You probably would not want to consider buying a house or condominium unless you plan to be here at least over one year, or even longer. Buying a house is a major decision. You will need to consider all of the factors that you would for any other option, but there are additional considerations as well. These include:
- Credit Rating: You will need to find out if you credit rating is good enough to convince a bank to give you a mortgage. You will also have to have a down payment (money paid up front).
- Comfort with the House and Neighborhood: It is not as easy to change residences when you own as when you rent.
- Selling the House: How easy will it be to sell the house when you leave? If the housing market is not good when you leave, are you prepared to lose money on the deal?
- Neighborhood Associations: Many communities have neighborhood associations that make policies for the community, such as landscaping public spaces, hiring security guards to patrol the area, etc. Some are more restrictive than others, and may have rules about all kinds of things, such as whether you can run a business out of your house, the number and type of pets you can have, where you can park your car, what can be visible in your yard, the presence and type of window coverings, etc. Make sure that you know whether there is a neighborhood association, and if so, decide whether you are comfortable with their policies. Also, many neighborhood associations charge a mandatory fee or dues to those in the community. This may be written into the deed, and you may be sued for failure to pay. In addition, the neighborhood association may have the power to levy fines against you if you violate their rules.
- Other Expenses: In addition to the actual mortgage, there are other expenses that you will have as a homeowner. One may be the neighborhood association fee mentioned above. Others include:
- Homeowner’s insurance: Unlike renter’s insurance, homeowner’s insurance is mandatory. In addition, you may need to purchase insurance for damages that may not be covered under the regular insurance policy, such as flood, hurricanes or mold.
- Property taxes: All home owners must pay property taxes, which are based on the assessed value of your home. Ask your realtor how much property tax you can expect to pay.
- Utilities: You will be responsible for all utilities, which include electricity, water, sewer, garbage, gas and telephone.
- Maintenance and repairs: You will be responsible for all expenses related to the upkeep and repair of your property.
- Fencing: If your house does not already have a fence, you may wish to or be required to put up a fence. The cost of fences are usually (but not always) split with the neighbor on the other side of the fence,
- Lawn care: If you are unable or unwilling to maintain the lawn yourself, you will need to hire someone else to do it.
- Security: Your neighborhood may hire a security guard or constable to patrol the area, and assess you a portion of the fee. If your house has an alarm system, you will have to buy a license from Harris County. Depending on the type of alarm or security system, there may also be an alarm monitoring fee. In addition, there may be fines for false alarms.
- Community upkeep fee: Condominiums often charge a separate fee to maintain the grounds. This fee may or may not include security services. Some housing communities have such a fee; others do not. In communities with a neighborhood association, this could be part of the neighborhood association fee, or it could be separate.
- Furnishings: Most houses for sale do not come with furniture, so you will have to buy furnishings if you don’t already have them. Also, older houses may not have all of the standard kitchen appliances, such as a refrigerator, which you will need to purchase.
Your realtor should be able to help you with these matters.