Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House?

When you’re thinking about taking the plunge into homeownership, timing the market may not be as important as taking stock of your personal finances and lifestyle.

So you’re at the point in your life where buying a home is not a question of if, but when. You’re scrimping. You’re saving. You’re dreaming of walking through the front door of your very own home.

But as the decision draws near, you start questioning everything. Is now a good time to buy a house? Or is this the worst time? Is it more financially responsible to buy a house right now or wait? And what if you mistime the market, buying too soon or too late, and miss out on lower home prices?

Ultimately, the experts say the answer is less about economies, markets and pandemics and more about you.

So, how do you think through this decision? You’ll want to take time to thoroughly review your personal financial situation and life goals. At the same time, you’ll need to gain some understanding of the market dynamics that impact home costs.

External factors can make buying a house right now intimidating, but your personal finances are an important factor.

This process will take some time, but it’s well worth the effort. With a firm grasp on your personal situation and some context on the housing market, you’ll be able to confidently go forth knowing you’re making a fiscally informed decision about whether to buy a house right now.

Honestly assess these aspects of your finances

Financial security is always important if you’re trying to determine when you’re ready to buy a home. To decide if now is a good time to buy a house, ask yourself the following questions about your finances:

How secure is your income?

Job or income stability is an important factor if you are buying a home in a rocky economy, such as the one triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, says real estate economist Gay Cororaton. Even in a robust economy, your income security should be top of mind when you’re thinking of buying a house right now.

If you have any inkling that your position may be eliminated or that you’ll be making a career change, you may want to delay buying a home. Even a recent break in employment that caused you to draw down some of your savings may raise a red flag with lenders, says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in the Boston area.

Do you have enough money saved?

After income stability, savings is the next-most-important financial factor you’ll want to consider to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, Ziegler says. The old rule of thumb was to save 20% of the price of the home for your down payment. While that is ideal, it’s not necessary—far from it, Ziegler says. In fact, it has become more common for first-time buyers to put down much less than 20%.

How much house can you afford?

The down payment is one side of the affordability coin. Your monthly mortgage payment is the other side. You need to know how much you can spend on both to determine if you can afford to buy a house right now, says Jeff Tucker, a senior economist at Zillow. Aim for a monthly mortgage payment that doesn’t stretch you too thin—experts typically put this at around 28% of your monthly gross income, according to Bankrate.

With those guidelines, you can determine what you can afford. For example, if you make $4,000 a month, you should typically spend no more than $1,120 on your monthly mortgage payment in total.

How much house that buys you depends on multiple factors: mortgage rates, property tax rates, homeowners insurance and—if you don’t have the savings to put down 20%—primary mortgage insurance, or PMI. To get a rough estimate, plug your income details into an online calculator. For a more specific figure, talk to a local lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage, Ziegler says.

If you're buying a house right now, aim for mortgage payments around 28% of your monthly gross income.

Once you know your price range, you can determine how much savings you need in the bank to buy a house right now. You’ll also need to have money saved for closing costs, which vary but typically run 2% to 5% of the loan amount, according to Bankrate.

Again, Ziegler recommends talking to a lender to really understand what your individual down payment and closing costs would be. Finally, be sure to add a line item in your budget for home maintenance that will inevitably pop up after you move in. Whether it’s a dishwasher on the fritz or a leaky roof, you don’t want to be caught off guard, so be sure to save money for emergency home repairs.

How is your credit?

Your credit profile is also important to lenders, and it will likely be a factor in what interest rate you’re offered. Given that, you should be checking your credit report and know your credit score before investing in a home. If you’re considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home, Tucker says.

What is your debt-to-income ratio?

Another factor lenders check is your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, Tucker says. This is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes to paying monthly debt payments, plus your new mortgage. Lenders typically require this ratio to be 45% or less but prefer it even lower—in the 33% to 36% range.

Have you considered the opportunity cost?

Another financial consideration when deciding if now is a good time to buy a house is the opportunity cost of delaying a home purchase, Ziegler says. If you’re renting in a market where the rent is higher than your would-be monthly mortgage payment, you may be spending a lot more money each month than if you were to purchase a home. And of course, with a mortgage, your monthly payment increases your equity.

After taking a clear-eyed look at your income, savings and these other financial factors, you will have a better sense of when you’re ready to buy a home and whether now’s the time for you to dip into the market.

Consider key market factors

Next, take a look at factors that are outside of your control, but still influence your purchase: prices, interest rates and national employment trends.

Where are housing prices?

As you’re looking at the market, one of the biggest considerations when you are ready to buy a home will be housing prices and availability. Research your local market by talking to real estate agents who work specifically in the area where you want to buy and asking them about market trends, Ziegler says.

Track current listings and recently sold prices to get a sense of how prices look today. Generally, the tighter the inventory—meaning the fewer houses available—the higher prices will be, Tucker says.

If you're trying to determine when you are ready to buy a home, track current listings to get a sense of how prices look today.

What’s going on with interest rates?

When you’re ready to buy a home could also depend on another major economic factor: interest rates. When interest rates are low, your housing budget is effectively supercharged, Tucker says, and you can afford a more expensive house because you’re spending less on interest. When they are high, the opposite is true.

This is what compels people to buy when interest rates are low—you get more for your money. If you get a 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, you lock in that rate for the entire life of the loan, which could save you money now and into the future, Tucker says.

How does employment look nationally?

Finally, if you want to get a general idea of where the housing market may be headed—if prices will drop or rise soon—check out the national employment trends, Cororaton says. Low unemployment means prices will generally trend upward because more people can afford houses, boosting competition and prices, she says.

But if unemployment is inching up, then people are losing jobs and will be more likely to remain in their current homes. As a result, there tends to be less competition for them, lowering prices.

You don’t need to be an expert in the market to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, but a baseline understanding of these big-picture forces can give you the confidence you need to embark on your home-buying journey.

So when are you ready to buy a home? Paying attention to big-picture economic forces can help you decide.

Think about your future plans

After reviewing your savings and income and assessing the market conditions, take a step back and think about your life plans over the next few years. Your lifestyle and goals will help determine whether now is a good time to buy a house.

“For buyers who are not certain whether they will still be living in the same place in three or five years, I would caution against locking themselves into a certain location,” Ziegler says. “If they’re just not sure what the future holds, it may be better to have that flexibility.”

It’s unlikely in many markets that you will see substantial financial gain from homeownership if you move within five years, Ziegler says. Your equity gains will likely be offset by the transaction costs of buying and selling your home.

That goes for remote workers, too. Are you working from a home office these days? While widespread remote work may allow buyers to consider homes farther from their offices, ask yourself: Is my company going to permanently allow employees to work from home? Do I think there will be other remote opportunities in the future?

Is now a good time to buy a house? That depends on your lifestyle and long-term goals.

While you’re thinking about the next three to five years of your career, also consider the next three to five years of your personal life. Will you have a family? Will that family grow?

These can be weighty topics, so be sure to think them through on your own schedule. Buying a house is a big decision, and it’s not one to be rushed. By taking the time to assess your life, from your job security to your financial health to your lifestyle, and considering the impact of market factors, you’ll have a clearer sense of when you are ready to buy a home.

If you’ve decided that buying a house right now is the best decision for you, it’s time to learn more about how it will impact your budget. Get started by reading up on these eight unexpected expenses when buying a home.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

Source: discover.com

How to Throw a Bridal Shower on a Budget: A Guide for the Frugal Host

Between impressive floral arches and customized sugar cookies, throwing a picture-perfect bridal shower aimed at being a social media showstopper can be pricey.

CostHelper.com, a website that compares the cost of services, reports that a typical bridal shower can run from $15 to $40 per person for a luncheon or party in a private room at a mid-range restaurant. If you’re going all out with an elaborate bridal shower, you could be talking $40 to $150 or more (gasp!) per person. Even a small, elaborate bridal shower (think 15 guests) could cost between $600 and $2,250—and that’s before invitations, decorations and cake.

The good news is you can actually honor the bride and your budget at the same time. A bridal shower with simple refreshments at the host’s home, for example, can cost $10 to $15 or less per person, according to CostHelper.com. You just need to employ some creative tips for budget bridal showers to make the event more affordable.

What is the best way to plan a bridal shower on a budget? Follow these six tips as you prepare to shower the bride, and there’s a good chance you’ll have more fun and less financial stress:

1. Zero in on important goals

Before you even begin to plan a bridal shower on a budget, you need to know the goals upfront so you can understand where you should be investing your time and money. Sit down with the bride (or, if it’s a surprise, consult a friend or family member of the betrothed) and establish expectations and a budget to match.

Personal finance coach Emma Leigh Geiser shares her starting tip for budget bridal showers: “Plan an event that honors who the bride truly is and what you can provide, without sacrificing your financial well-being.”

Geiser, who helps women in their 20s and 30s with personal financial challenges, recommends learning what the bride envisions for her celebration and which traditions are most important to her. Be upfront about how much you can realistically afford to spend on the bridal shower, Geiser says. And don’t be shy about saying the bridal shower is your gift to the bride.

If the bride’s priority is to have her bridal shower at a high-priced restaurant, find creative ways to lower other costs to still plan a bridal shower on a budget. Bring your own cake to the venue, for example, exclude alcohol from the menu or keep the guest list small. If the bride is a foodie and wants guests to dine on gourmet dishes, you could spend most of the budget on a favorite caterer, but then consider hosting the event at someone’s home and doing minimal decor so budget isn’t needed elsewhere.

Finding out what's truly important to the bride can help you plan a bridal shower on a budget.

2. Delegate tasks

If you’re wondering how to throw a bridal shower on a budget, know that you don’t have to foot the entire cost of the party yourself. Consider co-hosting with the rest of the bridal party or one of the bride’s family members, or delegating specific tasks to willing volunteers.

When personal finance blogger Becky Beach had her bridal shower, catering was delegated to her sister-in-law. “She knows how to throw a bridal shower on a budget,” Beach says. Deputized to handle the food, her sister-in-law served inexpensive bites purchased from a wholesale club, including sausage-roll appetizers, crab cakes, apple crisp tartlets and cream puffs. (With this lineup, who needs a main meal?!)

Assigning smaller purchases to other bridesmaids and close family members is a good tip for budget bridal showers because it can make the overall cost of the event much more manageable for the host. For example, if you delegate tasks or items that cost $30 each to six people, you’ll save $180. Some popular responsibilities to dole out include:

  • Appetizers
  • Dessert
  • Drinks
  • Invitations
  • Favors
  • Games
  • Prizes for games

3. Let the theme choose you

You don’t have to necessarily come up with a theme first. Among the tips for budget bridal showers is to take inventory of what props or decorations are available to you for free. Do you know someone who threw a bridal shower and has leftover decor or favors? Perhaps a friend’s home decor items will fit the bill—like globes and vintage-inspired items, which can be transformed into an exotic travel theme.

If you're wondering how to throw a bridal shower on a budget, keep an eye out for decor items that can create a theme−not the other way around.

Even store clearance items can be repurposed to help dictate your theme’s direction. For example, a home decor or craft store might have steeply discounted artwork. The trick is to look past the art and focus on the frame, Beach says. Can you replace the artwork with a picture of the happy couple? Maybe you can remove the glass altogether, glue twine to the back and use it for hanging wedding wishes from the guests.

Learning how to throw a bridal shower on a budget becomes easier if you’re able to snag off-season items from a party or outdoor store—such as tiki lamps or beach house decorations—which could make for a wonderful fall island or Hawaiian theme.

When planning a bridal shower on a budget, don’t forget to ask friends and family members if you can borrow other party items, such as cake stands, vases and tablecloths. They might even have unopened gifts or stationery sets that you can use as prizes for games.

4. Do the invitations, games and decorations for less

Sending out mid-range traditional invitations by mail can cost $3 to $4 per guest, according to data from CostHelper.com. Invitation costs can add up quickly when you are trying to plan a bridal shower on a budget.

If you’re open to skipping snail mail, you can leverage online invitation services that allow you to create your own designs and send to however many guests you’d like for free, Geiser says. You can easily save around $100 on invitations for a guest list of 30 by going the route of a free online invite. Some services may provide you templates to choose from, or they may include advertisements, but they do the trick nicely.

If you’re wondering how to throw a bridal shower on a budget and still keep guests entertained, search online for bridal shower games that can be printed for free or a nominal cost. You could also go the DIY route if you’re so inclined. For example, have guests try to guess what is in the bride’s purse—it’s even more fun if the bride doesn’t know this game will be played.

As far as decorating goes, focus your efforts on one area that will make the biggest impression. If the bridal shower is hosted in someone’s home, go all out decorating only one room. If the bridal shower is at a venue, like a restaurant, work on fancying up only one wall. Whether at a home or a venue, this area can serve as the focal point of the event and give the bride and guests the perfect spot for photos.

5. Make low-cost venues work

When you’re planning a bridal shower on a budget, opt for a low-cost venue that has built-in unique characteristics. “Choose a space that is its own fantastic backdrop,” Geiser says. She recommends a house with natural light and great landscaping in order to cut down on decorating costs.

Hosting the party at a bride’s friend’s or family member’s home is ideal, since it would be free. “We all know at least one person who has a killer house; ask them if they wouldn’t mind hosting,” Geiser says. (Be sure to preview the site in advance of the bridal shower.) Another good choice: Apartment buildings and condos often have clubhouses or event rooms that can be used for free or rented for a nominal fee. See if any of your bride’s family or friends have access to these areas.

Other local resources can serve as low-cost venues when you’re working on how to throw a bridal shower on a budget. A park, for example, might have a nice garden or even an indoor space that could be used. Research your town’s online municipal pages for tips on how to secure local venues. Some sites might require a nominal fee, early bookings or have other restrictions, so work on booking a space as soon as you have a bridal shower date in mind.

6. Cut food costs by keeping things simple

Whether you are hosting the bridal shower at a restaurant or at someone’s home, schedule a morning brunch or appetizers and salads in the late afternoon when guests are in-between meals. Breakfast dishes, such as an egg casserole or French toast bake, can often cost less to make than a meat-centered entree, Beach adds.

Keeping food simple is a great tip when you're trying to plan a bridal shower on a budget.

If you are in charge of preparing food, stick with quick and easy options as a tip for budget bridal showers. “You don’t have to cook and create everything yourself,” Beach says. “There are so many beautifully crafted hors d’oeuvres you can get prepackaged.”

If you are hosting the bridal shower at a restaurant, ask if they offer a buffet option instead of sit-down catering: Choosing a buffet meal is typically about 30 to 50 percent cheaper than a sit-down meal, according to Eventective, which helps you find venues and event services.

If you’ve got your heart set on sit-down dining, narrow down the menu options in advance. You or the restaurant can make a simple printout of a few entree choices and not share full menus with guests. (Adding the bride’s name to the top of a personalized menu is also a nice touch.) In addition to being a tip for budget bridal showers, this strategy can also streamline the ordering and serving process so you have more time for games and opening gifts. Win-win!

Keep track of the expenses when planning a bridal shower on a budget

You can master how to throw a bridal shower on a budget if you determine the guest-of-honor’s goals from the start. Another tip to remember when you plan a bridal shower on a budget is to track your expenses throughout the planning and hosting process to make sure you’re staying on budget.

If you are splitting costs with friends and family, remember to get reimbursed—preferably before the event, so you don’t have to worry about tracking people down to talk about business while celebrating.

As Geiser says, “What actually makes the event are the attendees, the conversation and the fun you create as a group celebrating the bride.”

Source: discover.com