Taking the leap into homeownership is a big decision — and one that requires careful consideration of the pros and cons. But if you’re buying a house for the first time, it’s hard to know where the potential pitfalls might be. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are 11 first-time homebuyer questions to ask yourself before you make an offer on a property.
1. How Much Can I Afford?
This is one of the first questions to ask yourself when buying a house for the first time. To identify your budget for a house, start by taking a hard look at your personal finances, including your income, monthly expenses, and debt. To determine your current monthly expenditures, review your spending and add up your regular monthly expenses like your phone bill, food, transportation, utilities and dependent care. It’s important to include insurance premiums (on auto, medical, life and any other policies you may have) when budgeting for buying a house for the first time. Our budgeting tips can help you put this data together, and our house calculator can also help you determine the mortgage you may qualify for.
Keep in mind, owning a home often brings added monthly expenses — both expected and unexpected.
2. Do I Have Money for a Down Payment?
Your down payment affects how much money you’ll need to borrow. A larger down payment means a lower monthly mortgage payment. Plus, if you can put at least 20% down, you won’t be required to purchase mortgage insurance.
3. How Much Will Property Taxes Cost?
First-time homebuyers are often shocked at the cost of property taxes. Before purchasing a home for the first time, find out what the estimated taxes will be on the property. You can do research ahead of time so you aren’t surprised by rate increases. This is also a great question to ask your realtor when buying a house for the first time because their experience will give them a better idea of what you might expect.
4. What Are Closing Costs?
Closing costs are paid at the close of your real estate transaction and may include your home inspection, realtor and lawyer fees, title search, pest inspection, appraisal, home warranty and loan origination. The costs to close can add up quickly, so it’s important to make sure you have the funds to cover them. Your lender may also require you to set up an escrow account to pay for ongoing property expenses.
5. What Are the Hidden Costs of Owning a Home?
When you rent a home, your landlord covers maintenance and repairs. But as a homeowner, you will be responsible for repairs and ongoing maintenance, like taking care of your yard and servicing your appliances. Depending on the home you buy, you may need to buy household items like a snow blower, lawnmower, sprinkler system and other tools.
Likewise, if your new home is part of a homeowners association (HOA), you may need to pay a monthly fee to your HOA. Ask your realtor if there are HOA fees tied to the property you want to buy and, if so, what expenses and services your HOA covers.
6. How Much Will It Cost to Move Into My New Home?
No matter if you’re moving across town or across the country, always calculate the expenses of moving to your new home — renting a truck, hiring movers, buying boxes and more. These costs are often more than expected.
It’s also important to plan for the costs of moving into your home. If you’re moving from an apartment or a smaller home, you may need to buy more furniture for your new, larger space. Likewise, if you’re buying a new house without appliances or you need to update existing ones, your initial costs of homeownership will be higher to cover these items.
7. Do I Have an Emergency Fund?
In contrast to renting, homeownership means you’re responsible for making repairs, updates and improvements. And any repair, major or minor, can leave you strapped for cash if you’re not prepared. Set aside an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. Not sure how? Learn how to build an emergency fund.
8. How Long Do I Plan to Stay in the Home?
It’s important to consider all factors — relocating for work, expanding your family, getting married — that may cause you to move. It generally takes five years or more to break even on the costs of buying, owning and selling a home. Thinking about how long you’ll be in the home will also help you settle on a neighborhood and the size of house you’ll need.
9. Can I Still Afford to Save as a Homeowner?
Of all the questions to ask yourself when buying a home for the first time, this is the one that most people forget. It’s easier to think about how much you can spend, but it’s harder to ask how much you can save. How much money do you want to stockpile for retirement, college and vacations? How much do you want to put into personal savings? As you determine how much you can afford on your first home purchase, don’t forget to factor in your savings goals.
10. What Are My Rights as a Borrower?
It’s important to know your rights as a mortgage borrower, which makes this an important first-time homebuyer question to explore. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Know Before You Owe initiative provides borrowers with a better understanding of loan options, helps them shop for the best mortgage and aims to minimize the chances of any surprises before closing.
11. What Type of Insurance Coverage Will I Need?
Protecting things that matter most to you, including your new home, means having the right coverage. When you close on your home, a Farm Bureau agent can work with you to determine what home insurance coverage best fits your needs and budget.