how to: buy a home

Ready for a new nest? Whether you’re looking for your very first place, or it’s time for an upgrade, we’ve got guides on renting or buying a home that will help ease you through the process. Start with the basics -- condo, co-op, or house? Our home buying help will give you the pros and cons of every option. After deciding what you want, you’ll need to settle on where to live. Our tips on how to find a home will help you pick the right neighborhood and even tell you how to give it a test drive! If you’ve already narrowed in on a neighborhood, you’ll want a real estate agent, and we’ve got the questions you must ask before you hire one. Once you’re on the house hunt, our Q&A can help you through every step of buying a home. From dealing with agent fees, how much to bid, managing mortgages -- even when it’s smarter to rent. You’ll find home buying help for every sticky situation. In addition to tips on buying a house, we’ve also got advice on selling your old one. Take a peek at our advice on organizing an open house, the dos and don’ts of selling it yourself, and our handy selling your home checklist. Our tips on buying a house will take you right through to the end, from dealing with inspections to making an offer. Once you’re ready to make your move, check out our moving checklist and the first things you should do in your new space. Welcome home!

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Q&A: Rent or Buy?

Q.

How do we know if it’s better for us to keep renting or to buy?

A.

The Nest Q&AYou need to ask yourself these questions, and be honest with yourself. Do you generally know where you’re going to be in five years, or is it all up in the air? Do you have any dirty secrets lurking in your credit history that you may want to clear up before buying? If you eventually want kids, will there be enough space? Are you willing to give up some financial freedoms (big-ticket items, vacations) in order to pay a mortgage? Buying a property is more than just calculations; it's a huge commitment that requires sorting out your priorities.

That said, the raw numbers do count. You need to take an honest look at your income and assets, plus your current spending habits. Then you can use a handy online mortgage calculator, like the ones at Bankrate.com, to see how much you could afford as a down payment and how much you can comfortably pay for a monthly mortgage. You have to consider that you’ll need to pay taxes, insurance, and a monthly maintenance fee if you’re buying an apartment.

The next step is to check home prices in your area. In high-rent cities, you might be surprised to find that buying a home actually works out to be cheaper each month than renting. Every couple faces the question of whether to rent or buy differently; you need to take a step back, think about your situation and what you can afford, and go from there.

-- The Nest Editors

See More: Buying a Home , Renting , Budgeting , Mortgages , Real Estate , Real Estate Q&A