How to figure out if you can afford to buy a home
On top of a down payment, you'll have to consider things such as property tax, insurance, and perhaps the most overlooked expense: maintenance."The actual purchase price is not the most important cost," says Alison Bernstein, founder and president of Suburban Jungle Realty Group, an agency that assists suburb-bound movers. "What's important is how much it's going to cost to maintain that house."
While it's hard to generalize the right time to buy a home for everyone, a good rule of thumb is to have the equivalent of a few years' worth of living expenses set aside in case there is a job loss or other surprise, recommends certified financial planner and wealth manager at Carter Financial, Jonathan Meaney.
"Unlike a rental arrangement with a one or two year contract and known termination clauses, defaulting on a mortgage can do major damage to your credit report," he tells Business Insider. "In addition, a quick sale is not always possible or equitable for a seller."
Another good rule of thumb: Be conservative and consider a smaller home, especially if you're a first-time buyer. "It will help you get accustomed to the costs of being a homeowner and generally will also be less expensive to own," explains Meaney.
With that in mind, read on to learn about the costs that could pop up, from start to finish. It's important to note that many of these costs are highly variable - depending on location and your lifestyle - but it's a good checklist to go through before you make the big purchase: