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7 Life Audits You Need to Do Before You Buy

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Think you’re ready for homeownership? Consider these 7 areas of your life before you go on that open-house bender.

In the market for a new home? Stop rushing from open house to open house and pause for a moment. Take a deep breath.

Sometimes you have to take a global view of your life before you make a major decision like buying real estate. What’s keeping you from being ready? What makes you think you’re capable of taking the plunge?

These are the seven life audits you need to complete before you dive into the real estate market — from taking a hard look at your friends and their influences on your spending habits to owning up to your long-term life plans.

1. Your finances (duh)

OK, you probably knew this one already. But what does it really mean to assess your spending history?

For starters, pull your credit reports and make sure there aren’t any ancient or erroneous bills pulling down your score. Next, take a hard look at your receipts over the last year and pinpoint the more egregious expenses (e.g., restaurant spending) that might be holding you back from a 20% down payment.

And here’s the big one: own up to your credit card spending. If it’s regularly outpacing your earnings, prepare to rein it in — you shouldn’t apply for any new credit for at least a year before a home purchase, so that “buy now, pay later” approach ain’t going to fly if you want to join the real estate ranks.

2. Your (rich) friends

Peers are a huge influence on the ways you spend your money. So be honest with yourself: Are you hanging with a crowd that pressures you to live beyond your means? Do you take cabs you can’t afford because the group insists? Has brunch become a stressful weekly expenditure? Do you dress — and spend — to impress?

We’re not saying you should dump your prosperous posse. But if FOMO is holding you back from your dream home purchase, you might want to add Netflix to your immediate friendship circle.

3. Your social life

Speaking of Netflix: How do you spend your evenings? Do you like to entertain at home or hit the town? Do you cook for guests or order takeout?

Your social proclivities should play a role in your housing priorities. If you like gathering the group on your home turf, place a bigger priority on your common areas and the kitchen setup. (And the location, naturally.)

But if you spend more time away from your apartment than in it, you can forgo stainless steel appliances for a bigger bedroom closet.

4. Your career

Are you feeling settled in your career path, or do you dream of ditching it all and going to culinary school? Is your chosen field a stable one, or is job instability just part of the package?

You may be budgeting for the mortgage you can afford now, but what if your monthly paycheck changes drastically in a few years — or disappears altogether? You can’t plan for all career contingencies, of course, but especially if you check “single” on your W-2, you need to consider how steady that paycheck really is.

5. Your wanderlust

When you read about the woman who sold all her earthly possessions and visited the eight wonders of the world, how did you feel: admiring or insanely jealous?

A home is not a child, to be sure — homes don’t dictate your life choices for the next 18-plus years. But selling or renting out a home isn’t as easy as breaking a lease, and if you’re the kind of person who likes to drop off the grid to ride the rails once in a while, you might want to hold off on a 30-year mortgage commitment.

6. Your DIY abilities

Trust us: The costly payouts of homeownership don’t end at closing. One of the biggest real estate sticker shocks is how. damn. much it costs to maintain a living space. (No more super or landlord, remember?)

So how much of that work can you get for free — aka perform with your own two hands? Can you caulk a tub? Repair a broken faucet? Swap out a ceiling fixture? Rebuild a porch?

There’s no shame in being more of a visionary than a handy person, but you have to factor in the future costs of outsourcing your labor when considering your budget.

7. Your five-year plan

Is cohabitation with your significant other an eventual possibility? Do you plan to foster rescue dogs in the near future? Are kids on your radar? If possible, you should house-shop for the life you want as well as the life you currently lead.

Sure, upgrading your property is possible, but if the last recession taught us anything, it’s that relocation can be a bear when the real estate market is volatile (or dead).

Don’t assume you can move to a home with a yard or nursery when conditions shift — your next purchase should be one you can bend to your circumstances even when life throws you a curveball.