Buying a home is likely to be one of the most important, and almost certainly the most expensive, purchase that anyone is likely to make.
With so much to think about, plan for, look at, and extra costs involved, it is important to have a good idea of the process and what is involved before starting out, as well as a good understanding of what is involved before, during and after, to ensure that your home purchase is as stress free as possible.
Advice is available from the government on buying a home, and this guide will also consider some other significant factors.
Knowing what you are looking for
Before starting to buy a home, it is useful to carefully consider what sort of home are you looking for. This will help you to avoid unnecessary costs and is likely to help you to maximise your time during home hunting, and minimising wasted time both for yourself and others.
The most important thing to know is what sort of home you are looking for, and where are you are looking. This is most likely to be determined by your budget, so understanding how much you have to spend on your new home, as well as any legal and other moving costs, is vital.
Understanding what sort of home you are looking for is about understanding your current and future needs. For example, how many bedrooms do you require now and how many are you likely to require in the future. You need to consider such things as whether you have a family that is likely to grow, or whether you need a guest room for visiting friends and family.
An increasing number of people work from home, and so it may be worth considering whether your prospective new home needs to have space, either an extra room or a garage or basement, that can be repurposed as a home office if required.
The location will also be important. Finding the right location for a home is often a combination of desirability (where you would like to live) tempered by budget (how much money you have) and practicality (what is available, or what is practical for commuting to and from work).
The availability of many properties on the Internet means that browsing and researching suitable locations and house types in a particular area is very easy. You may find that after doing some research that you need to lower your expectations of what you can afford or achieve, or if you are fortunate you may also find that you can buy something bigger or better than you expected.
Preparing for extra costs
An important cost of buying a home is also about understanding that extra costs will be required. These will tend to come in two categories. Firstly, there are the costs of buying the home and then secondly the costs after buying the home.
The costs of buying a home are often based around legal and conveyancing fees, but also may involve realtor and estate agent fees, the latter in particular if you are also selling a current home.
There will usually be legal fees involved in drawing up contracts for purchase and conveyancing fees for having the prospective new home examined and checked out for suitability and quality. A home inspection by someone recommended by the Office of Consumer Affairs is advised. There will also be the costs of hiring a removal company to move your goods and property into your new home.
You should therefore when deciding to buy a house research how much should be set aside for these extra fees and costs, and remove it from your purchase budget, as you don’t want to have any offer on your dream home but not have the funds to complete the purchase formalities. Typically you should put aside about 4-5% of the purchase cost as a budget for moving costs, but this will vary so you should cost it out quite carefully.
There are also likely to be costs after the purchase. These will tend to be in the realm of home improvements and repair and will vary from property to property. If you have purchased a new or nearly new home, then extra costs in this region are likely to be for decorating, whereas an older home may have structural issues that require larger and more expensive repair. When buying older homes then, you may need to lower your purchase budget, in order to allow more funds for important repairs to get the home up to scratch, either before or after moving in.
The buying process
It is worth checking whether there are any rebates or grants in your region that can help, such as the Home Buyer’s Amount or local rebates.
It is of course vital to search around for a good mortgage rate, with as low an interest rate as possible. Ways to ensure this include making sure that any unsecured debt (credit cards, loans etc.) are paid off or are as low as possible. It is also helpful to make as large a down payment as you are able to make. This reduces the amount of the mortgage required and may enable lower monthly payments or being able to pay off the mortgage more quickly.
It would be wise to take advice from friends and family, particularly if you are buying your first home, about how the process works and any pitfalls to avoid, and online guides are available with extensive advice.
Although buying a home, particularly a first home, can be a stressful experience, by carefully planning out what you can afford, setting aside funds for the extra costs involved, preparing your finances for the purchase, researching carefully what is the best kind of home for you, and by being aware and confident of the buying process, it is possible to navigate through this complex labyrinth and purchase a home that you can be proud of for years to come.