Habit No. 1: Automate your down payment savings
One practically painless way to get started is to automate your checking account to regularly set aside a small amount of your paycheck into a separate savings account dubbed your “house fund.” Amassing enough for a down payment takes discipline and perseverance, but setting up automatic savings can make it easier. And you don’t have to put down the full 20%, either—there are other options. But it’s best to save as much as you can.
Habit No. 2: Build your credit history and keep it clean
To get a mortgage, lenders will want to see evidence that you’ve paid off past debts. As such, keeping on top of your credit cards and car and college loans is a crucial mortgage must-do.
But don’t steer clear of credit altogether. If you’ve never had a credit card or a bank loan, you won’t have a credit history. Once you have credit established, keep it pristine. Pay all your bills on time—this cannot be overemphasized. Don't use more than 30% of your available credit, as recommended by the credit bureaus.
Habit No. 3: Practice living on a budget
Think owning a home is pricier than renting? Not necessarily—it depends on your area, so make sure to compare the costs of renting vs. buying near you. But if you expect your mortgage to take a bigger bite than your rent, create a budget that factors in your new reality so you can get used to living on less disposable income. Downsizing your budget early also means you’ll be able to save more for your down payment, pay down debt, or save for furniture for your new home.
Habit No. 4: Get your handy on
One of the big perks of renting is that any problems around the home—leaky faucets, broken boiler—are your landlord’s responsibility to repair. But once you own, you should probably know how to roll up your sleeves and fix it yourself if you don’t want to shell out for a handyman every time something goes wrong.
“Consumers thinking about buying a home should learn the basics of property maintenance and general ‘handy habits,’ since maintenance is an ongoing effort for homeowners.
Habit No. 5: Prepare to pounce
Spend time getting to know the real estate market before you're ready to buy. It’s a good habit to start browsing homes online to get a sense of what is available in your price range and the neighborhoods and amenities you’ll realistically be able to afford. This can help avoid disappointment when it comes time to really look.