Buying a house may be one of the most important purchases of your life and it’s not a decision that you want to make hastily. Before you can start searching for that perfect dream house, you need to plan for how you are going to afford it, and that means smart budgeting and saving up for your first home. Here’s a strategy to help you save smart.
Figure out your target amount
A good way to start thinking about your eventual first home purchase is to dream, and at the same time think realistically about affording a home. Do you love cooking, perhaps you’d rather go for a gourmet kitchen than more square footage? You also want to assess what you are willing to compromise on, and especially have a hard line about your budget. Just because it’s your first home doesn’t mean that you have to compromise completely.
Once you have an idea about your ideal first home and your requirements, you can get a sense of the market and how much this home might cost. For a general overview on market insights, check out the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) comprehensive housing market analysis on your nearest city. Home prices can change dramatically, and by the time you are ready to buy, the market might have shifted, but having a sense of how much it’ll cost can prepare you to start saving. That includes the cost of a down payment, your monthly mortgage, closing costs, general upkeep, and recurring expenses like property taxes and maintenance. If you are feeling lost, consult with a financial advisor.
Save, save, save, but protect your other financial goals
Once you have your goal, start adding a set amount every month into your new home savings fund to reach it. Even if it’s a small amount, a little can go a long way in making your dream feel like something that’s possible. If you are paying off debt at the same time as you are working toward affording a home, you might be perplexed about where your money should be going, the answer is: to both. Nobody expects aspiring homeowners to be debt-free, but you should try your best to work toward that goal, because having a high credit score will be a plus when you apply for that first mortgage. But whatever you do, don’t touch your emergency savings fund for your new home. Saving for a home is important but you never know when unexpected medical expenses might come up, or other events that might drain your savings and put you in a financial bind.
Having a place to call home can create a greater sense of stability and give you the opportunity to create a space that is truly your own, but it’s unlikely to change your life dramatically — unless you’ve been living with five housemates and one bathroom. Don’t put too much stress or weight on your timeline for buying a house, do the best you can and save, save, save. If it really matters to you, it will happen.