Deciding to buy a home can be one of the most exciting decisions in your life. Finally having your own space to expand, raise a family, and customize with your dream features is a major life goal for many people!
Cramped apartments and landlord struggles can make you want to jump ahead with moving into your own home. However, it’s important to be informed when going through the home-buying process. It’s easy to get lost in the dream and fall out of touch with reality.
To keep you grounded and help you prepare to purchase your first home, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask when buying your first house—before and during the process.
1. What programs are available to help me buy my first house?
There are several programs available to help first-time homebuyers afford a home. These can financially support your goal of moving into your own space. These include state programs, tax breaks, and federal assistance. Where you live dictates what funding is available, so be sure to check out your state’s resources!
Owning a home also qualifies you for certain tax breaks, such as the home mortgage interest deduction. At the federal level, the Federal Housing Authority and the Department of Housing and Urban Development both offer programs that can help you afford your home, including counseling, to make a smart purchase.
2. What school district do I want to live in?
The kind of school district you live in can determine how safe your kids are at school, the quality of their education, and how likely they will be to succeed in college. Even if your kids are young and college seems a long way away, it’s worth it to start thinking about these things early.
It’s also a good idea to consider how close you are to the schools. If you have multiple kids who are different ages, it can be a challenge to take them all to their schools and pick them up on time if you are a drive away. This can complicate the daily routine.
Plus, living in a highly-rated school district can even benefit you if you don’t have kids or plan on using local schools. Homes in highly-rated districts are good for resale value or if you want to rent out your home in the future.
3. What kind of neighborhood do I want?
If you have young children, your neighborhood will be a place for them to make many memories. Riding their bikes, waiting for the ice cream man, and playing hide and seek outside are all memories that will last a lifetime. It’s important that if you want this kind of environment, you consider that when shopping for a house.
In addition, if you cherish your walk to your coffee shop, 5-minute drive to the grocery store, or run through the local park, it’s also important to keep these things in mind when you start looking at houses and exploring neighborhoods.
When buying a house, you also buy into a neighborhood. Ensure it suits your lifestyle. If you purchase a house, you’ll likely be there for a good bit of time, so focus on all the things you enjoy - and dislike - about your current location.
4. Are there hidden expenses I don’t know about?
Closing on a house can come with a lot of miscellaneous costs. It’s wise to budget for things like realtor fees, homeowner’s association dues, and moving costs in addition to your mortgage payments. Thinking about the type of furniture you will have to purchase to furnish your first home can also help you budget for these often-forgotten costs.
5. What are my plans 5, 10, 15 years from now?
Buying a house has upfront costs that you won’t recoup immediately. This means it’s a good idea to plan ahead so you will feel comfortable in your space for a while!
If you know that in the future you want to work from home more or go back to school, looking for a house with a home office can give you space to breathe.
If you plan to expand your family, budgeting for an extra bedroom allows you to accommodate guests and future new family members. If your kids are growing and share a room now but will need their own space in the future, be sure to reflect on this as well.
6. What’s the best mortgage I can get?
This is one of the most significant questions to ask when buying your first house. It’s fun to dream of your new home with an expansive backyard, workout room, office space, and newly remodeled kitchen. It’s less fun to think about mortgage rates. However, this question can make a huge difference in your bank account for years to come.
It’s important to consider your credit score, the amount of money you have available for a deposit, and the range of the costs of the homes you are looking for. Shopping around for a mortgage can save you a lot of stress in the future. Luckily, you can shop from the comfort of your own home – much like you’d browse for a new pair of shoes.
Most financial institutions will determine if you qualify for a certain mortgage online and will even pre-approve you before you start shopping. It’s a good idea to talk to multiple lenders to get a good idea of where you can find the best rates.
More tips and questions to ask when buying your first house
Sometimes it’s not what you know, but what you don’t know that guides you towards the best financial decisions. That’s why it’s essential to continue learning more about the home-buying journey.
Now that you’ve discovered answers to some general questions—explore a little more by checking out some steps to get the process started.