According to a study released in February by RBC Economic Research Canada has the most millennial homeowners of any country. More than 40% of homeowners in Canada are between the ages of 22 and 37. Calgary in particular has a millennial homeownership rate of 50.6%.
Interestingly, despite these high numbers there is also a high rate of buyers remorse among millennials. Depending on the study anywhere between 51% and 70% of these new homeowners are struggling with regrets over their home purchase. Where did these buyers misstep and how can you avoid the same pitfalls? What is the key to happiness in homeownership?
If you know a bit about the steps you need to buy your first house you know that the first step is to get a mortgage pre-approval. This bit of paperwork will give you a good idea about how much money a lender may give you for a mortgage. Many excited potential buyers use this information to create a budget and head off into the market looking for the perfect home. What many of them regret is not taking into account all the other expenses above and beyond a mortgage associated with homeownership.
The first set of expenses new homeowners often don’t expect is the extra bills that come with a home. These include property taxes, home insurance, and other utilities that are usually included in the cost of rent like water, sewage and garbage removal. Buyers should also factor in the extra expense of heating and powering a home that is most likely bigger than the one they already live in. In order to get a good idea of how much you can expect to pay for these additional costs and utilities, have your realtor speak to the current owners of the home you are interested in and find out how much they have paid in the last 12 months for these kinds of expenses. That will give you a good idea how much you will have to pay and you’ll be able to decide if it fits into your budget.
The next expense new homeowners don’t always anticipate is that of regular maintenance. This includes things like buying a lawnmower, having the carpets and ducts cleaned, re-painting a few rooms, replacing broken appliances, emergency repairs and even home improvement items like new furniture and fixtures. Experts say homeowners should expect to pay 1% of what they paid for their home on repairs each year. If you paid $400,000 for your house plan to spend $4,000 each year on maintenance. If you don’t spend it one year put it aside for years to come. Replacing the roof or buying a new furnace will cost you a lot more than the allotted amount for one year.
Another painful regret a few new homeowners have is skipping the home inspection or ignoring the advice of their inspector. When it comes to making necessary repairs, err on the side of caution. A quick internet search will show you that more than a few new homeowners have moved in only to have major damages become evident within the first few days or weeks. Whether it’s a broken water pipe that floods your basement, a hole in the roof that needs immediate (and expensive) repair, or rotten floorboards under the carpet, there are all sorts of problems that can be avoided by getting a professional inspection. If you do buy a home with the intent to make renovations, plan on spending more than you expect. Half of homeowners say they spent more money than expected on planned renovations.
One financial burden many new homeowners carry is being cash poor. This happens when they spend all of their savings on the down payment, leaving themselves without a rainy day fund. The danger in this is that you are now living paycheck to paycheck in a big brand new financial scenario. It’s always better to keep a little money stashed away in case of unexpected or emergency expenses.
Aside from the money new homeowners didn’t expect to spend, millennials have other regrets about the purchase of their house. The first is settling on a home they don’t completely love. This can happen when young buyers feel the pressure of keeping up in the rat race, so they buy what’s available instead of what they need. It can also happen when a buyer feels forced to buy quickly even though their financial profile doesn’t let them get access to what they need. This can happen when a buyer has bad credit or too much debt and the lender won’t approve them for as much money as the buyer would like. This issue is most often easily corrected in 6 months to a year by making some changes to your financial profile and coming back stronger than you were before. Then, make a list of items you must have in your home as well as a list of items you are willing to compromise.
Another non-monetary regret millennial homebuyers sometimes have is choosing the right home in the wrong neighbourhood. Maybe the home was a great price but the neighbourhood isn’t as safe as they liked. Maybe the house had all the features they wanted but the commute has turned out to be a lot longer and more expensive than they thought. Maybe the neighbourhood was great for a young single person but a few years later it isn’t great for a family with small children. When you’re choosing your community consider what kind of zoning the area has been approved for and what you expect your life to look like 5, 10, 0r 15 years ahead.
It’s interesting to note that despite the number of millennial homeowners with regrets over their home purchase, 79% of them still believe that buying a home is an essential part of the American dream (according to a bankrate.com survey.) Here in Canada we can safely assume the sentiment is much the same among millennials. In order to avoid the regret so commonly shared among new homeowners, be sure to do your research. Find out exactly how much homeownership is going to cost, don’t just ballpark your budget. And really consider what you need out of a home and how those needs may change in the future.