We bought our first house in the middle of our lease term. If the rental market is not horrible, your risk is not that bad. A lease is a contract, and both parties to a contract have a responsibility to mitigate losses if the contract is broken. That means the landlord must make a reasonable effort to replace you in the apartment, though you would likely be responsible for the costs of that effort, such as advertising. Once the apartment is re-leased, you would stop being responsible for the rent. If you can find someone to sublet, you can mitigate the loss as well. I think we ended up forking over a couple of grand to get out of our lease, which had 6 months remaining at $900/month. Peanuts compared to the cost of the house.
Someone upthread mentioned sunlight relative to house placement. Keep this in mind not only with respect to morning/evening differences, but also seasonal fluctuations. Colorado, where we live, is chilly in the winter, but dry. So even if the air temperature is below freezing, snow in the sun tends to disappear very quickly. Our house is south-facing, so the front walk melts much faster for us than for our neighbors across the street. And, in summer, our back yard is much shadier and cooler than the front yard, which is good for cookouts.
I’ll second the call to budget for maintenance in determining how much house you can afford. I’ve heard 1-2% of house value/year, depending on age, as a good rule of thumb.
To illustrate the point about agent incentives more concretely: The seller’s commission on a house is around 6% of sale price, typically split evenly between buyer and seller agents. So for every $100K in house price, each agent gets about $3000. A $5K change in price changes the amount each agent gets by only $150. They don’t care at all about a price difference that might mean a lot to you. So you may get pushed by your agent to accept an offer that’s not particularly good just so they can get their payout. We used this to our advantage when we bought our first house. It needed a new roof, so by the inspection contingency clause, we were entitled to pull out of the offer with no loss of earnest money. We asked the sellers to either drop the price or pay for the new roof outright at time of sale. They refused to pay more than half, so we threatened to walk. They wouldn’t budge, but the agents just made up the difference by cutting us checks out of their commissions. Cost them each about 10% of their total, so it was worth it for them.
Make sure to talk to the neighbors before putting in an offer.
Ask how many rental houses are in the neighborhood.
Quality of school district can have a massive effect on price. If the house is close to a boundary between school districts of greatly different quality/prestige, check independently with the districts which one it’s in. Don’t believe what the agent tells you without verification. I have a coworker who lost a pile of money years ago when she mistakenly paid District A prices for a house that was actually in District B; the boundary was in the middle of the street, and she was on the wrong side.