Are You Grown Up Enough to Be a Homeowner?

Forever young. That’s what we all strive to be, right? But when it comes to owning a home, even the most mature of us can want to run and hide like a little kid when problems arise. If you’re looking to buy your first place and aren’t sure you’re up for the responsibility, asking yourself these questions may help you decide.

Do you know the true costs of homeownership?

Yes, you have a handle on what your principal, interest, taxes, and insurance are going to cost. But have you factored in the other costs? Homeowner’s association fees, tolls, gas, and other commuter costs, landscaping help, and increased utility costs could all add to your monthly expenses and push the affordability factor out of reach.

Are you aware of closing costs?

Many first-time buyers aren’t prepared to pay thousands of dollars on top of their down payment. Getting an estimate upfront is key to making sure you have what you need to close.

Are you being realistic about home appreciation?

Homebuyers love to look at home appreciation over a period of time and then use those numbers to project how much their home value will increase in the next few years. It’s human nature. But it can also be dangerous if you’re counting on that appreciation to move up or on in a few years’ time.

It’s important to remember that the real estate market is cyclical, and, while short-term gains are great, historical long-term gains also make real estate one of the safest and most successful investment strategies. “Housing was the world’s best investment over the last 150 years,” said Quartz.

If your home does increase in value, what will you do with the equity?

Hope your answer wasn’t, “Go shopping!” or “Buy a new car!” That kind of thinking can get you in trouble—in fact, it did get a lot of people in trouble during the last downturn. Responsible use of home equity is key to remaining financially stable. When you use your equity for things other than home improvement, you’re increasing your monthly costs but not your home value. Now it costs more to live in your home, and it’s at risk if you get in over your head and default on your loan.

Are you planning to run out and furnish every inch of the home right away?

Doing so could put you several thousand dollars in additional debt just as you’re transitioning to homeownership. Financial experts recommend easing into your new home and making sure the monthly output is what you expect and can manage before taking on too much additional debt.

Do you pay your bills on time?

There are those of us who like to pay bills right when we receive them and those of us who pay them when we get a notification that we’re about to incur a late fee. We’ve been both of those people. If you’re not used to—or fond of or good at—managing your bills, you may find yourself with no water or electricity. Investopedia has some great tools to help you get more organized.

How good are you at facing your issues?

We can procrastinate with the best of ‘em (and we have). We can put off fixing a problem—personal, professional, or otherwise (and we have). We can wait too long to take care of a little problem in the house and turn it into a big, huge, much more expensive problem (and we have). Being a homeowner means stepping up when the house needs you. And it will need you at some point. Are you ready to make it a priority?

Would you rather take a bucket list vacation or fix up your kitchen?

A trip to the see the Northern Lights would be amazing…but would it be better than being able to run your hands over your new Quartz countertops every day? You may need to make some hard decisions as a homeowner. Whether or not it’s worth depends on how important the goal of buying a home is.

Do you have a solid support system?

Sometimes you just need someone you can vent to, sometimes you need someone to come fix a smoke detector 20 feet up that’s going off in the middle of the night. If you’re used to living at home, where parents take care of everything, or in an apartment where you can call the manager, the realization that this is all your responsibility now can be a shock to the system. There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes your way:

• Mine Nextdoor ahead of time for resources (plumber, electrician, garage door expert) you can reach out to when needed
• Find a good handyman as soon as you move in
• Meet and exchange contact information with your neighbors
• Consider getting a home warranty, especially if your home is older and you’re concerned about the large expense of a new hot water heater or air conditioning unit

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