Fact. Millennials represent the largest generational group of homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Trends report. So if you’ve got #Homegoals and aspire to join the club of homeowners in the foreseeable future, it’s definitely within your reach but not without having a strategic plan to get you there. Here are six things you should do right now if you’re seriously looking to buy a house in the next couple of years.
1. Get your credit score right:
When it’s time to shop for a home loan, the best interest rates will go to those with the highest credit score. Make sure your credit score is in its best shape and review your credit report to make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary. When you’re closer to shopping for a home loan, avoid making any huge purchases (ie. buying a new car or new furniture for your dream house) that could affect your score at a pivotal time.
2. Get preapproved:
The first step in the process is getting an honest look at what you can really afford. That starts with meeting with a lender and getting pre-approved for a home loan. You can start talking to a lender a year out from when you you’re ready to buy to start understanding what you’ll need to provide to qualify for a loan. I’d recommend talking to at least three lenders and shop around to compare each rate they offer. Researching a lender is just as important if not more important than researching the type of house you want. In a competitive market like we’re in today, most sellers won’t even look at an offer without a buyer’s pre-approval letter attached. The better prepared and researched you are to understand what you can actually afford, the more leverage you’ll have as a buyer.
3. Get smart about your finances:
If you’re seriously committed to buying a home in the next couple of years, it’s time to get smart about your spending. Start a special savings account just for your down payment fund and set it on auto to contribute monthly to it. Having money saved for a down payment and closing costs is typically the largest barrier to entry in buying a home and most people don’t know that there are over 400+ Down Payment Assistance Programs in California that they can easily apply for and essentially get free money. Start researching and see if you qualify.
4. Be realistic
You may not get everything on your wish list so it’s important to prioritize your list of can’t-live-withouts. Most people are drawn to homes that are completely move-in ready but sometimes there are gems to be found with homes that need a little fixing that you can really make uniquely yours. Don’t max out your budget and spend every dollar of your savings on your dream home. With homeownership comes closing costs, added bills, and maintenance expenses that you want to make sure you have money leftover in savings.
5. Have an open mind
Searching for the perfect home in your perfect neighborhood in your ideal price point can get tricky, so it’s good to have an open mind throughout the search process. Work with a real estate agent that’s local to the area and well connected who might introduce you to a nearby area you may not have thought to look in. Try to look past things that can be easily changed or renovated over time like fixtures, paint color and even floorplan and consider those factors that you can’t change like location, school district and lot size when making your decision.
6. Think about the future
When making the step to buy a home, do think about your future plans and whether you see yourself living in that home for at least the next two years. After living in a home as your primary residence for a minimum of two years, you’ll be able to take advantage of the capital gains exemption which lets you deduct up to $250,000 of your capital gains from tax (up to $500,000 for married couples) when you are ready to sell. Most people don’t live in one house all their life so as you make renovations or updates to your home, it’s good to keep the future resale value of your home in the back of your mind when making design choices. A good practice is to keep track of how much you’ve spent on renovations and improvements over time which could all be deductible to your home’s original cost basis when it’s time to move on and sell.
(and p.s. editor's note: if you're stressing that you can't afford to decor your home-- yes, we just made that a verb-- please check out C&C fave Emily Henderson's post on how to do Cali-casual look on a budget. She breaks down the realness here.)
Audrey Leoncio is a Los Angeles real estate agent with Compass who’s lived all over LA’s east, west and downtown neighborhoods. Have #homegoals or questions about buying a home? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org