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Should I be looking into buying a house?

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    Should I be looking into buying a house?

    Some quickie info about my current housing/life situation:

    I am currently 35yo, and I bought a 2BR/1.5BA, 1100sqft condo/townhouse in 2008. I have a 3.625% 30Y mortgage with a balance of about $210k, and based on recent sales around me, it's probably worth somewhere in the area of $310k. My monthly PITI is $1,400. My gf also lives with me, and she pays me $400/mo in cash in rent. Together, we take home about $7k/mo. Marriage is fairly likely in the near future (though we haven't explicitly talked about it yet). If we do marry, we are both against having kids.

    My net worth (NOT including my home) is about $230k. GF's is about $25k.

    My mom came down to visit last weekend and she stayed in our other bedroom. She told me that I should really look into buying a detached house, on some actual land. On top of that, having some extra room would be more conducive to having guests over and whatnot.

    While there are some issues with my condo that I'm not a huge fan of (shared walls, proximity to neighbors, etc), I don't know if it'd be worth it to up and move, especially when it's not a guarantee that my life would be that much better in a house. On top of that, buying even a starter home in a decent area would probably give me a monthly mortgage of at least an extra $800/mo on top of what I'm currently paying. But my mom seemed convinced that having a SFR was the way to go.

    So especially to those of you who have been in a similar situation, how did it work out for you?

    And of course even those of you who aren't in this situation, do you have any words of advice?

    Thanks!

    #2
    If you are content where you are, I wouldn't move at the suggestion of someone else.

    We owned a condo for 2 years and then made a lateral financial move to a house in another city. Given the choice today, we much preferred condo living. It was simpler and lower maintenance. We are fine with owning a single family home because we have lots more time now (to take care of our home) and we do prefer the space with kids. Which is why we haven't sold our house and moved back into a condo. But our plan is pretty much to downsize back to a condo the minute our kids move out of the house.

    Of course, this is not a preference we necessarily foresaw. We only bought a condo because it was all we could afford. It was surprising how much we PREFERRED it. & I would say we had no idea until we bought our current house - that we preferred condo living. On the flip side, financially I don't know that we ever would have bought a SFH if we had to pay significantly more to do so. But we were looking at a heck of a lot more than a $800/month increase to get into a house in our old city.

    In your shoes, I would stay put for now. Doesn't mean that your preferences or means won't change over time. But it sounds like you are in a good place for the here and now.
    Last edited by MonkeyMama; 10-28-2014, 09:43 PM.

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      #3
      thanks for the advice! was it mainly the low maintenance of a condo that you liked or something more specific? or were there specific things about house living that you didn't like/anticipate?

      Originally posted by MonkeyMama View Post
      If you are content where you are, I wouldn't move at the suggestion of someone else.

      We owned a condo for 2 years and then made a lateral financial move to a house in another city. Given the choice today, we much preferred condo living. It was simpler and lower maintenance. We are fine with owning a single family home because we have lots more time now (to take care of our home) and we do prefer the space with kids. Which is why we haven't sold our house and moved back into a condo. But our plan is pretty much to downsize back to a condo the minute our kids move out of the house.

      Of course, this is not a preference we necessarily foresaw. We only bought a condo because it was all we could afford. It was surprising how much we PREFERRED it. & I would say we had no idea until we bought our current house - that we preferred condo living.

      In your shoes, I would stay put for now. Doesn't mean that your preferences or means won't change over time. But it sounds like you are in a good place for the here and now.

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        #4
        I wouldn't undertake a huge thing like moving, higher mortgage, etc, just because someone else says you should. Do YOU like your condo? Do YOU desire a SFH?

        I spent years living in apartments in Manhattan, and recently moved home to my mother's SFH in one of the boroughs of NYC. As soon as I did move home, and saw all the crap that comes along with owning a SFH - financially, time consuming, work, stress, etc - and I knew it was not for me. I do hope to buy eventually, but it'll absolutely be a condo or a co-op. I don't have any desire to maintain property.

        It doesn;t sound like you have any burning desire to move, so in your shoes, I wouldn't do it.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by MarkInCA View Post
          thanks for the advice! was it mainly the low maintenance of a condo that you liked or something more specific? or were there specific things about house living that you didn't like/anticipate?
          I think the low maintenance is the most of it.

          I don't know if there is anything we particularly dislike about home ownership, except for the excess cost.** (IF we were just as happy in a condo, then why bother spending extra on a house)? We thought we would really enjoy owning land, but at the end of the day we hire out the yard work and just find it to be a PITA. That's probably our #1 dislike. #2 is that we never had to worry about any of the outside maintenance before (roof, walls, or anything).

          We do like having a garage. I would say our ideal condo would have an attached garage and a nice view. A view we can enjoy but don't have to put any physical effort into keeping up.

          We have also talked about just buying a home on a very small lot and doing desert landscaping. It might be the middle ground we need. So we don't have to deal with HOA and yardwork and all that. (Never really had a negative HOA experience, but have heard a lot of nightmare stories. My primary concern would be inflation of dues and special assessments due to HOA financial mismanagement).

          **I mentioned that we didn't spend MORE on our current home, but we can cash out $100k or $200k if we downsize to a condo in our current city. So there is still certainly a cost savings to be had.
          Last edited by MonkeyMama; 10-29-2014, 08:35 AM.

          Comment


            #6
            P.S. Your mom will not be the first or last person to pressure you to buy a house. I think if you recognize that, it's easier to stick to your guns. Just know that it's something many people will freak out about.

            {I can't even imagine the assumptions and comments we get when we downize our home. We live in a culture where you buy up and up and up. More is better!}.

            Comment


              #7
              Wow, we sound pretty similar - I have an attached garage in my condo only because that was one of my major wants when I was first looking for a place. I totally disregarded a view though, which wasn't something I thought about at the time, but when your only view is the condo across the driveway, it starts to feel a little claustrophobic.

              Desert living also sounds appealing to me too - my gf and I frequently make trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and while sometimes the temperature is a bit TOO hot, I do enjoy those areas quite a bit.

              Thanks for your insight! It did make me feel a lot better about just living here for a while.

              Originally posted by MonkeyMama View Post
              We do like having a garage. I would say our ideal condo would have an attached garage and a nice view. A view we can enjoy but don't have to put any physical effort into keeping up.

              We have also talked about just buying a home on a very small lot and doing desert landscaping. It might be the middle ground we need. So we don't have to deal with HOA and yardwork and all that. (Never really had a negative HOA experience, but have heard a lot of nightmare stories. My primary concern would be inflation of dues and special assessments due to HOA financial mismanagement).

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks for this - I always hear from my friends who have moved from attached to detached living and they all say it's so much better even though invariably their housing costs have gone up at least 50%. I've always wondered if all of them actually are happy or if it's cognitive dissonance for some of them.

                Originally posted by LizfromtheBronx View Post
                I wouldn't undertake a huge thing like moving, higher mortgage, etc, just because someone else says you should. Do YOU like your condo? Do YOU desire a SFH?

                I spent years living in apartments in Manhattan, and recently moved home to my mother's SFH in one of the boroughs of NYC. As soon as I did move home, and saw all the crap that comes along with owning a SFH - financially, time consuming, work, stress, etc - and I knew it was not for me. I do hope to buy eventually, but it'll absolutely be a condo or a co-op. I don't have any desire to maintain property.

                It doesn;t sound like you have any burning desire to move, so in your shoes, I wouldn't do it.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by MarkInCA View Post

                  Desert living also sounds appealing to me too - my gf and I frequently make trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and while sometimes the temperature is a bit TOO hot, I do enjoy those areas quite a bit.
                  I just meant desert landscaping - not living in the desert.

                  We do live in Sacramento though, but I am from San Jose. Either place there isn't a lot of rain and the kind of landscaping that you see in Arizona and Nevada, or Palm Springs, would work well. Trying to keep green lawns, though it is the norm in Northern California, seems like a tremendous waste of resources. Is not something I have researched much but sounds like a nice idea. Maybe astro turf, or concrete, rock gardens and cacti.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by MonkeyMama View Post
                    I just meant desert landscaping - not living in the desert.

                    We do live in Sacramento though, but I am from San Jose. Either place there isn't a lot of rain and the kind of landscaping that you see in Arizona and Nevada, or Palm Springs, would work well. Trying to keep green lawns, though it is the norm in Northern California, seems like a tremendous waste of resources. Is not something I have researched much but sounds like a nice idea. Maybe astro turf, or concrete, rock gardens and cacti.
                    Ah ok, but I guess in the end we're talking about the same thing - the houses in the PS/LV areas are exactly what you describe - a lot of rock/cacti/concrete/etc. I think trying to keep grass mowed and bushes trimmed would drive me bananas.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Like what everyone said, if you are comfortable to where you are right now, stay. Your mother probably wants you to have your own life the reason why she asks you to buy your own house.

                      However, the question that you should be asking yourself is that, are you ready to leave? If you are not being forced out, create an action plan so you can be independent. Independence means covering your own expenses. You need a job to receive a consistent paycheck and save up for your down payment.

                      Keep in mind that you cannot ascertain the future. At some point, you may find yourself between jobs and unable to pay rent. If you left your parents' house on good terms, it will be easier to move back in should you ever need a place to stay. Sit down with your mom and discuss your decision to move out. Ask them if they have advice. Ideally, you should make arrangements for getting together regularly. Maintaining a positive relationship with your parents should be a goal, if possible.

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                        #12
                        Problems that arise in a SFH will mean that you will have to spend money to fix them. If you are handy, then you are spending on the materials. If you are not handy, then you would hire it out. If you plan on not having kids, then you will find yourself in a better position than most, financially, to save up for such events. Plus, you will likely have more time to learn home improvement skills should you decide to go this route.

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                          #13
                          Ultimately I think it depends on your own preferences. If the lifestyle change of a SFR isn't attractive and you have no real "want" for it, then, why would you change?

                          I come from a slightly different perspective...I've made some pretty big sacrifices to own a SFR starting as young as I possibly could because that's the only lifestyle I've been able to enjoy.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by MarkInCA View Post
                            She told me that I should really look into buying a detached house, on some actual land. On top of that, having some extra room would be more conducive to having guests over and whatnot.
                            Is she going to mow the lawn and repair the roof and all the other crap you have to deal with when you own the land? It will cost more to maintain, it will cost more in utilities to heat and cool the space. If you are only doing it for your guests, then it would be cheaper to just rent them a hotel room, then it would be to pay for the extra space year round.

                            Don't do it just because someone else thinks that is what you are supposed to do. Do it when you decide that having your own house will add value to your life.

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