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January 25, 2019

How to Get the Right Home for Your Budget


Home buying can be an overwhelming experience. There are so many details to consider, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and break your carefully planned budget before you know it. The answer is to know what to look for, do your research, and walk away if you aren’t getting your money’s worth.

The Right Price

Let’s talk budget. The most common advice is to only spend 30% of your monthly income on housing expenses. If you’re renting, calculating your housing expenses is usually quite simple: Rent + Utilities = Housing Expenses

But as a new homeowner, your equation will look more like this: Mortgage Payment + Hazard Insurance + Unexpected Repairs + Utilities + Private Mortgage Insurance + Property Taxes + Homeowners Insurance + Landscaping Costs = Housing Expenses

Even without crunching the numbers, it’s clear that the sweet freedom of home ownership comes with a lot of responsibility and some extra expenses. Make sure you’re aware of the small costs of home buying that can add up and set your budget accordingly. If you base your budget choices on your estimated mortgage payment alone, you’ll almost certainly go over budget in the end.

The Right Location

Say it three times, but don ‘t forget—location means more than just a good neighborhood or a short commute. Your home’s location will affect its resale value in a variety of ways. For instance, even if you don’t have children yourself, buying a home in a good school district will make your life easier when it’s time to sell.

Taking walks around the neighborhood at different times of day is a great way to get to know the area. How quiet is it? Do neighbors keep their homes in good repair? Chat with a few residents to hear their experience living there. Are mosquitos a big problem in the summer? How is the HOA (if there is one)?

The Right Size

No one can predict the future, but thinking ahead about your needs might help you avoid outgrowing your home in a few years. If it’s possible that your family might expand, think about how many bedrooms you’ll really need if you plan to stay in this house for the next 7 years. It’s a common problem for young homebuyers to underestimate how much space a growing family will need.

The Right Age

There are advantages to being the first owner of your new home, but there are also advantages to buying a resale home. Resale homes are often more reasonably priced than new homes. They also have the “lived in“ factor. If your second-hand home needs some work, this can be to your advantage, too. You can negotiate the sales priced based on the renovations needed and then do some of the work yourself. You can also have it done in the style, colors and quality you prefer.

If you decide to buy a resale home, make sure you are not inheriting things like dry rot, structural issues and maintenance that has been overly delayed. Repairs and improvements can get expensive, but if you get the home for a reasonable price, chances are high that you will be able to sell for a profit. Just make sure that your budget is prepared to handle the expenses along the way.

The Right Lender

While it’s not as exciting as house shopping, lender shopping can make a big difference in your budget. If you sign with the first lender you talk to, you may be spending more on high rates and lender fees than you should. According to Freddie Mac’s research, getting a second quote could save you as much as $1,500 over the life of your loan (or $3,000 if you get five quotes).

Here’s a checklist to help you avoid getting stuck with an expensive lender:

Lender Shopping Checklist

  • Apply and get a Pre-Approval letter from a lender (to get an idea of what you can afford)
  • Shop for Houses that you like and get a feel for what kind of house your money can buy
  • Get quotes from around three mortgage lenders that you might want to work with on the same day (it’s important to get your quotes on the same day because mortgage rates change frequently.
  • Look closely at the Loan Estimate Forms you receive from your lenders. Compare the costs of each one as well as the interest rates.
  • Look into the service backgrounds of your lenders. Are any of them in trouble with the BBB or do they have overwhelmingly negative reviews online?
  • Pick the best loan and get your Closing Disclosure Form from the lender. This will give you the final breakdown of what costs will be paid by the buyer, the seller, or any third parties involved.
  • Close on your best loan!

This article is for educational purposes only. Tulsa FCU makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as legal, tax or financial advice. Nor does the information directly relate to our products and/or services terms and conditions.