Are You Ready to Buy a Home?

The transition from renter to homebuyer is a big one. Owning your own home gives you assurance that your monthly housing costs won’t go up, (assuming you get a fixed-rate mortgage), and that your rent won’t get jacked up when you are least expecting it.

Home ownership also comes with added responsibility. When something breaks in your rental unit, it’s a quick call to the landlord to get it fixed. Homeowners are always on the hook for both making and financing any repairs.

It’s a big financial leap to becoming a homeowner. Experts recommend asking yourself these questions before you start out on the house hunt:

Do you know how much you can afford?

Take the time to calculate how much home you can afford to buy. This isn’t the time to ballpark numbers. Overcommitting to a mortgage payment can leave you house poor, meaning there’s very little money leftover at the end of the month for other things.

Add up all your spending, including current rent, food, transportation and discretionary expenses like travel, eating out and entertainment. Don’t forget to include debt like student loans and car payments. Once you know how much you have coming in and going out each month, determine a number you can afford to spend on housing.

Generally, personal finance experts recommend aiming to spend around 28% of your monthly income on housing. Getting preapproved for a loan will also help give you a sense of your housing budget. But note that just because a bank agreed to give you a loan, doesn’t mean you have to (or should) spend that much.

Do you have a down payment?

You don’t need a 20% down payment to get a mortgage loan. But putting more down can work in your favor. It can help you get better loan rates, beat out the competition in hot housing markets, and will lower the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan.

You can get a mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down, but anything less than 20% means paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will increase your monthly payment.

Working to save for a large down payment shows financial responsibility and gets you used to living on a strict budget.

Will you have money left over after closing?

Your bank account shouldn’t be zero after closing. You should still have an emergency savings fund that will cover around three to six months of living expenses, on hand.

In addition to the emergency fund, it is recommended that you have six to nine months of mortgage expenses available. First-time homebuyers are typically looking at older homes because of their lower price point, and they require more work. You should have a back-up fund in savings, in case the A/C or heater goes.

Is your credit in good shape?

You want to get your credit score as high as possible when shopping for a mortgage. The higher the score, the better the lending terms and rates.

A credit score of 750 and up is generally considered excellent and will make you the most attractive borrower.

Have you paid down other debt?

Your debt-to-income ratio plays a major role in the health of your finances.

You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments and dividing it by your gross monthly income.

The general rule of thumb is your debt should not exceed 43% of your available credit, in order to take out a mortgage.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you don’t plan on staying in an area for more than a couple of years, buying a house might not make financial sense.

The huge upfront investment including the price of the home, plus the added expenses like taxes, closing costs, and escrow fees, might take a while to pay off.  Be ready to make a long term commitment to a home and area, if you are taking out a mortgage.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? You saw our previous short video on the benefits of a First Financial mortgage last time, now check out part 2: how First Financial works with all our individual members’ lending needs. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 Article Source: Kathryn Vasel for


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