- Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases most people will make.
- There are many things millennials must consider when buying a home, like speaking with a mortgage broker rather than relying on real estate websites, finding an inspector, and sticking to a budget.
- After a year and a half of searching, my partner and I finally bought a house, though there are a number of things I wish we had known before starting the process.
I’ve always thought buying a house was a milestone I would reach by 30. I’d own that perfect, stately colonial on a beautiful tree-lined street in a nice suburban town.
I’m turning 30 this year, and the search for my perfect home has been complicated beyond measure, with the foremost obstacle being affordability. It turns out I’m not alone among people of my generation — according to CNBC, a growing number of millennials are struggling to save any money at all, nevermind enough for a down payment.
And it doesn’t help that, as of 2018, US home prices are the least affordable since 2008, according to Attom Data Solutions.
I live in New Jersey, and looking for a home in a town with a good school district that’s within a reasonable commuting distance to New York City is a tall order at any budget. According to the 2019 Best School Districts in New Jersey list from Niche, only a handful of towns within a 30-40 mile radius of NYC rank in the top 25 school districts. When you cross reference that list with the average sales price of homes in the area, affordability plummets.
After a year and a half of searching through half a dozen New Jersey towns, my husband and I are finally ready to close on our first home.
As a millennial, here’s what I learned about buying a house that I wish I knew when I started the process.
1. Review your finances and talk with a mortgage broker before you start hunting
With websites like Zillow just a click away, it’s easy to start shopping for a house immediately. But it can be helpful to get realistic by reviewing your finances and your credit score and talking with a mortgage broker first to see what you can actually afford with your income and lifestyle.
I became self-employed about a year before my husband and I started looking for a house, but our lender required that I have two years of self-employment before we could use my income for our mortgage. This meant we would be reliant on a single income to look for a home, which didn’t allow us to afford the towns we were looking to purchase in.
Our broker’s advice at this point was invaluable, and while we could have purchased something, we decided to wait until we had a better story to tell through our finances. The numbers are the numbers, and we appreciated the candid conversations and wouldn’t have known to wait had we not had a reputable mortgage broker to talk with.
2. Check your credit score
When you want to buy a home, your credit score is more important than ever. Sites like Credit Karma offer lets you see where you stand for free.
This way, you’ll know if there’s anything wild on your credit report, like a fraudulent credit card or outstanding utility bills from an old apartment, that you weren’t aware of. These are things you should address before moving forward in your search.
3. Go to as many open houses as possible
We saw nearly a hundred homes, both with and without our agent. Every weekend, we would drive out of the city and hop from one open house to another.
Zillow is a great resource for finding potential homes, but until you see a house in person, you may not know if it’s the right fit. For instance, a number of homes we viewed were seemingly perfect online but completely disappointing in person.
Lastly, you never know what you’ll fall in love with — our new home was one of those open houses that we ended up visiting but perhaps wouldn’t have gone to see with our agent because it was priced outside of our budget.
It was only after visiting and talking with the agent that we were compelled to make an offer we were comfortable with. We wouldn’t have wanted to waste our agent’s time, but were totally fine doing the legwork on our own.