5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Your First Home

Couple in new home unpacking boxes
••• Hero Images / Getty Images

Buying your first home is one of the most important transactions you will ever make. You need to make sure you can afford it, decide what mortgage to get and be sure you are making a wise decision.

You may also need to make financial changes before you are ready to buy a home. If you take the time to answer these questions, you will know that you are ready to buy. And you will also be able to make sure that you do not spend more than you can afford on the home.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a First Home

Here are five questions to ask yourself before you buy your first home.

Will I Be in the Area Long?

This question will vary, and the answer may suddenly change due to circumstances in your life. Ideally, you should stay in your first home for three to five years before you move again. You need to stay that long in order to break even on the mortgage.

If you know you will be transferring to a new area or will want to move up in size in a year, it might be better to wait to buy a home then. This will allow you to save up a larger down payment and may make it easier for you to afford the home you want. 

Can I Afford to Pay?

Your entire mortgage payment should be no more than 25 percent of your gross income. You can stretch this up to 28 percent if you have no other debts at all. If you are taking out two mortgages, you need to combine these payments to find out if you meet the criteria.

Your total monthly debt payments (including the mortgage) should not exceed 33 percent of your gross income. If you reach beyond what you can afford to pay, you risk the possibility of losing your home, so be realistic in purchasing your home. If you cannot afford the house you want, you may consider renting a bit longer or looking for something more affordable.

How Am I Financing the Loan?

If you are financing with an ARM (adjustable rate mortgage), you really should not be buying the home. Your interest rate will go up and increase your payments, and then you may find it difficult to make payments. Your equity may not grow quickly enough to allow you to refinance before your rate changes kick in.

If you are financing with an 80/20 you need to work to pay off the 20 as quickly as possible. You may qualify for an FHA loan if this is your first home. You should also consider the length of the loan. You can choose a 10, 15, 20, or a 30-year mortgage. The longer the term you choose, the lower your monthly payments, but the more you will pay in interest over the life of the loan.

Did the Home Pass Inspection?

Before you buy, you need to make sure the home passes all inspections. It is worth the money to pay for an inspection. This can help you to avoid costly mistakes. If you are planning on remodeling, add this to your budget, as well. This step will keep you from running into any surprises once you purchase the house. If you are buying a home you are planning to do reservations on, you still need a good home inspection.

Am I Ready for the Responsibility?

Once you are a homeowner, you are responsible if the furnace goes out or if your refrigerator dies. You need to have a sinking fund set up for home repairs. If your budget is too tight with a house payment, you likely are not ready and should wait to buy a home. You want to save up a $5000 sinking fund for home repairs before you buy. Be sure that you can afford your home insurance in addition to your house payment.

Do not give in to pressure to buy a home before you are ready. Instead, wait until you can answer "yes" to all of the above questions. You can evaluate whether you should rent or buy each year until you feel ready to buy a home. Be sure you take into account unexpected or additional costs when buying a home like buying new furniture or paint.