Our Real Estate Blog
If you're currently renting an apartment or house, it makes good financial sense to consider becoming a homeowner in the foreseeable future. There are pros and cons to owning your own home -- and it's not for everyone -- but for most people, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
An exception would be if your job requires you to relocate frequently. In that scenario, the potential benefits of building up equity in a home would be greatly diminished.
On the other hand, if you plan on staying put for more than a few years, then the tax benefits and investment value of owning real estate could put you on a stronger financial track than if you continued shelling out your hard-earned money to a landlord. You've probably heard the argument before: "If you pay rent, you have nothing to show for it at the end of the year". However, when you buy a home, an increasing portion of your monthly payments is applied to your actual ownership of the property (as opposed to how much you owe the bank).
Tax Advantages of Home Ownership
In most cases, you can deduct all of your home mortgage interest from your federal tax returns, according to the IRS. More specifically: "The only costs you can deduct are real estate taxes actually paid to the taxing authority, interest that qualifies as home mortgage interest, and mortgage insurance premiums."
However, since everyone's financial situation is different and there is no "one size fits all" approach to financial management, it's always best to consult with an experienced CPA, enrolled agent, or knowledgeable tax preparer. There may be other tax benefits you could qualify for as a homeowner, too, including getting tax credits for installing a solar energy system. The government's Energy Star program says tax credits on new solar energy systems are available through the year 2021.
Getting the Process Underway
Two key steps to becoming a home owner are finding out your credit score and meeting with a mortgage lender to determine how much of a real estate loan you could qualify for. An experienced real estate agent can also provide you with a wealth of guidance and information on how to become a homeowner. They can fill you in on many of the exact steps, requirements, and advantages of buying your first home. A buyers' agent can also help you assess your readiness to take the plunge into home ownership.
In addition to finding out your credit score, which will impact your mortgage interest rate and the type of loan you may qualify for, other vital information can be gleaned from a detailed personal budget. Although the amount of rent you now pay will provide some insights into your potential house-buying budget, there are a lot of variables which will impact how much of a mortgage you could comfortably afford.
Buying a home is a complicated process with a lot of opportunities to make costly mistakes. There’s no high school class to prepare you for buying a home but there probably should be. If you’re a first time homebuyer and you came across this article looking for advice, congratulations--you’re already doing the most important thing you can when making a big financial decision: the research.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common mistakes that first time homebuyers make when entering the real estate market. We’ll break it down by the three main phases of home-buying: saving for a home, hunting for a home, and signing a mortgage.
Saving for a home
One of the first lessons that all first time homeowners quickly learn is that being able to afford your monthly mortgage payments doesn’t mean you can afford a home. Many first time buyers are often coming from living situations where certain utilities are included (water, heat, electricity, etc.). Aside from those obvious expenses, there are also things like property tax and home insurance to budget for, both of which may increase. Finally, when you’re living in an apartment and your faucet breaks, you simply call the landlord. When you own a home, especially an older home, be prepared to spend on repairs and to start learning basic maintenance skills that will save you money.
The hunt for your first home
Now that you’re aware of the costs, it might be tempting to jump in and start looking at homes. Another common mistake first time homebuyers make is to waste time looking at homes before they’ve met with a real estate agent or have gotten pre-approved for a loan. Start there, then once you know the scope of your home search, you’ll have a much more relaxing hunt for your new home.
Another mistake that first time homebuyers make is to underestimate the time and commitment it takes to find a home. When you work with a real estate agent, make sure you are available at all times. Keep your phone nearby, stick to your schedule for viewing homes, and keep a list of each home you’re considering. Showing initiative and dedication won’t just help you stay organized, it will also show your agent and the home seller that you are worth their time.
One of the most common mistakes that buyers make when it comes to their mortgage is to fail to shop around for a lender. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that only half of all buyers considered more than one lender for their home.
Buyers, first time and repeat, often think their credit report is set in stone. What they don’t realize is that the three main credit Bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) can all make mistakes on your credit. Check your detailed credit reports and fix any errors long before applying for a mortgage to increase your chances of getting a good rate.
If you avoid these common mistakes and continue to do your research along the way, you should be able to save yourself some headaches and some money in the long term.
Newlywed life is such an exciting time! It’s also a time many couples decide to buy their first home together. And therefore aside from having a wedding, it’s the first major financial decision couples make together. Hit the ground running together with these tips:
Co-managing money: If they haven’t already combined finances before the big day many couples choose to do so after marriage. Learning how to manage money on your own is a task unto itself but managing it together is a vital skill for newlyweds. You can avoid unnecessary fights over money down the road by getting on the same page financially now. Get really honest with each other. Put everything on the table, especially various debts you each may hold, from credit cards to school loans it’s all important to get a true snapshot of your combined finances.
Create a budget for your life together. Calculate your combined expenses. Consider where you can cut back on services and habits to save money and what you need to add to your budget. Be sure to consider: savings for a nest egg, vacations, car repairs, and unexpected medical emergencies. You may also want to begin saving up to start a family or plan for retirement. When you have a complete picture of your finances you can then look at what’s left over. What kind of down payment and/or monthly payments will you be able to realistically make with this amount?
You’ll also want to talk to each other about your lifestyle goals. If you’ve always dreamed of living in the city or a small tightly-knit town. Perhaps you’ve always imagined a large, spacious home while your partner is thinking of something smaller to focus more on traveling. Do you want a garage, a big yard, a pool or to be close to family? Getting clear on what you each expect from your ideal home will help you find the perfect middle ground where you will both be happy.
It’s best to be able to make at least 20% of the house cost for a down payment. The higher the down payment you can make the better as you’ll have lower monthly payments and won’t get hit with extra fees from your insurance. If you can’t save up this amount, look into first-time buyer loans which allow new buyers to make a smaller down payment.
Be prepared. Remember to plan and budget for closing costs on your home. You don’t want this price tag to catch you off guard. Other things to be financially prepared for throughout the year are property taxes, homeowner’s insurance as well as maintenance and upkeep.
Being newlyweds is an exciting time where you have the rest of your life together to look forward to. And buying a new home, in a lot of ways, can feel like the first major step in laying down the foundation for a long, happy life together.