Buying a home is one of the best ways to build wealth, and the younger you start, the longer you have for those investment benefits to accrue. Even in your 20s, buying a home makes good sense.
But it also requires financial discipline and preparation.
How can you best approach the task? Here are some tips from Realtor.com:
Save for a down payment
It’s often advantageous to save 20% of the cost of the home, to avoid private mortgage insurance that can increase your monthly payment by as much as 1.15%. Realtor.com suggests young buyers educate themselves on down payment assistance from one of more than 2,000 assistance programs nationwide. These programs can help first-time homebuyers with low-interest loans, grants, and tax credits — and save an average of $17,766, according to one study. A trusted agent or favorite loan officer may be aware of helpful programs. Parents and relatives may also be able to assist with gift funds for a first-time buyer.
Minimize student debt
Mortgage lenders consider your current debt load before approving a loan. If your monthly student loan obligations are already high, consider refinancing and extending the life of the loan. This way, your monthly payments will be lower and “you’ll have more you put toward a mortgage,” notes Realtor.com.
Watch your credit score
Lenders typically require borrowers to have a credit score of at least 660. They also look at how often you use your credit by calculating your “utilization ratio” (this is “your current debts, divided by the credit limit on the sum of your accounts,” explains Realtor.com). Aim to keep that number relatively low. You should also order a credit report and check for any mistakes, which happen more often than you’d think. Finally, if you can’t raise your score, consider asking someone with good credit to co-sign on your loan.
Look for a starter home
You don’t need the biggest and the best. Aim for a modest home. “I tell young buyers all the time, ‘This is your first home – it’s not your last,’” one broker told Realtor.com.
Plan ahead for unexpected home expenses
Houses often need repair. Roofs leak, appliances break, plumbing fails. You’ll need an emergency fund to draw from should such events—and others—transpire.