When to Buy Your First Home

a smiling couple sitting on the floor holding a sign stating "new home"with moving boxes around them, illustrating that they have just became homeowners.

To rent or buy? If the question of renting vs. buying a home has crossed your mind, we encourage you to consider the benefits of homeownership. However, the advantages of owning vs. renting are different for everyone.

If you’re not already a homeowner, then it’s always time to think about when to buy your first house. If you’re not actively working toward a purchase, you can at least be saving toward a down payment and preparing yourself to live with a mortgage payment.

Consider these important personal situations along with your long-term financial goals before taking the plunge to buy your first home:

  • Considering your career. Are you established enough to know that you’re going to be in one city for the foreseeable future? You typically need to be in a home for a few years to recoup your closing costs and not take any loss when selling the house. If it’s likely that you will transfer to a new city for work purposes in the next few years, then you might want to wait and buy your first home when you know you’re ready to stay put for a while.
  • Expanding your family. If your family is growing, that shouldn’t prevent you from becoming a homeowner. In fact, a growing family could encourage you to buy your first home. The variable here is how big a family you think you’ll have. If you buy a two-bedroom starter home and have three kids right away, you’re in for at least a few years of cramped living. Buy your first home when you know what your family makeup is likely to be.
  • Monitoring your credit. Your mortgage loan is going to be with you for a long time – two or three decades – and every percentage point of loan interest you pay ends up being thousands of dollars over the long term. If your credit is not good, you might want to take six months to work on improving your credit score so you can get a better mortgage loan and save a lot of money over your lifetime.

Learn More: What is a Good Credit Score?

  • Preparing your finances. Do you have the income to be able to afford your mortgage payment? What about a down payment? If you’re not able to save enough money to make a down payment or pay for closing costs, you might need some help budgeting or eliminating debts, so you have more money left over to put toward homeownership.

More Resources: Free Mortgage Calculator

  • Your location. If homes in your area are overpriced, you might make a mistake to get into the market at a high point. Conversely, if prices are lower than they’ve been, then it’s more likely a good time to buy a home and get in at a lower price. Home prices generally tend to go up over time—the notable exception being the housing crisis of 2008. Usually, home values in your area aren’t a reason to wait to become a homeowner, but if you have an opportunity to buy in an up-and-coming area, it can be a good time to buy and capitalize on rising property values.

Related Article: What to Look for When Buying a House

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Buy Your First Home

The truth is, nothing listed above should necessarily cause you to wait to become a homeowner. They’re important considerations, but if you end up having to move – for your career or because of a growing family – then you can rent out your house and let your tenant pay your mortgage payment for you.

Becoming a landlord isn’t something to enter into lightly and you will have to learn how to fulfill that role. That said, you can also consider hiring a property management company to help reduce that stress.

We’re not saying you have to become a landlord, only that you have that option if you’re ever forced to move. You shouldn’t wait to enter homeownership just because you might possibly have to move in the future.

Most experts will tell you that the sooner you get into homeownership, the better. The best time to become a homeowner, if you’re not one already, is today.

Related Article: First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid

The Best Time of Year to Buy a House

There’s another aspect of timing your home-buying that is more immediate; what time of year is a good time to buy?

Buy in August, September, and January

August and September are the best times to shop. These months are when sellers will start to slash their prices because they missed out on selling to people in time to move their kids to a new school.

As we move into fall, it remains a good time to buy—if you’re willing to move during winter weather, you are likely to find far less competition from other buyers, and sellers will be more receptive to any offer you might make.

January ends up being an especially good time to buy, because most sellers will have put their home one the market months earlier before winter weather really kicked in. That means they’ll be more desperate to sell and might accept a lower offer.

One caveat to buying during winter though, is that you might not see what the property really looks like if everything is covered in snow.

Don’t Buy in June or July

Ironically, National Homeownership Month, each June, is not the best time to buy. This is a busy time for the market, and many sellers know that buyers want to get moved during the summer before the weather changes or their kids start school. That makes June and July a good time to be saving money and working on improving your credit.

When spring rolls around, everyone will be home-shopping again, and houses will sell faster—that means you won’t have as much negotiating room and will have to offer more money to get your hands on a desired property.

For first-time homebuyers, this is not likely to be a good experience. You’re looking for a starter home so you can get established as a homeowner; not the perfect place that you’ll have to overbid on to beat other potential buyers.

Bear in mind, all of this depends on where you live. For example, winter weather isn’t likely to be a problem in the Arizona real estate market because of the attractive temperatures. So, your local market conditions may not be the same as other parts of the country.

No matter what time of year it is, or where you are in your life, the best time to buy your first home is as soon as you are ready. That means if you’re not home shopping yet, you should be creating a budget or checking your credit reports in anticipation of applying for a mortgage.

There’s no reason to go it alone; you can get homebuyer education that will help you qualify for FHA loans and other down payment assistance programs, and even get homebuyer counseling one-on-one that will give you trustworthy, professional advice to successfully become a homeowner.

Find Personalized Help to Guide You Through the Process

If you’re concerned that you aren’t financially ready to take this step, talk to a debt counselor about paying off outstanding debt and living on a budget. You should also consider a credit report review a few months before you apply for a mortgage, so you have time to correct any inaccurate or outdated information on your report and to ensure the report reflects positively on you.

Article written by
Melinda Opperman
Melinda Opperman is an exceptional educator who lives and breathes the creation and implementation of innovative ways to motivate and educate community members and students about financial literacy. Melinda joined credit.org in 2003 and has over two decades of experience in the industry.

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