was for us.
2) Extra responsibility comes with buying a home. For example, you might encounter unexpected repairs such as a a/c unit malfunction or a roof leak - not to mention the normal maintenance that must be attended to. Oftentimes the unexpected repairs can cause serious financial strain and added stress. There’s much less to worry about when a phone call to the landlord can solve your problem. Keep stressors at bay. Be super intentional about protecting your first year of marriage because it is foundational.
3) It gives you time to learn the area so you know where to buy. You don’t want to end up in a bad neighborhood or in a nice home that sits in a bad location that doesn’t attract buyers if you decide to sell five years down the road. Be careful when it comes to location - your real estate agent will wholeheartedly agree.
4) It gives you and your spouse more time to consider what you really want out of your first home. The first year of your marriage would be a really great time to walk through other homes to start building a mental list of what you do and don’t like - floor plan, paint colors, one story vs. two story, siding, etc. The home you initially rent will also help you quickly figure out what you do and don’t want in a home. For example, it took us just a few days in our rental home to learn that there isn’t enough space in the kitchen for two people without lots of bumping into each other and that the laundry room is in a less than ideal location.
Extra word of caution: if you are feeling pressure from friends or relatives to purchase a home - whether directly or indirectly - be very careful! This pressure is very real. One thing I notice happening quite often is young adults getting really antsy to purchase a home because all of their friends have recently bought a house - this is a type of indirect pressure. Remember: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. We all know that to be true in various avenues of life, but it is especially true for home buying. There’s nothing wrong with waiting to buy if you aren’t truly ready. Be patient!
In the case of direct pressure: parents, siblings, or other well-intentioned relatives sometimes have a lot to say when it comes to home buying. Just because they say it doesn’t mean you have to heed their advice. Married couples have a responsibility to each other to protect one another’s interests before heeding the advice of those around them. Single folks may also feel added pressure to listen to those well-intentioned family members and friends. Ultimately, the wisest thing you can do is to set yourself up for success by making decisions governed by patience and careful consideration.
I know this post seemed to be directed more toward couples, but whether single or married, becoming a homeowner is a big financial leap - are you really ready? Check out the next post to make sure all of your financial ducks are in a row!