When Juli Ana Grant saw the run-down Victorian house in rural Hughesville, Md., it was love at first sight.
The property, with its three acres, reminded her of growing up on a farm—and she immediately began fantasizing about the animals she could raise there.
“I was very tempted because the house looked like a castle and the barn was perfect, so I nicknamed it ‘Castle Farm’ and dreamed of owning horses for a few weeks,” says Grant, 39, a government employee.
The best part? At $310,000, the property was well within her budget of $400,000.
But there was a rub: Moving there would have meant a three-hour commute—not to mention that she’d be far from most everything (and everyone) else. And that made her stop and ask: Am I ready to buy a house?
“The real reason I was looking at buying was because everyone says it’s a great investment,” Grant says. “But ultimately, wisdom and reality set in. The home was far away from my job, my family and the city. That would have gotten old fast.”
Like Grant, many house hunters feel pressured to buy because they don’t want to keep “throwing away” money renting, or they simply fall in love with the white-picket-fence listing they spot online. Neither of these, however, are good reasons to take the purchasing plunge.
“It’s so important not to romanticize home-buying,” says Bree Al-Rashid, a managing broker for Redfin who’s based in Seattle. “The truth is that homeownership is an endurance race. The more tough preparation you do up front, the better you’ll feel from beginning to end.”
Translation: It takes more than just plunking down a 20% down payment to call yourself ready. You have to be financially, emotionally and mentally prepared—or risk becoming one of the one in four homeowners who feel buyer’s remorse.
To help you figure out if you—and your finances—are truly prepped for the world of homeownership, we spoke with real estate pros and one of our own CFP®s to fashion seven questions you should ask yourself first. The answers can mean the difference between starting the house hunt—or staying put until the time is right.