Mood of the Market
If you decide that your goal is to live with more ease and less drama and to enjoy life more in your home, a bigger home might not live up to that standard. You may have more space, sure, but you might also have to work more, cut out more, and cut back elsewhere, in areas that don't work for you.
Or it could be just what the doctor ordered -- you got the raise, and have eliminated extra expenses so you've saved enough that, combined with today's low prices, a move-up will fit the bill.
If your goal is to get your home paid off by retirement, a refinance could move you toward or away from the goal, depending on the specifics. Your job is to figure our whether you're getting warmer or colder, and only do the things that bring you closer to your end goal.
The idea is to know exactly what you're trying to do, then measure your real estate decisions against your goal, at various points through the process.
When you get preapproved is a good time to do a check: Are you getting closer to -- or further from -- where you want to be? It's also a good time: when you make an offer, get listing agents' recommended list prices for your home, accept an offer, remove contingencies and even get a good faith estimate from the mortgage broker before you refinance your home loan.
This level of accountability can and should empower not only you, but also the professionals you engage -- to stay a straight course, or course-correct if you find yourself moving in the wrong direction because it seems like such a great price for that place, or because rates seem so low, or because your friend Lilian just got such a beautiful new home in that subdivision.
This accountability is about knowing and doing what works for you -- not someone else or someone else's math or wishes for you.
Real estate can effect a wide variety of life changes -- some good and others less so. If success as a real estate consumer is defined as making decisions and moves that improve and enhance your life, then getting specific about defining what a successful outcome of any transaction you're considering would be -- with precision, before you make any moves -- is the final, fundamental key to unlocking that success.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman's Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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