Reasons to Buy a Cheaper House than the One You Qualify For

Reasons to Buy a Cheaper House than the One You Qualify For

When beginning to shop for your first home, start with the options at the lower end of your budget.  If you find homes you like in that price bracket, then stop there. 

Let’s say you qualify for loan to purchase a 3,800 square foot home with a pool.  Very tempting, but deep down you realize that a 2,000 square foot home would be big enough for you.   For every additional $1,000 that you pay for the bigger house, you will be paying $1,000 plus interest.  By the time you’ve paid off the loan, you may well have paid double that.  Remember that buying a bigger house means bigger ongoing expenses, too: utilities, maintenance (roof repairs, painting, etc.)–and property taxes.

That’s money that might be better spent on other important goals over time, such as education, establishing an emergency fund, and saving toward retirement.

Many will argue that your house is a great investment and you should therefore push the limits of your spending ability a bit when buying.  Housing has certainly does appreciate nicely over the years, but the averaged stock values of the S&P500 have easily outpaced them over the past 50 years.  Just don’t allow yourself to be lured into spending more than you are financially comfortable doing.  Go for less than you can afford.  You can make improvements to your modest home, when you’re ready, thereby bumping up your equity in a safer, incremental way.

And do try to put 20% down on your house.  It will save you from wasting money on private mortgage insurance (PMI) and will help keep you from getting “under water” if the value of your home declines.  Aiming to put 20% down also helps you gauge whether or not you can really afford a particular house, too.  If you can’t afford 20% for that house, consider looking for a less expensive one, or else waiting—and saving up for that down payment.

Most Americans hold a deep-rooted belief in home ownership.  Its size, quality, and location are all status symbols.  We tend to say of families with a flashy car and a big, fancy house:  “They must have a lot of money!”  

Because this family is spending a lot of money on items that go beyond basic comfort levels—including the big house–we assume they’re in a great financial position.  But deep down, we know this isn’t rational.  To build wealth, you must spend less than you earn. 

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