It seems to me that by far the most important question facing first-time home buyers is the one that is almost always ignored.
That question is simply this: Do I and my spouse plan to stay married for the next 35 years? Am I sure that we aren't going to be divorced or separated after five or six years?
While this isn't the most pleasant thing to have to think about, consider this: even with the recent drop in interest rates, it's a fact of life that mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, utilities and maintenance expenses still mean about $1,000 a month to the homeowner, and it's common knowledge that it takes two incomes to come up with that kind of money.
It's also common knowledge that a homeowner has accumulated very little equity until he's lived in his house for many years. After five years, a couple may have invested more than $50,000 in their home, but if they decide to separate and sell the house, it's unlikely that they will get anywhere near that amount back since most of all that money has gone to pay the interest on the loan.
Obviously, prospective home buyers had better realize what a long-term investment they are getting themselves into. If they walk away from that investment prematurely, it will mean shattered financial as well as romantic dreams.