Mastering the three Cs of homeownership
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

There are three major benchmarks of a successfulhome buying candidate: commitment, credit and cost. As a preliminarystep to taking the home buying plunge, see how you fare in thesethree categories:

Commitment: In order toclear this hurdle, you must be willing to sacrifice some of thefreedom moving can afford, commit to spend time doing house maintenanceand repairs, and be controlled to some degree by the needs ofthe home (i.e. lawn watering, snow removal, etc.) It's very muchlike nurturing a child (albeit it one that doesn't talk back norrequire college a college education!)

And there may be unhappy times. Like when an obnoxiousneighbor makes you wish you could mail the keys to the landlordand move on--but you can't, you're committed.

Why should you be concerned about home ownershipcommitment? Because if you live in the home you select for theaverage time period of seven years, you will have spent more than2,500 days in it! That's a considerable investment in time, effortand money.

Credit: While we'll discussthe finite points of credit in later, it's not too early to facethe fact that most home buyers have to use credit to swing a purchasethis large. That means that you'll take on the obligation to checkyour existing credit picture, or establish one (if you haven'tdone so already), and be willing to manage your credit once thepurchase is complete.

The mortgage lender will not be as sympathetic asthe landlord about why the payment is late. And even if you doget by with a late house payment here and there, they can mountup to major roadblocks when you want to sell and purchase again.A lack of responsibility in managing your mortgage and your financesafter you purchase a home can result in lost equity, foreclosure,even bankruptcy.

Cost: You may not havea problem shelling out thousands of dollars of your hard-earnedsavings for a down payment. And it may not even bother you topay hundreds of dollars in closing costs. But, unfortunately,those upfront costs of purchase are just the beginning!

You no longer have a landlord to call when the waterheater isn't working. You'll be alone in the dead of night whenthe furnace gives up the ghost. And you won't see anyone comingto your rescue with their checkbook when the plumber says "ittook a few hours more time than I thought to repair that leak!"

By rating high in home buyer commitment, credit andcost categories, you're ready to be a well-qualified and successfulhome buyer!