For many people, there comes a time when it makes sense to stop paying off your landlord’s mortgage and start paying off your own.
The process involved in transitioning from renting a home to owning one can seem daunting and, on the surface, fraught with risk. While issues such as timing the purchase of a home to coincide with the termination of a lease can be problematic, there are steps a renter can take to minimize the stress.
As with any prospective home purchase, the first step is always to talk to a local lender or mortgage broker. Having a track record of making regular, monthly rental payments not only helps establish an attractive credit rating, it also shows the lender that you are a reliable customer capable of the financial discipline required to pay off a mortgage.
Let’s assume you’ve talked to a lender and been given a prequalification letter. Now you can begin your home search in earnest, but how to time buying a home with the end of your lease? First up, timing buying a home can be something akin to timing having a baby – there is no perfect time; you just have one and get on with life.
That said, it is probably better to start looking in earnest when your lease has three to four months to run. Unless you stumble upon the perfect home the first day looking, it can take a couple of months of touring homes with a Realtor to get a feel for the market, what home features are important to you and what you can live without. In short, you need to kiss a few frogs before you find the prince.
Once you have located a home, the process of making an offer then working through the various stages – inspection, title review, survey and appraisal – usually takes anywhere from six weeks to two months.
Assuming everything falls into place, in a perfect world you close on your new home and have a week or two to move out of your rental before the end of your lease. But what happens if the timing is less than perfect?
This is where having been a reliable, conscientious tenant can reap rewards. A landlord is far more likely to be flexible with a tenant who has been timely and reliable. This flexibility can extend to allowing you to get out of your lease early, should you find a home immediately, or allowing you to stay on a month-to-month basis while you continue your search or proceed to closing.
It is important to remember that a lease is a binding legal instrument. A landlord is not obligated to release you from the terms of the lease early. Early and open communication can come into play to your advantage here.
Advising your landlord that you are intending to buy your own place can give them lead time to perhaps find a new tenant who can move in soon after you close, thereby allowing you to end your lease early without penalty. Locally, with rental properties currently in short supply, a landlord may well be disposed to allow you out of your lease early, in the knowledge that finding a new tenant will likely not be difficult.
In short, the transition from renting to buying can present logistical challenges, but open communication and educating yourself on the real estate market can minimize these challenges.
Hayden Mellsop is a board member of the Realtors of Central Colorado.