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Tim and I bought a home together in the summer of 2007, just a few months before the economy really started to sour. We had heard that if we were going to be somewhere for 3 years or more, that it made complete financial sense. That really was the case in most places. At least until 2007. But here are some things to consider before buying a new house (and things I really wish I had done differently!).
Millions of Americans are in a similar situation as us, with a house that they cannot seem to sell. And millions more are in an even worse place, without renters in the home to at least help with the bills. We have the most wonderful tenants in our home, and while the rent we can charge in this economy only covers about 2/3 of our expenses for the home, I count my blessings to have them.
I’ve been thinking about when the economy will improve, and the truth is, even if it gets significantly better in the next 3-6 months (which is unlikely), there will be an overabundance of housing on the market for years and years. Tim and I may find ourselves to be renting this house out for the next 5 or even 10 years. When we purchased our house, we never thought we’d be landlords. But the only other choice we had was to take a humongous (like a year’s salary) loss on our home to get it to sell. The one silver lining of hanging on to the house is that we are still putting equity into it. We just have to hope that we can get it back out down the road.
Still, owning this house also keeps us from buying one here in Chattanooga. And the truth is, we aren’t all that eager to buy one! It turns out that owning your own property can be a really scary experience, as we learned the first time around. Here are some things that I will do differently the next time I buy a house.
1. I will save MUCH more money up for the down payment. I think we made an 8% down payment on our first house. That wasn’t too shabby at the time we bought it, when many people put nothing down. But we bought a house at the top of our budget and 8% pretty much drained our savings account. Taxes in Memphis seem to rise every single year, and because of that, our mortgage amount has gone up every year. We now pay just over $100 a month MORE than we did when we bought the house, all thanks to crazy high taxes. I never thought about the fact that the mortgage amount could change, and next time around, I’m going to do everything possible to keep the number low from the start. That means putting down as much money as possible.
2. I will pay close attention to the property taxes in the area where we buy. I think Memphis had some of the highest property taxes I’ve ever heard of, all over the country! It was truly insane, and it was something we gave ZERO thought to before buying. The taxes alone are about 1/3 of our payment each month. Gross.
3. The “charm” of older homes is not really for us. Our house in Memphis was built in 1927. So much of the stuff inside the house isn’t current regulation size, which made replacing and repairing things really tough for us to do on our own. This meant that we had to spend more money to hire professionals. And the frequency with which stuff breaks in an old home was quite surprising to us, as well. I don’t need a brand new house in the future, but I think I’ll aim for one that is 50 years old or less! Older homes really are charming, but expensive to maintain.
4. I will be very picky. Even if the housing market has totally bounced back by the time we buy again, I will not cave in to pressure to choose a house right away. I am now so very aware that a house is a house, and if you are very lucky, then it is an investment. But mostly it is just a place to live. And a place to live is VERY expensive, so I should take my time making sure I find a home that has as many of the features we really want as possible. We have been keeping a list of the types of things that are non-negotiable for us to have in a house, along with some “nice to have” features.
5. I will be as certain as anyone can ever be that I don’t want to move anywhere for at least 10 years. The old 3 year rule just doesn’t seem to apply anymore. While we never know what the future holds, if we have even the slightest hunch that we might be relocating in the next handful of years, we won’t buy a house.
6. I will get a 15 year mortgage. And I will pay that off early. Do you realize that with a 30 year mortgage, even with a pretty decent rate, you will pay for your house almost 3 times over 30 years? That is definitely something to know before buying a house, and once you know it, you may feel the same way I do about it: NO THANKS!
What about you? What are your take aways from this sour housing market? What will you do differently if and when you buy a house?
Disclosure: I am participating in a blogger campaign about Missouri Real Estate and was compensated for my time. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are strictly my own.