Should I Buy a House? How to Tell If You’re Ready

Take an in-depth look at your goals and priorities, as well as your finances, before you begin house hunting.
Abby Badach Doyle
Kate Wood
By Kate Wood and  Abby Badach Doyle 
Updated
Edited by Johanna Arnone

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Nerdy takeaways
  • You may be ready if you have steady income, decent savings and you’re ready to stay in one place for a while.

  • Consider your willingness to handle (or pay for) home maintenance, landscaping and major repairs.

  • If your credit score needs work or you’re paying off major debt, it’s often smart to tackle those goals first.

  • Despite any pressure you might feel, you don’t need to buy a house to “be an adult.”

Buying a house is one of the most significant financial decisions you'll ever make. But beyond altering your financial picture, buying your first home also represents a substantial lifestyle change for most people. In terms of the effect on your day-to-day, homeownership is right up there with finishing school or having a child.

If you're wondering whether you're ready to buy a house, here's a cheat sheet showing what you might factor into the decision. In some cases, all you need to do is run the numbers; others may require some soul searching. Once you've gone through this list, you'll have a better idea of whether you're ready to buy a house.

You should feel good about buying a house if …

Let's start with five signs you might be ready to buy. Of course, this isn't a checklist or a quiz, so it's not like all five are must-haves. But if these sound like you, you may already have started down the path to homeownership.

You've got a steady income

Whether you're self-employed, work a 9-to-5 or have some combination of the two, you've got money regularly coming in. That's important for obvious reasons, like paying your bills, but also for getting a home loan. Your income is one way mortgage lenders gauge whether you'll repay the loan.

Lack of steady employment or an incomplete employment history make it harder to qualify for a mortgage. Most mortgage lenders will request documentation showing an employment history of at least two years.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you’re self-employed, retired or have inconsistent income, you can still get a mortgage. Look into non-qualified mortgages, known as non-QM loans. These have more flexible requirements, but down payment requirements and interest rates tend to be higher.

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You have solid plans for the immediate future

Buying a house is a commitment; if you decide the place isn't working out for you, selling a home is much more involved and expensive than, say, breaking an apartment lease. You want a place where you'll be comfortable now but also one that could meet your future needs. For example, if you know you want kids, it could make more sense to shop for a three-bedroom home now instead of struggling to sell your starter home and upgrade when you've got a toddler (or two) underfoot.

You've built up savings for a down payment

Saving up for a down payment is one of the biggest hurdles on the path to homeownership. But contrary to popular belief, you don't have to put down 20%. Depending on the type of home loan you're using, the typical down payment on a house is usually 3% to 10% of the purchase price. And home loans with no down payment are available, too.

You’ll also need money for closing costs. Those will run about 2% to 5% of the total price. Having savings socked away puts you much closer to homeownership.

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on New American Funding

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Min. credit score 
500

Min. down payment 
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on New American Funding

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