Buying a house is an exciting but scary step. Home ownership means making an investment in your future, but it also means committing to stay put, at least for a while. Before you make that commitment, you should ensure you are making an informed decision, and not one based on how beautiful the home is or your desire to be on your own.
1. Your Financial Situation
Just because you qualify for a loan does not necessarily mean you should take a loan. On the other hand, if you don't think you can qualify for a loan, you might be mistaken. When you consider buying a home, sit down with a professional--a loan counselor at your bank or a representative from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, for instance--and discuss your options. Have tax and income documents ready, as well as a list of your expenses and a copy of your credit report.
According to CNN Money, you should try to find a home that is two and a half times your yearly salary. So, if you have a yearly salary of $40,000, you should not choose a house that costs more than $120,000. However, if you have large loan payments or other expenses, you may not want to, or be qualified to, go that high. Ask the professional to help you get a good picture of your earnings, expenses and how they would change if you bought a home.
2. Home's History
A beautiful home on several acres of green yard might look appealing, but that pretty picture could be hiding problems that will cost you thousands of dollars and hours of lost sleep in the long run. According to the American Association of Realtors, you should find out as much as you can about the home before you buy.
Even issues that have been repaired can give you insight into what problems you might be facing a few years down the road. Get a home inspection and carefully go over the results with your inspector. If anything in the home makes you suspicious, don't hesitate to order another inspection from a different company.