Janet Swider-Wirth Broker/Associate, GRI, e-Pro's Blog
If you're currently renting an apartment or house, it makes good financial sense to consider becoming a homeowner in the foreseeable future. There are pros and cons to owning your own home -- and it's not for everyone -- but for most people, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
An exception would be if your job requires you to relocate frequently. In that scenario, the potential benefits of building up equity in a home would be greatly diminished.
On the other hand, if you plan on staying put for more than a few years, then the tax benefits and investment value of owning real estate could put you on a stronger financial track than if you continued shelling out your hard-earned money to a landlord. You've probably heard the argument before: "If you pay rent, you have nothing to show for it at the end of the year". However, when you buy a home, an increasing portion of your monthly payments is applied to your actual ownership of the property (as opposed to how much you owe the bank).
Tax Advantages of Home Ownership
In most cases, you can deduct all of your home mortgage interest from your federal tax returns, according to the IRS. More specifically: "The only costs you can deduct are real estate taxes actually paid to the taxing authority, interest that qualifies as home mortgage interest, and mortgage insurance premiums."
However, since everyone's financial situation is different and there is no "one size fits all" approach to financial management, it's always best to consult with an experienced CPA, enrolled agent, or knowledgeable tax preparer. There may be other tax benefits you could qualify for as a homeowner, too, including getting tax credits for installing a solar energy system. The government's Energy Star program says tax credits on new solar energy systems are available through the year 2021.
Getting the Process Underway
Two key steps to becoming a home owner are finding out your credit score and meeting with a mortgage lender to determine how much of a real estate loan you could qualify for. An experienced real estate agent can also provide you with a wealth of guidance and information on how to become a homeowner. They can fill you in on many of the exact steps, requirements, and advantages of buying your first home. A buyers' agent can also help you assess your readiness to take the plunge into home ownership.
In addition to finding out your credit score, which will impact your mortgage interest rate and the type of loan you may qualify for, other vital information can be gleaned from a detailed personal budget. Although the amount of rent you now pay will provide some insights into your potential house-buying budget, there are a lot of variables which will impact how much of a mortgage you could comfortably afford.
If, on the other hand, you adopt more of an isolated lifestyle, then the experience of home ownership may be a lot less fulfilling.
Taking the time to have a friendly chat with your neighbors, once in a while, can produce both immediate and long-term advantages. While not everyone has a gregarious, outgoing personality, making the occasional effort to say hello can open the door to a variety of benefits.
Home Security: The best neighborhoods are those in which everyone looks out for one another. When you know your neighbors on a first-name basis, they'll be a lot more likely to keep an eye on your house and let you (or the police) know when they observe any suspicious activity. It's also nice to feel comfortable enough to be able to ask your neighbors to watch your property while you're away -- either for the weekend or when you're on vacation. Even in low-crime areas, burglaries and vandalism has been known to happen, so it's in everyone's best interest to know their neighbors and be ready to help. Although Neighborhood Watch groups are not active everywhere, there's no reason why people still can't be alert and responsive to loitering, trespassing, or other questionable activity.
Networking Benefits: You may not need a plumber, electrician, or a reasonably priced HVAC technician, right now, but sooner or later, you will -- guaranteed! There may also come a time when you need emergency child care or fast help jump-starting your vehicle. You're probably not going to approach your neighbors for help if you don't know them, but there's a good chance you will if you do have a rapport. By sharing information, resources, and recommendations with neighbors, you'll be paving the way for a mutually beneficial relationship. While you may or may not become best friends, it's nice to know that there's someone nearby you can count on for support and help.
Feeling of community: Although some neighborhoods have a more friendly, close-knit feeling than others, it's often easy to break the ice with neighbors when you're outside -- either doing yard work, walking your dog, or going for a stroll. By taking the initiative to welcome new people into the neighborhood, you'll not only have a positive impact on their lives, but you might even forge a new, long-term friendship. You can also make social connections by chatting with people at yard sales, block parties, or by joining and being active in neighborhood Facebook or Nextdoor groups. While it may feel easier to just keep to yourself and avoid venturing outside of your comfort zone, becoming part of a larger community in your neighborhood (and beyond) is often much more rewarding!
Purchasing a house should be an unforgettable journey for all the right reasons. However, problems sometimes may arise that can make it tough to enjoy a positive homebuying experience.
Whether it's struggling to know where to search for your dream home or getting the financing you need to purchase a house, myriad problems may prevent you from enjoying a positive homebuying experience. Lucky for you, we're here to help you identify potential homebuying hurdles and eliminate such problems before they escalate.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you reap the benefits of a positive homebuying experience.
1. Enter the Housing Market with Clear Expectations
If you know you want to purchase a house, it helps to enter the real estate market with clear expectations. That way, you'll be better equipped than ever before to streamline your house search.
Consider what you want to find in your dream house. For example, if you want to own a house near the beach, you should conduct your home search accordingly. Or, if you want to buy a home with a big backyard and outdoor swimming pool, you can hone your home search as needed.
Think about areas where you want to reside too. By doing so, you can focus on available homes in specific cities and towns.
2. Know Your Homebuying Budget
Get pre-approved for a mortgage – you'll be glad you did. Because if you have a mortgage at your disposal, you can pursue houses in a specific price range and speed up your home search.
Obtaining a mortgage can be simple. In fact, if you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you may be able to get a mortgage in no time at all.
Remember, banks and credit unions employ knowledgeable mortgage specialists who are happy to assist you in any way possible. If you have any mortgage questions, these specialists can respond to your queries. And as a result, you can gain the insights you need to get a mortgage that matches your finances.
3. Employ a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent is a difference-maker, particularly for a homebuyer who wants to seamlessly navigate the property buying journey. With a real estate agent at your side, you can achieve the best-possible results, regardless of where and when you're searching for a home.
Typically, a real estate agent will meet with you, learn about your homebuying expectations and help you map out a property buying strategy. This housing market professional can offer expert insights into the local real estate market and ensure you can pursue houses that match your expectations. Plus, a real estate agent will set up home showings, help you submit an offer to purchase your dream house and negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf. And if you ever have concerns during the homebuying journey, a real estate agent will address them immediately.
Ready to enjoy a positive homebuying experience? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can quickly and effortlessly navigate the homebuying journey.