Buying a Home and Managing Money in Your 30s

Your thirties are a time of many important financial decisions. Many people are starting families, buying homes, and getting settled into their careers by the time they turn thirty. The following ten years are often marked by salary increases, moving into larger homes, and saving for retirement.

It’s vital to have a solid grasp on personal finance in your thirties, as it is in many ways the foundation of your finances for the decades to come. So, in this article we’re going to give you some advice on buying a home and managing your money in your thirties.

Straighten out your credit

If your twenties were a volatile time of incurring debts from student loans, car loans, and other expenses, then it’s paramount to get your credit in order in your early thirties. Having a high credit score can secure you lower interest rates on a home loan or let you refinance your loans at lower rates.

Start by making sure your bills are on auto-pay, and be sure to settle any older debts from your younger years. You can also use a credit card for recurring expenses, such as gas to get to work or groceries, and then pay them off in full each month. This way, you’ll build credit and avoid accruing  interest at the same time.

Reevaluate your lifestyle and long term goals

A lot can change from the time you turn 25 to the time you turn 35. Your goals might shift from finding a home near the ocean to finding a home near a good school district for your children. You might also have the shocking realization that your children will be heading to college sooner than it might seem, and that you’re still working on paying off your own student debt.

Consider things like the size house you’ll need for your family, where you want to live and whether that involves being close to aging parents, and reallocating money depending on your retirement goals.

Rethink your insurance coverage

Gone are the days when all you needed was a car insurance policy to get by. As you age and your responsibilities grow, you’ll need to think about the future for you and your family. That may include a more comprehensive health insurance plan for your family, a life insurance policy for yourself, or increased covered for home and auto insurance.

Automate the headaches away

With all of these growing responsibilities, it can be easy to get frustrated with the time you’re losing to keeping your finance in order. Fortunately, there are many tools at your disposal in the internet age that will make all of those responsibilities an afterthought.

First, get a budget planning app, like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB). Next, set up your bills to auto-pay if you haven’t yet. Then, put reminders in your phone to periodically check your credit score and reassess whether you need to pay for certain monthly services (do you still watch Hulu?). Finally, if you haven’t yet, make sure you have your paychecks direct deposited into the accounts you’d like them to enter so you don’t have to worry about them.

How Much Should I Spend on a Home?

Home prices may vary greatly throughout the country. But, buying a home is most likely the largest purchase you will make in your life.

Deciding just how much to spend on your home isn’t just a matter of numbers–it also depends on your lifestyle and long-term goals.

In today’s post, I’m going to give you a few ways you can help determine how much is a safe amount to spend on your home so that you’ll feel confident moving into the home buying process that you’re making the best decision for you and your family.

Mortgage as a percent of your income

Like most large purchases, buying a home typically isn’t dependent on the amount you have in the bank. Rather, it depends on several factors including your income, credit score, and the type of lifestyle you want to maintain.

One of the simplest ways to determine how much house you can afford is to figure out what percent of your monthly income your mortgage and insurance will be.

For most homeowners, a mortgage payment that is 25% of their income or less is ideal. So, if you earn $6,000 per month, you don’t want your monthly mortgage payment to exceed $1,500.

This “25% rule” does have one flaw, however, and that does not–and cannot–account for each individual’s financial circumstances.

Let’s say, for example, that you earn $6,000 per month, but that you have a large monthly car payment and are trying to aggressively pay off your student loans. You might find that paying another $1,500 toward a mortgage on top of your current bills is bringing you over budget, especially when combined with your other monthly expenses and retirement contributions.

Plan for homeowner expenses

Another caveat to determining how much to spend on a home is that the home itself will require a budget for maintenance. When renting an apartment, repairs are mostly the responsibility of the landlord or property manager.

Homeownership, on the other hand, requires you to make the repairs yourself or hire a professional. And, if you neglect these repairs, you might find that they cost you even more in the long run or drive down the value of your home.

Create a comprehensive budget

Throughout a given person’s life, they’ll experience raises, promotions, layoffs, medical expenses, childcare costs, and any other number of financial changes. While it isn’t possible to foresee all of the financial fluctuations you’ll experience in life, it is always helpful to have a comprehensive budget.

What do I mean by “comprehensive budget”? The goal of a good budget is to know where each dollar of your income is currently going and to have a plan for each cent that you make. This is a proactive approach to budgeting that will give you an exact number for the amount you can afford when it comes to a mortgage payment.

Within your budget, it’s vital to account for things like an emergency fund, retirement, savings for vacations, and so on.

If you take this due diligence, not only will you have a better sense of where your money goes, but you’ll also be confident in knowing exactly how much you can spend on a home.

Is Your Homebuying Proposal Good Enough?

If you plan to submit an offer to purchase a home, there is no need to leave anything to chance. And in most instances, it is a good idea to put your best foot forward with your offer to purchase. That way, you can boost the likelihood of receiving an instant “Yes” from a seller and moving one step closer to acquiring your ideal residence.

Now, let’s take a look at three tips to help you put together a competitive homebuying proposal.

1. Study the Housing Market

The current state of the housing market may impact the definition of a competitive offer to purchase. For instance, if the housing market favors buyers, you may face limited competition to acquire your ideal residence and can craft your offer to purchase accordingly. On the other hand, if the housing market favors sellers, you may need to submit an offer to purchase at or above a seller’s initial asking price to secure your dream home.

Take a close look at the housing market and analyze market data. Then, you can differentiate a buyer’s market from a seller’s market and determine how much to offer for a house.

2. Weigh a House’s Pros and Cons

A home has its strengths and weaknesses, and as a property buyer, you should dedicate time and resources to learn about all aspects of a residence. By doing so, you can determine whether a residence is right for you and submit an offer to purchase based on a house’s age and condition.

Consider any home repairs that may need to be completed as well. If you understand the costs of potential home improvements, you can craft an offer to purchase that accounts for these tasks.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

Submitting a competitive offer to purchase sometimes can be difficult for experienced and first-time homebuyers alike. Fortunately, if you work with a real estate agent, you can get the help you need to create an aggressive offer to purchase.

A real estate agent understands the ins and outs of buying a house and can offer expert insights into the property buying journey. He or she will teach you about the real estate market and respond to your homebuying concerns or questions. In addition, a real estate agent will help you find your dream home, set up house showings and keep you informed about residences that become available and fit your homebuying criteria.

Furthermore, a real estate agent can provide in-depth housing market data and insights. He or she ultimately can help you take the guesswork out of crafting a competitive homebuying proposal. And as a result, a real estate agent will do everything possible to ensure your offer to purchase matches a seller’s expectations.

Ready to submit an offer to purchase your dream residence? Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you can bolster your chances of acquiring your ideal residence in the foreseeable future.

Buying a Fixer-Upper?

You’ve been binging on HGTV and DIY network every weekend while you save up your money and you’re ready to take the plunge. Your agent tours you through several potentials and there it is … the perfect corner lot, the mediocre house with the awkward layout, chopped up floor plan, aging kitchen, and dated bathrooms. It’s just waiting to reveal shiplap behind the cracked plaster, original hardwood floors under the stained and dusty carpet, and other treasures you can only dream about until their uncovered.

You make the deal … now it’s all yours. Where do you go from here?

Find the right professional
Ideally, a contractor with renovation experience toured the property with you, casting a professional eye over potential problems and exciting possibilities before you made the deal. If not, engage one now. Renovations require specific knowledge of structural issues like which walls to safely remove giving you that open-concept floor plan and which might be load-bearing. Experienced pros know when to call in an engineer to determine whether to expose the beams or if the wiring needs pulling. 

Make a plan
As with any project, make a basic plan before you start. Unlike new-builds, however, your plan might be more general until you’ve removed walls and studs, discarded old cabinets and fixtures, and revealed the location of existing drainpipes, wiring, support structures, and other hidden gems. With everything visible determined, it’s time for demolition. Just know that with a renovation, once demolition starts, plans can change. A supporting beam here, an unmovable drain there, a hidden chimney under that plaster … could derail your perfect original plans. When that happens, a pro can help you figure out what do.

Don’t underestimate time
Watching a 57-minute renovation on television might give you an unrealistic expectation of how long it might be until your home is ready. After all, you don’t have a trove of assistants ordering cabinets, changing out flooring samples and visiting showrooms to cull through items for you. Choice fatigue (the inability to choose between too many choices) can stymy a project for a novice.

Normal delays, hidden issues
You’ve planned, then modified the plans after the demo, selected, deselected, then re-selected the cabinets, flooring, and fixtures. Now it’s time to get approvals and permits. Moving a project through the approval process in your municipality could be smooth sailing or rife with delays. Your professional contractor should help you navigate this process, but waiting for a permit can add days, or weeks to a project.

In addition to the normal delays, your demolition may uncover other issues that require remediation. These include lead, mold, asbestos, termite damage, shifting foundations, broken pipes, and myriad other possibilities. Bringing wiring up to code and changing out electrical panels consumes precious time and adds to the delays.

Before taking on a fixer-upper, seek the advice of a real estate professional with renovation experience to help you make a plan, and plan for contingencies.