The No. 1 sign you can't afford to buy a home

Small white house tree homeArtazum/ShutterstockYour down payment should never drain your emergency fund.

If you’re deciding whether or not you can afford to make the leap from renting to buying a home, many factors can help you decide: Do you have a high credit score? How much debt are you holding? Have you saved up for down payment?

While your situation may never be perfect — it’s ok if you still have student loans! — there’s one major sign that you’re absolutely not ready to buy a house: You don’t have an emergency fund.

“A lot of times what I see is people will have money saved for a down payment and they end up putting the entire amount toward the down payment to afford the home, and have no money leftover,” says Eric Roberge, CFP and founder of Beyond Your Hammock.

When it comes to buying a home, the more you have in savings, the better. But the money you’re putting away for a down payment — typically 20% of the price of the home — should remain completely separate from your emergency fund.

“You can never have enough money saved in the home buying year,” Roberge says. “The process itself is complicated enough without having financial difficulties.”

Beyond paying for the actual house, becoming a homeowner inevitably comes with hidden costs, so it’s smart to have money leftover to pay for repairs, insurance, and house maintenance. Without that cushion, you risk putting yourself into debt trying to stay afloat or defaulting on your mortgage, both of which will cost in you in the future.

“Unlike a rental arrangement with a one- or two-year contract and known termination clauses, defaulting on a mortgage can do major damage to your credit report,” Certified financial planner Jonathan Meaney told Business Insider.

At the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your plan to afford a down payment involves purging your entire savings account, you might want to take a step back and reevaluate your financial goals.

“Things are going to be expensive, so you want to have a buffer for that,” Roberge says.

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