If you are contemplating buying your first home, you must carefully evaluate your financial situation and understand what you would be getting into. Money is not the only operative factor in this equation either; there is much more to homeownership than mortgage payments, property taxes and the cost of furnishings. Homeownership is a life decision, and it will affect almost every aspect of your life in one way or another.
Buying and moving into a home is a vastly different proposition than moving into a rental house or apartment. If you discover that you don't like your surroundings as a renter, then you will only have a lease agreement to contend with if you decide to move. Changing houses is obviously a much different proposition, as this requires you to go through the entire home sale and purchase process all over again. Most financial experts will also tell you that you will have to stay in your house for anywhere from two to six years in order to make up for all of the initial closing costs and other expenses that inevitably arise when you buy a home.
One of the biggest disadvantages of homeownership is that there is no landlord to call when something needs to be fixed. Keeping your home structurally and mechanically sound and maintaining an attractive property can cost you thousands of dollars above and beyond your normal upkeep expenses and also require a major commitment of time and effort. Some of the major maintenance projects that you may face include:
Repainting Your House
Your home will likely need a new coat of paint at some point, either inside or out. If you have this done professionally, you can usually expect to pay at least two thousand dollars, depending upon the size of your house and the amount of work that it will take to do the job. Doing this job yourself will be a major undertaking.
Replacing Your Roof
This is one project that you will not likely be able to do yourself. The average cost of a roof can easily range around $10,000 to $15,000, and the price depends upon the type of roof and type of shingles that are used.
Foundational erosion and collapse is every homeowner's worst nightmare, and fixing this problem isn't going to be cheap. Mud jacking can cost thousands of dollars if the problem is severe.
Plumbing and electrical repairs
Furnace and air conditioner repairs and replacements
Treatments for termites and other pests
Your pocketbook is not the only thing that needs to be healthy before you buy a home. If you are married or in a domestic partnership, you need to evaluate the stability of your relationship before you commit to purchasing a home together. When two people who live in an apartment together divorce or break up, one of them simply moves out. When two people are listed on the title deed for a residence, getting one of them removed is much more complicated. When this happens, the person who stays must shoulder the entire cost of the home by him or herself (albeit with the help of child support or alimony in many cases). If you are having problems in your marriage or other relationship, then you need to seriously consider where the two of you will be in five or ten years. If you think that there's a good chance that you will split up, then homeownership should be approached with caution.
If you have physical or mental limitations that may prevent you from being able to perform normal maintenance tasks on your home, then you need to have a clear idea of how you will accomplish these things before you sign on the dotted line. If your health is in decline, then buying a fixer-upper is probably not a good idea unless you can clearly afford to pay for all of the repairs and maintenance.
The Bottom Line
Buying a home requires a certain level of emotional and mental maturity. The ability to think ahead and foresee possible problems down the road is key before making the commitment, especially for first-home buyers.