Whether you’re fast approaching your trip down the aisle or are newlyweds and loving it, living arrangements have undoubtedly already been discussed. Happily renting? Living with family? Trying to decide your next steps? If you find yourself wondering, “Is homeownership right for us, right now?” we have the answers! We chatted with real estate advisor for Engel and Volkers, Hoboken Thomas Worley, for expert insight.
First Things First
The first thing to consider when deciding if you want to become a homeowner is, of course, your budget. “Your budget is number one, and it will shape the rest of your search," Worley explains. "From there, you want to consider your location and make a list of things you want in your new home. The list should consist largely of things that are either too expensive to change or simply cannot be changed." Once you’ve checked off the budget and location, your timeline is also an important factor. Worley suggests asking yourself the questions: “How long do you want to stay there? Is this home someplace you can 'grow' into if you decide to start a family? When would you like to close? Do you need to be in by a certain date?” The answers to these questions can greatly affect your decision and “readiness.” If you don’t see yourself staying in one place for too long, or don’t have much space to grow and want to start a family, then perhaps this isn’t the best time.
To Own, or Not to Own?
In a time when couples are often ditching tradition or “typical” milestones, homeownership is no longer an automatic or expected rite of passage. Instead, it’s a personal decision that is entirely up to you as a pair. Owning is the American Dream, right? Grow up, get a job, meet the right person and get married, buy a home together. Truth is, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do this. Sure, you get a lot of financial benefits to owning a home (tax deductions, a strong investment for the future), but getting there is expensive!
Obviously, you get the luxury of owning a place, paying into your future, and building equity instead of paying someone else. But ownership usually comes with a hefty down payment and a number of other costs needed just to get to the point of “paying yourself rent,” Worley elaborates. While the debate between renting and owning can continuously go back and forth, it remains clear that the decision is highly personal. "The bottom line: do what makes you happy and what you can afford,” he says, also suggesting seeking outside guidance to assist in the decision process.
Heading into the home buying process, you’ll need a lot more cash than just the ticket price. Potential buyers need to factor in closing costs, real estate fees (when applicable), taxes, homeowners association or maintenance fees, and mortgage interest into their final budgets. It’s suggested that your final budget remains just that—final. You should also perform some preliminary searches within your price range to have reasonable and educated expectations. “The worst thing you can do is have unrealistic expectations of what you can afford, and what your money will get you," says Worley. "I see a lot of first-time buyers think they can afford more than they can, and then they compare everything to the budget they thought they could afford.“
Worley recommends taking a hard look at your finances, available homes within your price range, and talking to a mortgage lender to truly determine if it’s the right time. “From there, you can educate yourselves on what you can afford and how to work inside the budget. Be open to sitting down and listening to your real estate agent about the process, and get a true overview of what to expect from start to finish, including all the costs along the way.”
The right time to buy a home is going to be different for everyone and depends on many personal factors and preferences. The best answer? “When you can really afford it," says Worley. "I hate seeing people strap themselves just to buy. The truth is, as much as I would love to sell everyone something, it just may not make sense for everyone to buy right away."