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Buying a home is a BIG life event. It isn’t a decision that you can turn around and do over very easily. Once the keys are in your hand and the mortgage payment is being taken out of your bank account it is a done deal that can only be undone with a lot of effort and time.
Avoid making a BIG financial mistake of buying a home your truly cannot afford by asking yourself these same questions other thrifty families asked themselves before they started house hunting.
6 Thrifty Questions You Should Ask Before Buying A Home
1. What can we Really Afford Spend?
For the last 3 homes we have purchased, what we could afford to spend depended on what cash we had in the bank since we spent my inheritances on a $10,000 home for us and two rentals–making us debt free and creating income.
However, I know that for most people a mortgage is a necessary evil at least for a period of time. If you are getting a mortgage, please do not fall for the trap of believing that you can afford the maximum size of mortgage the bank pre-approves you for.
Instead hold a budget meeting at home and work out on paper just what you can afford to pay. Remember to add in commuting costs, heating and cooling costs, and at least $100 a month for general maintenance.
2. How Much Space do we Really Need?
Although not always, in general larger homes come with larger price tags. Regardless of purchase price, large homes are always more money to heat and cool so you need to factor that into your housing budget too.
When deciding just how much space you need, ask yourselves the following questions:
Does every child really need their own bedroom? Do you really need walk-in closets, or will they just cause you to accumulate more things than you really need? Is one family room okay, or do you need a second so that when your teenagers have friends over you don’t feel like you have to retreat to your room? Keep asking questions–how many bathrooms? Dedicated office? Garage? How much outdoor space? Eat in the kitchen? Formal dinning room?
3. How Much Time and Money do we Want to Devote to Commuting?
One of the major reasons why my family chooses to live in a less than perfect neighborhood is because it is so close to where my husband works, where I work out, and where the majority of the kids’ activities are. We spend very little of our lives commuting or shuttling from here to there.
Not only is this a time saver, this also saves money. Obviously the further you live from work, shopping and activities the more you spend on gas, but you also have to add in the cost of wear and tear that added mileage can do to a vehicle. The further you drive each day the sooner your vehicle is going to need to be repaired or replaced.
4. What Features do we Really Need in a Neighborhood?
Honestly–besides being close to work, shopping and daily activities, our neighborhood has little else to offer. We don’t mind, since we homeschool and the school districts don’t matter as much to us.
You, however, might need good schools for your children. In that case you are going to want to buy in area with them.
5. How Much Work do we Want to Take on?
Our $10,000 home took 2 years and $30,000 to repair. It was a complete gut job.
You and your spouse might not have that type of time or skill and that is okay! What are you willing to do? Repaint? Put in new flooring? Landscape?
If you are not able to do the work yourself, what will it cost to have the work done for you? How long will it take you to save the money to afford to hire the work out? Can the home be lived in as is until you can afford it?
6. What are our Life Priorities?
You might not think that this question pertains to house hunting, but trust me–it does. In fact, for my family it played more of a role in our house buying decisions than any other.
You and your family–just like any other family–have a limited amount of income; how do you want to spend it? The answer to that question is a true indicator of your life priorities.
Perhaps on paper you can afford the house of your dreams, but if you decided to go for it what will be the cost to your other dreams? Will you have to give up that dream of traveling? Would it mean both of you would have to keep working when you were really hoping to have an at-home parent? Would the commute mean you would spend less time together as a family instead of your goal of spending more time together?
For our thrifty family, asking these questions lead us to realize we would rather pay cash for a home that was near my husband’s work so that we could use the money and time we save to do more together as a family.
Asking these questions before you start any house hunting endeavors will ensure that you family picks out a house that is a great fit for your family both physically and financially.
What questions would you add to my list?
For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.
4 Tools To Bring House Hunting
After you have your list of wants and needs in a home for your family, make sure you also grab these 4 essential tools before you head out house hunting.
If you decide to view homes that have been repossessed by the bank–and you can get great thrifty deals this way–you will want to bring along a flashlight because often they don’t have electricity or they have limited light bulbs.
Even in homes where lighting is not only functional but there is lots of it, you might run into dark areas where a flashlight will be handy–such as attic or crawl spaces.
A small and inexpensive flashlight such as this one can really be a help!
2. Tape Measure
Will grandma’s hutch that you just can’t part with fit in the dining room of the house you are considering? Bring along a tape measure each time you go house hunting and you will know for sure.
If you are viewing multiple homes, pictures will help you make your final decision. You probably have a camera on your phone so make sure it is either well charged before you leave on your house hunt or bring along a portable charger.
4. Spiral Notebook
What did you love about house number 1? Since it was 10 houses ago it might be hard to remember just why it still clings to your heart. Take along a simple spiral notebook and when you get to your car after each house showing, take a minute or two to write down all the pros the house had as well as the cons. That way when it comes to decision time, you have something to help spark your memory.