Renting is…. fine. But there are some drawbacks. First, when you’re signing checks over to a landlord every month, it can feel like you’re throwing money away. Second, if you own your own house, you can paint the walls, switch up the floors and have as many pets as you want without fearing for your security deposit fate.

According to the National Association of Realtors, you’re not alone if you’re lukewarm about renting – they predict 2015 is going to be “the year of the first-time home buyer.

Don’t run out and call up a realtor just yet! Jumping the gun on buying a home is a recipe for regret and disaster.

Ask yourself the following six questions to determine if you’re really ready to pull the trigger, or if 2016 may be a better bet:

1. How Healthy Are Your Savings?

In order to qualify for a conventional mortgage, you’re expected to put down at least 5% of your down payment up front, plus a few thousand in closing costs (roughly 2-3% of the purchase price) and escrow fees which have to be paid in cold hard cash, and have money in the bank, so you’re not house poor once the deal is done.

If you don’t have the money for a down payment squared away, we recommend focusing on building up that savings account in 2015.

2. How Much Money Can You Afford to Part With Each Month?

If you’re comfortable financially, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can go out and buy a house at any price. Before going Zillow-crazy, get a realistic understanding of what you can spend overall and what that will look like monthly. For a quick breakdown of how much you can expect to spend, you can use this straightforward CNN Mortgage Calculator.

Okay, so now you have your mortgage number. That’s just the start. Unlike the Rent-Life, the Owner-Life includes paying for anything that goes wrong and all ongoing maintenance. To determine how much you should save annually in a house fund, calculate 1–3 percent of what you think your house’s initial price will be. This is the average cost of maintenance every year. So, owners of a $200,000 house should plan to budget $2,000 to $6,000 a year on ongoing upkeep and repairs.

Add the above numbers together. Can you realistically make those payments? Or are you getting over your head? If you’re already freaking out, just head back into the Renter Waters for a spell.

3. Are You Planning on Sticking Around?

If you’ve lived in one city your entire life, your family is there, you love your job and you have no plans of leaving, buying may be a great idea. But if you’re unsure about your city for the long-term, you shouldn’t buy just because a calculator says you’ll pay less than renting.

Experts recommend staying in a home for a minimum of five to seven years to actually get any value out of your real estate because the transaction costs of buying a home are so high. If you skip town in a year or two, there’s a chance you won’t break even on your mortgage and will owe more than your house is worth. Not cool.

4. Are You Preapproved?

Do you have enough cash to pay for a house? Most people don’t. Realtors know this, and most of them may set up a search for you, but they won’t spend a lot of time on wanna-be buyers who aren’t preapproved. If you don’t get preapproved for a mortgage, you’d be wasting both the realtor’s and your own time. Before you get too far into the process, set up a meeting with a mortgage professional to make sure you’re good to go.

5. What is Your Credit Score?

Some numbers, like your weight, your GPA and your credit score just feel private. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting a home loan, you’re going to have to spill the digits. Here’s why it matters: Before you can be approved for a loan, lenders take a look at your credit score to determine if you’re a safe or risky investment.

The maximum credit score you can have is 850, but only 10% of people applying for a mortgage have a score over 800. Basically, any score over 700 is seen as safe. Anything below is considered dicey, and mortgage lenders begin to say “No” when they see a score below 640. If you get into the 500 area, you’re basically only eligible for subprime loans, which come with a lot of hidden fees.

There is good news: Credit scores can be fixed! The first step is finding out what your number is right now. (Check out LearnVest for the skinny on how to get that rolling. It's free!) If it’s lower than you expected, you should consider having a conversation with a financial counselor to get back on track.

In the meantime, pay your bills on time and make sure your credit-debt ratio is less than 30% (meaning that you aren’t carrying a balance on a credit card larger than 30% of the total credit limit). And if you’re holding onto any small balances on multiple credit cards, pay them off. It’s better to hold a balance on one card, even if it’s a larger balance, than hold onto multiple small balances.

6. Is Your City a Good Spot to Buy In?

When experts talk about a hot market, that doesn’t necessarily mean your neighborhood is a hot market. In many cities, the market varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Before you dive head first into homeownership, do your homework. Make sure you’re making a sound financial decision by buying not only in your city, but in the neighborhood of your choice. If you’re still tempted to buy in a “hipster” area and cross your fingers it pays out, read one woman’s tale of buying in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

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When you are buying or selling property in today's Harrisburg PA real estate market, it's important to have confidence in your real estate professional. Don’s commitment as your Harrisburg PA REALTOR® is to provide you with the specialized real estate service you deserve.

When you are an informed buyer or seller, you'll make the best decisions for the most important purchase or sale in your lifetime. That's why Don’s goal is to keep you informed on trends in Harrisburg PA real estate. With property values continuing to rise, real estate is a sound investment for now and for the future.

As a local area expert with knowledge of Harrisburg PA area communities, Don’s objective is to work diligently to assist you in meeting your real estate goals.

If you are considering buying or selling a home or would just like to have additional information about real estate in your area, please don't hesitate to call me at (717) 657-8700complete my online form, or e-mail me at