In previous generations, many people bought ‘starter’ homes while in their 20s or 30s. The world moved at a much slower pace then. People tended to stay put in the cities where they grew up. They wanted ‘roots’ and the status that homeownership afforded.
But times have definitely changed. In the next generation of real estate, we’re a much more mobile society. Millennials, Generations X and Y don’t necessarily want to be tied down by roots. They want the freedom to travel, or to take that new job, whether it’s in Chicago, Los Angeles, or Dubai. Homeownership doesn’t have the same status to them that it had to earlier generations. And, they’ve heard the horror stories of home ownership from those who bought during the market high only to see their home values plummet during the recession.
But there are still many who want to be homeowners. And, the approach is different now, then it may have been a generation ago. If you’re in your 20s or 30s today and considering buying a home vs. renting, here are some things to consider.
Don’t assume you can’t afford to buy
So many young people come out of college with student debt and very little savings. Even after a few years out of college, they assume they either don’t have the 20 percent down payment or don’t have the income to afford a purchase.
That doesn’t mean that if you’re in your 20s, you can’t afford to buy a home. Around the country, mortgage brokers, bankers and direct lenders are lending more than ever. Loan options such as those from the FHA (Federal Housing Authority) enable qualifying first-time buyers to purchase with as little as 5 percent down.
Is it wise to put down less than 20 percent? Not always. But if you’re credit-worthy and responsible with money, you can take advantage of the record low interest rates and loan options that exist today.
Keep in mind that in some markets, renting is as expensive as buying. If you do your homework, you may understand that a home purchase is within your reach.
Don’t go it alone
With today’s easy access to online listings, most people old and young believe you don’t need a real estate agent. People assume that the role of the agent, pre-Internet, was primarily providing access to the “keys.” In reality, agents have always played such a bigger role, one that many people don’t realize until they’ve gone through a transaction. A good local agent has years of intellectual capital inside his or her head.
Agents know the market like no one else because they’ve been inside hundreds of homes, have relationships with many of the agents and have done many deals. They know exactly what to do when a red flag arises. Additionally, the home purchase is both personal and emotional. Through the years, buyers have acknowledged how they’ve let their emotions get the best of them to kill an opportunity. But having a solid resource beside them at all times — the agent — has helped keep them in check.
Ask your parents for advice
Your parents likely bought real estate in a different market, when interest rates were north of 12 percent and they were without access to the Web and online listings. But they have that home buying experience. They have been through the market before and can add value to your home search. They may be out of touch with social media and the technology available to help in the home buying process, but they likely have a solid financial opinion or helpful feedback. Plus, your parents simply have more grey hair and life experiences that have informed them about home buying and finances.
Take your time
Buying a home is not like buying a new smart phone, computer or flat-screen TV. It’s not only a lot more expensive, it’s much more personal and emotional and not something to take lightly.
Even though the flow of information is quick today with texting, email and the Internet, a home purchase takes lots and lots of time, research and due diligence. It should never be rushed, ever. The home purchase evolves over time. Don’t feel compelled to rush into it or leap to a decision on a home. Don’t feel pressured by a “hot” market or competitive bidders. Slowly learn the market, do your research online and go to some open houses. Over time, you’ll get more comfortable with the market, and with luck, you’ll get pre-approved for a loan and hooked up with a good, local real estate agent. You may make an offer or two or three or four before you find the best home at the best price. Let the process work itself out over time. You’ll avoid buyer’s remorse.
Don’t be overwhelmed by data
When your parents bought a home, there was probably little to no data available to them. They worked with a real estate agent who showed them homes, but they didn’t have access to so much historic data or access to the technology and information we have today.
Even so, access to all this information isn’t always a positive force. Sometimes, it can stall a buyer or make them question whether or not they want to be a buyer. If you have a down payment saved up, can afford the monthly payment and plan to commit to the home for at least 5-7 years, then go for it.
Chances are, if any of the above doesn’t add up, you may not quite ready to buy — which means you might be better off renting for the time being.