When my husband and I shopped for our first house two years ago, we fell — hard — for an 1890s-era four-bedroom with a sun-soaked first floor and a white picket fence in the backyard. Our offer was accepted, but then we started to have doubts. The master bedroom was in the attic, a floor above the others. If our girls, ages 3 and 1, had bad dreams, did we really want them climbing steep stairs at 3 a.m.? When the home inspection revealed multiple areas that needed significant work, we backed out of the deal. Today we live a few blocks away in a house that fits our family life perfectly. But it would have been easy to settle for the wrong one — if we’d ignored our gut or felt pressured by the low inventory of available homes in our area.
With a recovering economy and still-low mortgage rates, parents with young kids are jumping into the housing market. Nearly four out of ten buyers today are first-timers. Making the switch from renter to owner can be a daunting process for newbies, though. There are numerous potential pitfalls, such as committing to a home you can’t truly afford or ending up with a headache that requires costly renovations or repairs. Keep these five factors in mind before you take the plunge.