Did you call your mother? Did she remark that she can’t believe it’s snowing in Colorado on Mother’s Day? “Easter, sure, but Mother’s Day?” This seems to be the template for most conversations with mothers: 50% things she can’t believe; 40% advice; 10% miscellany. It’s the 40% we’re concerned with today. You should never make a major decision without consulting your mother, and since home-buying is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make, you really should take the time to ask her opinion—or at least stop and consider what she might say.
Now, although I can to tell the difference between mauve and medium lavender, I’m not a mother. I am confident, however, that I can channel my own mother. Motherly advice is sensible, prudent, and practical—exactly the right approach when buying a home.
Her first piece of advice would be: stay within your means! You’re finally old enough to know the value of a dollar, so you should know better than to buy a house you can’t afford. Before you even start looking for a home, work up a budget and settle on a firm amount that you’re comfortable paying each month. This is, after all, a liability you will have for 15-30 years. You should consider the principal and interest, taxes, insurance, and factor in a cushion for unforeseen repairs. The mortgage may be the most expensive part of homeownership, but it’s not the only expense!
Next, prepare for homeownership! Remember that puppy you begged your mother for? The one you promised you would feed and bathe and care for? Well, a house is not a puppy; your mother won’t take over when you lose interest. You need to prepare for the responsibility of homeownership. This means resolving any debt, delinquency, or credit issues. It means saving for a down payment. It means having a reserve in the bank of at least six months that will cover your housing and living expenses. There is nothing more damaging to your credit than a bankruptcy and foreclosure. And 9 times out of 10, the steps you take before you acquire a mortgage will determine whether you foreclose in difficult times.
At some point, your mother might have advised you to keep your friends close. This is especially true in the home-buying process! You need friends—people you trust—to guide you through the various parts of the process. From a reputable real estate agent to a sensible insurance agent to, finally, an honest mortgage broker, you simple must build trusting relationships with each person in the process. Real estate, insurance, and mortgages are too complex for most people to grasp fully. If someone wants to pull a fast one, they probably can. It’s imperative that you find someone who has your interests in mind—someone whose primary business goal is ensuring their clients are in a better place after the transaction than they were before.
The home-buying season is starting to kick into high gear. In the mad dash to not only find a home but also put in a successful offer, it’s easy to lose your senses. Whether you’re currently shopping or just deciding whether homeownership is for you, it helps to take a moment and consider what advice your mother would give you. Or, even better, give her a call. She may give you a list of 83 reasons you’re not ready to own a home. Or she may encourage you and offer some down-payment assistance. Odds are, she knows what’s best for you and will push you in the right direction.
5-10-14 Momma Knows Best