2019 is officially here! Resolving to eat healthier and take the stairs are amazing resolutions. However, if this is the year you want to buy a home, we would love to suggest a few new habits to help you get there.
Here are some home-buying habits to adopt now, especially if you hope to start looking once the home-buying season is in full swing come spring. These behaviors are things you can do daily, weekly, monthly, or even just yearly. Taken together, they set you well on the path to homeownership with a minimum of pain and suffering.
Daily: Ditch an Indulgence or Two
Saving for a down payment is vital to a successful house purchase. Buyers who can put down 20% don’t have to pay private mortgage insurance. Getting to that 20% down payment is a goal achieved by spending less.
Daily habits you may want to adopt now include eating out less often, cutting the cable bill, canceling (or downgrading) the gym membership, forgoing expensive coffee, and making your own lunch every day. It’s not just about skipping $4 coffee, buyers shouldn’t make big purchases either. If you have an expensive car payment, consider selling the car or turning in the lease to get a more affordable mode of transportation.
Weekly: Make Deposits into a “Home Savings Account”
It’s common for young newly married couples to find themselves not able to afford a house to call their own. So a good idea is to open a designated “home savings account.” Then get in the habit of depositing a set weekly amount. Soon you will have enough money saved up to make a down payment on a home.
Weekly: Start Attending Open Houses
Getting into the habit of attending open houses will not only give you a feel for what homes are available but seeing homes that could be yours will also help motivate you to save. In addition, it will educate you on the market. Every buyer in the back of their mind is thinking “Is now a good time to buy?” Once you observe firsthand what houses are selling for what, it will help settle this question in your mind.
Monthly: Do a Trial Run at Homeownership
Owning a home is more than just coming up with a 20% down payment. You also have to be able to pay the mortgage and maintenance costs. Think lawn care, general maintenance, replacing mechanicals, and unexpected repairs.
To make sure you won’t max yourself out, test out the habit of saving as a homeowner, For one month, set aside the anticipated amount of your monthly housing expenses and what you’d need for an emergency fund. A good rule of thumb is to save 10% of your mortgage amount every month for maintenance fees. So if your payment is $1,200 sock away $120. Then see if you can live within your new budget.
This will allow you to test your lifestyle before committing to buying. If you can’t live within the budget, you will know to opt for a smaller home.
Monthly: Pay All Bills On Time
To qualify for a mortgage at a reasonable interest rate, you’ll need a credit score that is in the 600s at the very least. The best way to keep your score high is to be in the habit of paying every single bill on time. Timely payments are especially important for auto loans and leases since mortgage lenders look there first when checking reliability.
Bills include your rent, too. Remember, when you’re going into a home purchase, you sometimes need a referral from your landlord. Whether you rent check arrived on the first of the 15th of the month matters. Also, don’t forget about medical bills, which stay on your credit score for seven years if late or unpaid. Finally, always pay down credit cards with any extra cash you have at the end of the month.
Yearly: Check your Credit Report
Do you even know what your credit score is, or even laid eyes on your credit report? If not or if you haven’t done so recently, now is the time to check.
To get a free copy of your credit score, go to CreditKarma.com. For your full credit report, available for free once a year, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. Who knows, there may be things on that report you weren’t aware of that are hurting your score. The only way to know and nip these problems in the bud is to check.