If you’re looking to make a change, say goodbye to your cranky landlord forever, and start saving for a house. Not only does homeownership alleviate the headaches of renting (like your noisy upstairs neighbors), but it’s also a way to set yourself up for financial success. If you feel like you’re going to be stuck in your rental forever, don’t worry—we’re here to teach you how to get started.
Read on for three essential steps to start saving for a house.
Step 1: Get Clear on What You’re Looking For
It’s no secret that saving for a ten-bedroom mansion will look a lot different than saving for a modest two-bedroom home. And while you might not be debating between those exact options (if you are, tell us your secrets), the more thought you put into exactly what you’re looking for in a home, the easier it will be to save.
Think about the details of your dream home to help you make a more accurate plan. Here’s what to consider:
- Amenities add long-term costs – Who doesn’t want a house with a pool? That being said, if being able to swim in your backyard is a priority to you, you need to start saving for recurring costs like maintenance and cleaning.
- Property taxes vary widely – Just one block apart, homeowners are paying vastly different fees. So how will I know how much property taxes are? They vary by state, county, and city, so do your research to get a better idea of how much to plan for.
- Fixer-upper vs. move-in ready – If you want a project, buying a fixer-upper is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. However, it’s also a massive (and expensive) undertaking. Alternatively, you might end up paying more for a house that already has all the bells and whistles, so think hard about what you really want.
Step 2: Set a (Rough) Timeline
It’s easy to say you’re going to start saving for a house. What’s difficult is actually getting started. Want to know our best piece of advice for turning the vague idea of buying a house into a concrete reality?
Give yourself deadlines to meet.
Your timeline doesn’t need to be exact, but it should provide you with a few general goalposts. That way, the next time you’re tempted to spend your extra income on those shoes you’ve been eyeing, you’ll have more motivation to put the shoebox down (or click the Close Tab button).
Here’s an example of what your timeline might look like:
- Five years out, begin improving your credit score.
- Four years out, focus on aggressively paying off debt.
- Three years out, start saving for a down payment.
- Two years out, increase your savings stockpile.
- One year out, save for added costs like closing fees.
Step 3: Calculate. Budget. Save.
Now that you have a detailed plan, it’s time to figure out exactly how much you need to save. You know what you want, but you still have to ask yourself, how much house can I afford?
Thankfully, there are numerous tools that can help you figure out the answer. We recommend using a combination of two tools—mortgage calculators and budgeting apps.
Mortgage calculators are the first step because they allow you to estimate how much money you’ll be able to borrow, and what your monthly mortgage payments will likely be. They’ll also help you figure out what you’ll need for a down payment, which is a priority when it comes to saving.
Once you know what your costs look like, use a budgeting app to start moving the numbers in your savings account in the right direction.
Don’t Forget to Congratulate Yourself!
Saving for a home is more than just a financial achievement—it’s a step in the right direction towards realizing your life-long dream. Making a solid plan is the hardest part, but with your motivation and discipline, you’ll be unlocking the front door to your dream house before you know it.