One of the most basic questions you need to ask yourself when deciding what you want in a home is, "Am I really ready to buy a house, instead of renting a house?" A lot of people start looking for a home because they think it's what they should do, or they've bought into the idea that rent is wasted money. They aren't prepared for everything that goes along with owning a house. If you can work through some questions and still come out with the answer that yes, you're ready to buy, you'll find that your search and purchase are a lot less stressful and less likely to result in massive buyer's remorse.
What Exactly Do I Think Owning Will Do for Me?
Sometimes the purpose of owning is very clear-cut. If you live in an area with rapidly rising rents, owning helps you stop that budget drain immediately. If you want to be in a house but can't afford the rent charged on local rental houses, but you can afford a mortgage, that's a clear reason to own. However, if you think you have to own because life is passing you by and all your friends own, stop and think again about whether you want to buy. If you aren't confident of your decision to become a homeowner, your search could turn into a wild goose chase where every house has something wrong with it. If you're confident you want to own and that owning is the right step to take now, though, you'll also have a better idea of what you want and what you can live with.
Do I Have a Handle on All the Costs Associated With Owning?
Remember, owning a home means you're responsible for maintenance and repairs. You do the yard work or pay for a landscaping company. You're the one who has to wheel the garbage bins to the curb. And you also have property tax on top of your mortgage. Many people reach a point where they want to take these duties on. They want to have that pride of ownership, knowing that their hard work went into keeping the place looking good. If that's how you feel, owning is a good move. If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of mowing a lawn weekly, then you may want to step back.
Where Will I Be in a Few Years?
This is a big one. If you're fairly mobile and want the freedom to leave a neighborhood that you don't like, renting is for you. If you are looking for a place you can live in for years and make your own, and you want to be involved in the neighborhood, owning is the way to go.
Real estate agents want you to buy, obviously, but they want you to also be happy with your decision to buy. If you're still unsure, talk to an agent and go to a few showings. Talk to others at open houses and see if the reasons they give or the things they're looking for in a home, match yours. If they do, you may have found the right way to go -- home ownership.