How to Prepare to Be a Homeowner

31 05 2017

Ready to Become a Homeowner?

What to Keep in Mind as You Leave Renting Behind

Each year, millions of Americans purchase a home. In 2015, that was about 5.2 million, according to the National Association of Realtors, and about 35% of them were first-time buyers. If you’re anything like those millions, you’ve been waiting for the moment you finally feel ready to become an owner yourself. You’ve probably carefully considered your budget, your rising rent, and your future prospects — do you plan to move or have kids in the next few years? Can you get by with a two-bedroom, or should you spring for three?

While you’re weighing your needs with your means, there are a few other components of the transition to keep in mind.

  1. Down Payment

Surely you haven’t overlooked this massive expense, which remains one of the biggest obstacles for hopeful homebuyers. Although you can negotiate the terms of your loan, depending on your credit score, you should plan to have 10% to 20% of your future home’s value saved up for a down payment — plus a few thousand more so you can be prepared for unanticipated repairs or other financial hiccups. If that seems impossible, the Federal Housing Administration has a program for first-time homebuyers, offering loans with down payments as low as 3.5%. However, with that small deposit comes larger monthly payments, and a larger amount paid by the end of the loan. Smaller down payments also result in another monthly cost: private mortgage insurance, which lenders sometimes require to protect themselves from loss.

  1. Closing Costs

Yes — there’s even more cash that comes into play when you finalize your home purchase. The down payment goes toward the home’s value, but then there is also a cluster of smaller fees that get thrown into the “closing costs” bucket: loan origination fee, credit report, loan underwriter, home inspection and appraisal, title search, survey fee, and taxes (on the sale, not property taxes), and other assorted fees delineated by your real estate agent. Fortunately, you’re not looking at another $30,000 — unless you’re planning to buy a $1.5 million home. Your closing costs will typically add up to between 2% and 5% of the home’s value.

  1. Insurance

As a renter, you probably paid a monthly insurance premium to make sure your personal belongings were protected in the event of a fire or other accident (at least you should have). And those premiums were probably pretty cheap. Your homeowners insurance premiums, however, will be quite a bit higher, and that’s because it has more to cover aside from the extra square footage. Homeowners insurance will financially protect you from damages incurred to your home, and all of your belongings inside of it, from damage caused by wind, hail, ice, fire, and more.

  1. Taxes

This is another one of the costs that discourages a lot of renters when they begin to consider owning. But property taxes don’t have to be scary, or even that expensive. Familiarize yourself with the local tax rate before the purchase, and then set aside money in an escrow account each month so that you have enough to make the payment when it comes due, instead of scrambling into your savings. Many lenders require this escrow account. When they’re due — and how often — depends on your location, but the average U.S. household pays just over $2,000 in annually.

  1. Maintenance

Time to start filling up that garage: Get a lawnmower, shovel, weedwacker, rake, or any other implement you’ll need to keep your property attractive and safe in every season. Additionally, plan to spend about 1% of your home’s value on annual maintenance projects, which can range from new batteries for your smoke detector to replacing your hot water heater or significant replumbing. Even brand-new houses aren’t immune to maintenance costs, so keep a devoted savings account at the ready — and don’t overlook your duties. Create (or find) a maintenance checklist and schedule to stay on top of important upkeep.

This article was provided by Sam Radbil, a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO. ABODO Gainesville apartments was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.

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