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The best things to do today if you want to buy a house in 5 years

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/21/2019 Liz Knueven

Anyone who's considered buying a home knows that the saving process isn't a sprint. It's a marathon.

Marcy Keckler, a financial planner at Ameriprise Financial Group, says there are two things she suggests anyone who'd like to buy a house in five years do today to get started: write down your savings goals and choose the right account to save in.

Keckler says that writing down goals and putting your financial situation on paper is an important part of anything you'd like to achieve financially, and this is especially true when it comes to saving for a house. "We know that when people have a written financial plan, their confidence in their financial situation grows," she says.

Looking at the numbers and your goals on paper can also show just how ready you are to buy that house. For example, she says, "it can really help to take a look at your current spending and determine if maybe some of your spending is less important than that goal of a house."

Once you've established and written down your savings goal, her next step for future homebuyers is to find a place to save that works for your buying time frame. Although investing your savings has the potential for a greater return in the long run, most experts caution against investing the money for a down payment you'll need in the near future.

That doesn't mean you have to store it in a checking account, however.

"When you look into the four or five-year time frame, you certainly might want to get a little more return on the money you already have saved," says Keckler. "You might want to consider a certificate of deposit where you'd be locking up the money for a defined period."

But for those on a shorter time frame, that account may look different. "If someone's goal is just 18 to 24 months away, consider saving in something that's really liquid and really low risk," she says, like a high-yield savings account or a money market account.

But, she also says that any savings you have for a down payment are only as good as your emergency fund. "Unexpected expenses could be covered if you already have an emergency fund or a cash reserve. But if you don't, it can be tempting then to dip into your housing fund," she says. "Having both savings happening in parallel can help you stick to your important priority of saving for your house, even as life happens and unexpected events might occur."

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