Apr 11, 2024 - Real Estate

Tampa Bay listings are up. How to know if you're ready to buy a home

Data: Redfin; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tampa Bay's active home listings are higher than in past years — but spring buyers still face steep home prices.

Why it matters: While lack of affordability has pushed many buyers to the sidelines, they can regain purchasing power with the right financial plan.

What they're saying: Potential buyers fall into two camps, Domain Money chief financial planner Katy Song tells Axios: There are people who are over-prepared, or people who think they can afford more than they realistically can.

Here are her tactical tips for making sure you're ready to buy, and determining what you can really afford.

💳 Look at your credit. If you don't have credit or it's not in good shape, it's not time to buy, she says. Your credit score determines how willing lenders are to give you money.

  • If you're starting from scratch, Song recommends getting a secured credit card. To start building your score, put a recurring payment like Netflix on the card, and automatically pay it off every month.
  • If you have credit card debt, devise an aggressive plan to pay it off.
  • You don't need to pay off your student loan debt or car loans before applying for a mortgage.

💸 Calculate your maximum monthly payment. Generally, 28% to 32% of your net monthly cash flow is safe.

  • Pro tip: Your mortgage lender will likely approve you for a higher mortgage than what you could comfortably afford, Song says.

💪 Build your savings and downpayment. Put away at least three months of expenses for emergency savings.

  • For a downpayment, Song recommends putting down at least 10-20% to keep your monthly payments comfortable, and start building equity as quickly as possible.
  • Plus, more money down could get you that extra bedroom, for instance, even if it means having to save for longer.
  • Where real estate is relatively affordable compared to incomes, people in their late 20s and early 30s are hunting for their first home. But for those in high-cost areas, like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, it's not even on their radar, finance writer Katie Gatti, of Money with Katie, tells Axios.
  • For many people, the desire to own is emotional, whether it's the fear of having to move or wanting a permanent place to grow your family and build memories.

Reality check: It's OK not to buy. "It's not a reflection of you or your competence or progress as a person or legitimacy as an adult," Gatti says.

What's next: President Biden wants to give U.S. homeowners a $10,000 tax credit to sell their starter home, Axios' Emily Peck reports.

  • His plan also includes a tax credit for first-time buyers that amounts to $5,000 a year for two years.

💭 Selene's thought bubble: when I thought my house last year, I had my real estate agent send a letter with the offer telling the seller why I thought it was perfect for me. That can make the difference if you're up against investors gobbling up the housing market.


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