A couple looking on their computer for their first home

Signs You're Ready to Buy Your First Home

Updated December 5, 2016 . AmFam Team

Buying your first home is a big decision that requires some serious thought. Take a look at these five signs to find out if you’re ready to take on the home buying process.

Are you thinking about becoming a first-time home owner? The fact that it’s on your mind means it just might be the right time to start the home buying process. But it’s a big decision that requires some serious thought.

The good news is there are a number of telltale signals that can help you figure out if it’s the right time to buy a house — and other signs that indicate the moment may not be right. So before you make this life-changing leap, consider asking yourself these questions to see if you’re ready to buy your first home.

Is your credit in great shape?

It’s key to keep your credit in good shape — that should be a top priority. Not only will good credit help you get a loan, it can save you thousands and thousands of dollars over time. You may qualify for a more affordable interest rate with good credit, and lenders may be more willing to offer you incentives that can save you money at the closing table.

Managing your credit profile and actively monitoring your credit rating can really pay off. By picking up optional coverage to monitor your credit, your finances may be better protected if an attempt is made to steal your identity.

Do you have money in the bank?

A down payment is a big chunk of change and a significant step in the buying process. The great news for first-timers who don’t have a huge savings account — you can buy with as little as 3.5% down. That’s still serious money but much more achievable for many. Just be careful not to spend everything you have on the down payment.

If you’re short on savings, take time to build up an emergency fund before you start shopping for homes. Once you have about 6 months-worth of mortgage payments in savings, you should typically be able to manage the down payment and all the expenses you’ll encounter when purchasing a home. You’ll need cash for closing costs, insurance and taxes. And you’ll want some left over for that new set of furniture!

Are you ready for the responsibility?

And the last — but maybe the best — sign you’re ready to buy: you know you’re ready and willing to take on this big responsibility! You’re aware there will likely be leaks, creaks, drafts, rickety roofs and worn-out water heaters. But if you’re confident you’ve got what it takes to take on these challenges and more, then you just might be ready to buy!

If your answer is less than an emphatic YES!, that’s ok too. You may be wise to hold off on purchasing a home. In some markets, from a financial standpoint you may be better off renting versus buying — especially if you’re planning on staying only a few years. Because local and state taxes, costs of living and markets vary across the US, renting may still be right for you.

Steps to Buying Your First Home

If you’ve made the decision to buy your first home, it’s important to take the time to educate yourself on the home buying process. How do you save for a down payment? Where should you buy home insurance? And what’s the deal with being pre-qualified versus pre-approved for a mortgage? Don’t worry — we’ve highlighted each step of buying your first home so you can start your home buying journey with confidence.

Once you've taken the leap and purchased your first home, connect with an American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to learn all the ways your homeowner insurance can help make sure your new hard-earned dream never goes unprotected.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.

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    Your debt-to-income ratio is too high

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    You haven’t saved for a down payment or emergency fund

    Before you start picking out which houses you want to tour, you should take a look at your savings. If you don’t have enough for a 5 to 10 percent down payment or enough as an emergency fund for home expenses — like a broken dishwasher or damaged roof — take more time to put money away for your first home.