Should I Buy a House Now or Wait?

Whether you purchase a home now or wait until next year, it’s important to consider various factors, including your financial readiness and the real estate market in your location.

Elizabeth Rivelli
Elizabeth Rivelli
  • 5+ years writing insurance and personal finance topics

  • Auto, home, health, and life insurance expertise

Elizabeth has extensive insurance industry experience, having written for Insureon, Rate Retriever, and Insurify. She’s also finance and insurance editor for Car and Driver.

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Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

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Updated November 28, 2023

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Owning a home is part of the American Dream. But if you’re thinking about buying a house, you might be wondering if now is a good time.

Various factors can influence your decision, such as mortgage rates, home prices, home availability, and home insurance costs. However, the biggest consideration should be your financial readiness.

Here’s how to know if you’re financially ready to purchase a house now based on your savings, credit score, debt, and lifestyle, as well as factors like housing market conditions in your area.

Are your finances ready for homeownership?

If you’re wondering if you should buy a house, the most important factor to consider is your financial situation. If you have excellent credit and enough money saved for a down payment, you can typically qualify for the most favorable loan terms. On the other hand, if you have bad credit or a significant amount of debt, affording a home will probably be more difficult.

Here are some of the criteria that’ll help you decide if you’re financially ready to purchase a home.

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You have savings

Purchasing and owning a home can be very expensive. It’s important to have enough money saved for the various costs you’ll face up front and after you buy the house.

Some banks and government programs offer programs that cover down payments and closing costs, but if you don’t qualify for them, you typically need a down payment of 3% to 20% of the purchase price, depending on the home loan.[1] You usually can’t finance the down payment and closing costs, so you’ll need that money available in cash.

Important Information

You should also have a healthy emergency fund that can cover your living expenses for at least three to six months. Keep in mind that you might need to tap into your savings for emergency repairs if something breaks and you need to repair or replace it.

Is My Homeowners Insurance Included in My Mortgage?

Is My Homeowners Insurance Included in My Mortgage?

You have good credit

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender reviews your credit score to determine if you’re a responsible borrower. Not only does your credit score determine your mortgage eligibility, but it also affects your interest rate.

A good credit score is any score higher than 670.[2] Borrowers with a good credit score typically have few to no negative marks on their credit history and a reasonably low debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Potential buyers with excellent credit (800 and above) are usually in the best position to purchase a home because they can qualify for the lowest interest rates.

If you have fair or poor credit (669 or below), buying a home is usually much harder and more expensive because you’ll pay higher rates. In that case, it’s probably worth improving your credit score before you buy a house.

You have little or no debt

Most Americans have some debt, such as student loans, auto loans, or credit card balances.[3] But when it comes to purchasing a house, some types of debt are better than others. For example, it’s usually OK to have an existing car loan when you purchase a house.[4] However, if you have high-interest credit card debt, you should try to pay it off before you start shopping for homes.

When you apply for a mortgage loan, one of the factors lenders look at is your DTI ratio. This is the amount of debt you have in relation to the amount of money you make. If you have a low DTI ratio, you can typically qualify for more favorable terms. Borrowers with a high DTI ratio usually have higher mortgage payments.

You have income and lifestyle stability

Before you buy a home, it’s a good idea to look at your monthly income and lifestyle. You’ll need to have a steady income from your job and live within your means. If you don’t have a stable income or if you’re living paycheck to paycheck with no money left over to save, now might not be the best time to purchase a house.

Another question to ask yourself when buying a home is whether you’re ready to put down roots in one place. If you don’t intend to stay in one location for very long, or if you might have to move to a different area for your family or career, you’re probably better off renting instead of buying a house.

Is the market favorable in your desired location?

Your personal financial situation should be a key factor in your decision to purchase a house. However, it’s also important to look at market conditions, especially if you’re committed to buying a house in a specific location.

Here are some of the factors to keep in mind.

Home prices

Home prices have increased in recent years across the U.S. However, experts have mixed predictions for home prices in 2024. While some groups believe that home values will continue to rise, others think that prices will finally start to come down next year.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) expects home prices to rise by 2.6% in 2024. On the other hand, Moody’s predicts a decline in home values by 3.5% in the fourth quarter of 2023 through 2024.[5]

Prospective buyers who are curious about 2024 house price predictions for their specific location should speak with a local real estate agent.

Mortgage rates

If you’ve been shopping for a home, you may know that mortgage rates are increasing. In January 2022, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.22%. In October 2023, the average rate had increased to 7.49%, according to finance website the Mortgage Reports.[6]

Heading into 2024, many real estate professionals believe that mortgage rates will come down. The NAR predicts that mortgage rates will drop closer to 6% at some point next year.[5] But for homebuyers who were initially priced out of the market, low interest rates in 2024 could increase competition in the real estate market, which has its own implications for potential buyers.

Home inventory

The inventory of homes on the market has been much lower than in years past, but 2024 could bring good news for buyers. In early 2022, Zillow predicted that the total inventory should rebound to pre-pandemic levels in 2024.[7] Zillow also reports that building costs will be more favorable, which should incentivize more home buyers to pursue new home construction.[8]

However, there’s one caveat to this otherwise positive news. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) explains that as home builders start construction on new homes, it could trigger supply-side issues. This could lead to problems like building material shortages, higher material pricing, and concerns with construction financing that would affect new developments.[9]

Home insurance prices

It’s not just house prices that are going up. The cost of homeowners insurance, which most mortgage lenders require, is also getting more expensive.

The average homeowners insurance premium is $2,724 per year, according to Insurify data. In several states, like Louisiana and Mississippi, the average premium is double the U.S. national average. Some of the factors driving up home insurance rates are inflation, climate change, supply chain issues, and increased home repair costs.

Keep in Mind

Before you purchase a house, it’s a good idea to get sample rate quotes for insuring houses in your budget and location. While home insurance rates will be different for every property, getting quotes can give you a better understanding of what you can expect to pay, so that you can factor buying home insurance into your budget.

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When it might make sense to wait

For most people, a home is one of the biggest purchases they’ll ever make. Even if you’re in a good place financially, buying a home is a serious investment. If you’re not financially prepared, it’s better to wait until your situation is more stable and you have extra cash in the bank.

Not only is buying a home expensive, but it requires money up front. In addition to the down payment, you’ll also have closing costs, realtor fees, moving costs, and other expenses that you have to pay out of pocket. Plus, you need to prepare for many long-term costs.

For example, you must pay your mortgage on time every month to avoid penalties or foreclosure. If something breaks unexpectedly — like a major appliance — you need money to replace it. You also pay property taxes, which can be expensive depending on where you live.

If you don’t have money for the expected and unexpected costs of homeownership, it’s better to wait until you can afford those costs without stress. There’s never a perfect time to buy a home, so it really comes down to your personal financial position and your goals.

Homebuying FAQs

A house is a big investment, so it’s important to evaluate your personal financial situation and determine if you’re ready. Here’s some additional information that can help you decide if you should purchase a house right now.

  • How much money should you save for a down payment?

    If you’re getting a conventional loan, you should have 20% saved for a down payment if you want to avoid private mortgage insurance.[10] For example, if you’re looking at a $350,000 house, a 20% down payment is $70,000. 

    If you’re buying a home for the first time, you may qualify for an FHA mortgage and put 3.5% down.[11] However, making a smaller down payment means you’ll have a much higher monthly mortgage payment. Additionally, lenders require you to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you put less than 20% down.

  • How much does home insurance cost?

    The average cost of homeowners insurance is $2,724 per year, based on Insurify’s rate data. That means the average monthly payments are $227. However, the cost of home insurance depends on many different factors, including your location, credit score, the age of the home, and your coverage limits.

  • Should you wait until 2024 to buy a house?

    There’s no “right time” or “best time” to purchase a house. If you’re financially ready and you want to buy a house for the right reasons, you don’t have to wait until 2024. However, experts predict that mortgage rates could drop slightly and home inventory could increase next year.

    If you’re not in a rush to purchase a home and want lower prices, it might be worth waiting to see if you can get a better deal in 2024.

  • Why are mortgage rates so high?

    Mortgage rates are high for several reasons, but the main reason is inflation. The Federal Reserve has consistently raised market rates, which caused mortgage interest rates to increase at the same time. Additionally, inflation has raised the price of lending money to borrowers, so mortgage lenders are increasing interest rates to offset some of their costs.[12]

  • Should you buy a house if you don’t need to?

    Everyone’s personal and financial situation is different. For some people, buying a home is a good idea and a smart investment. For others, paying rent is a much better option, even if they’re financially stable enough to buy a house. Before you decide to purchase a house, you should think realistically about your personal finances, as well as your lifestyle and future needs.

Sources

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Determine your down payment."
  2. Equifax. "What Are the Different Ranges of Credit Scores?."
  3. Experian. "Consumer Debt Grows to $16.84 Trillion in Q2 2023."
  4. Experian. "Good Debt vs. Bad Debt."
  5. National Association of Realtors. "NAR Economist: ‘Housing Recession Is Over’."
  6. The Mortgage Reports. "Mortgage Rates Chart: Historical and Current Rate Trends."
  7. Zillow. "First-time buyers, inventory expected to rebound in 2024."
  8. Zillow. "Expert panel expects home prices will grow at a steady pace starting in 2024."
  9. National Association of Home Builders. "A Housing Downturn in 2023 Followed by a Recovery in 2024."
  10. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What is private mortgage insurance?."
  11. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Let FHA Loans Help You."
  12. The Urban Institute. "Why Have Mortgage Rates Gone Up So Much?."
Elizabeth Rivelli
Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth Rivelli is a freelance writer covering insurance and personal finance. She has extensive knowledge of various insurance lines, including property and casualty, health, and life insurance. Her byline has been featured in dozens of publications, including Investopedia, Forbes, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, and Insurance.com

Courtney Mikulski
Edited byCourtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

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