There’s probably no more stressful experience for couples than buying a new home. It’s a life-changing financial commitment that can make even the most confident and well-prepared people feel insecure. And it’s a real test for couples, especially for newlyweds and others who haven’t been together that long. There are lots of details to be worked out, and both parties have to be on board with whatever decisions are made. You have to work out location, budget, price range, square footage, down payment, and mortgage payments, each of which will have a real impact on your life and lifestyle. Taking on a mortgage that’s beyond your means because one of you has found their dream house is a recipe for marital stress and many unhappy encounters over money, one of the leading causes of divorce. There are several steps you can take as a couple to take the stress and conflict out of the home-buying process.
Can you afford it?
It’s a hard question to ask, but you need to know if you can afford your new home. You need to make an objective, honest assessment of your finances and determine whether home ownership is in the cards. You might qualify for a home that’s too small to meet your wants and expectations, but settling for something neither of you truly wants is, ultimately, self-defeating. Communicate openly and honestly with each other as you review what you truly want in a home. Sometimes, your best move is to do nothing and wait until you’re in a stronger financial position.
This will be a big challenge—maybe your first major challenge as a couple. Establish a good precedent by agreeing to be honest with each other and honest about your circumstances.
Stay within your budget
Beware overdoing it with a mortgage! You’ll be stuck with it for a long time, and one that overwhelms your budget will affect every aspect of your lives. When you qualify for a loan, you’ll be given a range and an opportunity to commit to the higher end. Avoid doing so if it’s not within your budget. Being honest with yourselves means factoring in other financial needs. As homeowners, you’ll face unanticipated repairs, upgrades, appliances, and more. Don’t forget you’ll need to allow for such contingencies on top of your monthly mortgage payment, as well as other living expenses (gas, commuting, lifestyle, etc.).
It’s difficult to know where you’ll end up in this process if you don’t know how far you can go. That’s why it’s important to get preapproved for a home loan. Your realtor will know that you’re a realistic and reliable candidate for a home, and how much you have to work with. A preapproval will make things go more smoothly, since you’ll come to the process with a bank letter certifying the two of you are financially viable and worthy of this loan.
Being diligent about buying a home means not rushing through steps that must be taken along the way. It’s absolutely crucial to be careful about the home you want to buy and the condition it’s in. The home inspection will turn up any major damage that could cause problems for you down the road. The last thing you want is to wake up one morning only to find that your beautiful new home has roof or foundation damage that must be dealt with right away. That’ll undermine your budget, whatever it might be, right off the bat.
A new home is a tremendous financial commitment for you and your partner. Make sure that you’re both on the same page when it comes to knowing how much you can spend, what kind of house you want, and how much to budget for expenses beyond your mortgage and home upkeep. This should be one of the happiest times of your lives, so take steps to make sure that you’re both happy throughout the home-buying process and beyond.
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