So you’re tired of paying rent and you are ready to buy. What type of home should I buy? Well, that depends on many factors. The reality is that you will probably not be able to buy your “dream home” first time around; there is almost always some sort of compromise (house size, lot size, location, condition). Here is what I recommend:

1) Location, location, location! There really is something to that. It’s usually best to compromise on the house than it is the get the better house in a location you won’t be quite as happy in. You can change the house but not the location. You will be happy you did when you go to re-sell it; even the nicest homes have trouble selling if not in a desired location.

2) Get what you can actually afford. Just because a lender approves you for a certain amount does not mean you should go out and shop in that price range. In addition to monthly payments, make sure you are clear on all other related expenses including utilities, insurances, homeowners’ fees, general upkeep expenses. Don’t end up “house poor” (a situation where most all of your income is going into the house and its related expenses). You don’t want to be so tied to your home financially that you don’t have the funds to do anything else.

3) Make sure you have researched with your lender and/or your realtor, the best loan program available to you. You may be eligible for 100% programs or for area-specific loans and or grant monies you may not know about. It is best to be sure you are still left with some money in your pocket after all is said and done.

4) Consider the best home match for yourself. If you aren’t handy you may want to stay away from an older home and stick with newer or more mechanically updated homes. If you spend a lot of time at work or on the road and/or have an active lifestyle a townhouse or condo may be a better fit. Maintaining a yard can be time consuming.

5) Consider your future plans. It really makes a difference in what you buy and how much you pay based on how long you plan to stay in the area and/or how quickly your family may grow. For example, it’s not a good idea to pay top dollar for a property if you will be relocated in a couple years or get a home that you will outgrow very quickly.

I love working with first-time buyers. Right now in my Tri-State area more often than not, I am finding homes where the payments are below the market rent for similar homes, sometimes well below. I have a young couple now that looked at a townhome in Martinsburg and a single family in Hagerstown recently. Total mortgage payments would be about $700 a month; rents for similar homes would be $1,000 to $1,100. You can’t beat that! To me that is an incredible incentive to buy. The deals are out there… don’t let them pass you by!

Charlotte Ashton has been offering full-time services in the tri-state area since 1997, with an emphasis on quality customer care. She is licensed in Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Contact her at 240-707-3200 or