To Buy or Not to Buy

I have always been very interested in researching residential real estate, not as an investment, but as a potential future home. Even when I was a teenager I would be excited on Fridays (before Zillow was around) because the local newspaper would release the real estate section of the paper. It would list all the past week’s transactions, plus it had all the current listings with pictures. I used to dream of being able to buy the big property on 100 acres for a million bucks. In the past couple of years Zillow has replaced Facebook as my time-suck when I’m lazy or want to procrastinate.

Now that I have been engaged to my fianceé for about a month, we have more seriously considered buying a place and have been hitting up some open houses every few weeks. We currently rent a condo that is definitely too big for us, but we pay around 20% below market for it and it gets the job done. My issue is I grew up in the country and our current residence doesn’t have a yard which definitely gets me a little down from March through November. My parents still live in the same house which they built in their 20’s, and that home and property are where some of my fondest memories exist. Helping my dad build a porch, or a closet, or fixing who knows what, mowing the lawn, cutting wood, etc., are all things I remember and enjoyed.

I now think I want something like that of my own – a garage to tinker in or a lawn to host friends and family during the summer months. I know owning a home isn’t all roses and I would have to make time for a lot of things I don’t have to do now (if I don’t want to outsource), such as mowing, clearing snow, and general outdoor maintenance, but honestly I don’t mind those things. I kind of find them enjoyable and I can zen out while doing them. I’m also pretty damn handy if I do say so myself.

Now from a financial perspective, I live in a decently lower cost of living area which helps compared to the Northeast, where I’m from. But on the downside, our area seems to have quite the hot real estate market lately and homes priced right are selling within a couple of days. Personally, I think we are ready to own as we both love the area. Financially, we have no debt and the silly online calculators tell us we can “afford” a home that is three to four times the amount we are looking to spend. We definitely won’t be stretching ourselves if we continue to earn about the same income (or even a decent amount less). For the most part, we would not have to sacrifice any of our long-term investment goals if we decided to own, which is a big plus.

Now for the downsides to ownership. I work remotely. If work ever wanted to put an end to that and I wanted to stay in my current location (where we potentially buy a house), I would most likely have to take a pretty significant pay cut. This is one of the many reasons we are looking well below what the online calculators are suggesting we can spend. I think one of our main goals (since I believe my income is a little less “sticky” than my fianceé’s) is to be able to afford the house and daily lives on her income alone, just in case I decide to pursue entrepreneurship or lose my current job.

Even if we decide not to buy for the foreseeable future, I think I will continue to have my eyes open, ready to pounce on the right place. Owning a paid off home has never been part of my financial independence plans, but it definitely sounds like those who have paid off their homes do not regret it one bit.

Do you think we are ready to buy a home? Or due to my current work situation, maybe it’s not the best idea? 

22 thoughts on “To Buy or Not to Buy

  1. Brad

    Don’t forget that classic Warren Buffet saying to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful. In my non-expert opinion, housing prices are on a steep and unsustainable incline and there’s not very much “fear” in that marketplace right now. On the other hand, if you can afford a house and you plan to live there for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t really matter what the market does.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I love me some WB as well Brad. I don’t think it applies as much to a home you intend to buy and stay in for 10+ years as you eluded to at the end.

      Reply
  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    I think you’re find to buy a home. If your office was putting in place a policy to end the remote work, I would be more concerned. But if you’ve been there for a while and there’s no indication that the arrangement is ending, proceed. 🙂 I do think it’s a FANTASTIC idea to plan to live on just your fiancee’s income for living expenses and for building a home. You can build a wonderful home that’s affordable and custom without breaking the bank. I would just worry about working from home while there’s construction going on. It does suck to renovate or build when you can’t escape the chaos.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! April 23My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I looked into building. It seems more expensive than buying and updating as we see fit. But obviously you have to wait for a house to come on the market you like as well and it won’t be exactly what you want. It’s definitely an option though.

      Reply
  3. Brenna

    I too, browse the MLS website for my local area when looking for a time suck. Home ownership is a lifestyle I crave and something worth spending my precious life hours towards working for. It sounds like you’re in a good position to buy. I hope I can get there sooner rather than later!

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      We’ll try to be patient. I don’t want to jump on something we both just “like,”

      Reply
  4. Norm

    I love hearing about other people who go down the “Zillow hole.” We have no intention of moving, and I still end up in the Zillow hole at least once a week imagining dream retirement properties.

    We bought our house I think for around 1.5x our income and at this point could definitely live on one salary. You could always rent a house. That way you could have a garage to tinker in, etc. plus you could do all the mowing, snow shoveling, and maintenance and make your landlord very happy!
    Norm recently posted…How Much Money Can You Make With StepBet? (Part 1)My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Nice job keeping your home at 1.5x your income. We definitely are going to stay in the 1 to 2x window (preferably like 1.5x). I rented a house for a couple years, a few years back. Just wasn’t the same. Landlord didn’t take great care of the place and I had no incentive to help…

      Reply
  5. dn

    This is a life decision and IMHO these kinds of things should be less a function of the finances than how you see your life unfolding. If you can afford it and are thinking long term and its a life goal, I say go for it. I know its really hard, esp when you think of all the $$, but those $ are for something and if you can pick and choose those things that are most important for you (travel, owning your own house, retiring early, having children) then thats how you pick how to allocate your $, not the other way around.

    If it helps, that’s how I decided to buy, and I live in the bay area. I made the life decision that I was tired of living in a condo, wasting money on an HOA and that I couldn’t hack on my condo at all, so decided to bail on the whole condo lifestyle and do what I really knew that I wanted. Im pretty handy, and all the house work is a labor of love, but I really like having my own place and yard and even having projects to do and things to fix.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I definitely think finances are a top priority when you are purchasing a house. I don’t believe in buying a “dream home” and then working for 30 years, away from the house, while you try to pay it off. But I agree on the part about aligning your goals with the house you plan on living in for a long time.

      Reply
  6. Mr Crazy Kicks

    I’m exactly the same way. Living in apartments reduces your liability and can be cheaper, but in a lot of ways I found it depressing. I couldn’t take living without a yard and ended up renting a house with some friends. That was better than an apartment, but any changes or updates I made wouldn’t be mine to keep. A lot of my time these days evolves around gardening, tinkering, and just doing stuff around my property. I think too many people just look at the numbers when it comes to owning a home, but it also depends on the person.

    I lost money on my first home, but I also had a lot of fun, made memories, and learned a lot. I wouldn’t go back and change anything. I learned a lot, and on our current home we should make a profit. Maybe one day we will sell and slow travel for a while. But after that we would probably end up homeowners again 🙂
    Mr Crazy Kicks recently posted…Cheap Hobbies: Growing Fig TreesMy Profile

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  7. Jax

    if you’re worried that you will have to move for a job eventually, maybe consider buying a house that you could rent for the price of the mortgage? That might give you more options.

    Otherwise, if you think that owning a house with a yard will increase the quality of your life, and you can do so in a way that fits with your finances then you should go for it!

    Reply
  8. MrWow

    We rent… and we love it. Where we live is complete insanity at the moment. Quite frankly, I can’t see doubling our monthly payments to only have to pay for repairs, taxes, etc. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    That being said, we have these discussions with people all the time. It’s interesting. There are plenty of reasons to buy a house (for primary residence). The least of which should be that it’s an investment.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I never consider a home you live in to be an investment. Totally agree with you there. I’m not opposed to renting but I don’t think a rented house can give me all the things I need in the long run. Take care.

      Reply
  9. Team CF

    We own, but would exchange for a rental in a heart beat! There are pros and cons on both sides of the (picket) fence. The only thing I want to note is that you should not underestimate the cost (money and/or time) of maintenance and repairs (even when you do a lot of the work yourself) for the longer term.
    But it certainly is a nice feeling to have something that is truly yours…..(eventually 😉
    Team CF recently posted…Real Estate Report – April 2017My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Grass is always greener. You’re right that there are definitely pros and cons. I like to think my handiness would help lower maintenance costs 🙂

      Reply
  10. Physician on FIRE

    I’ve heard it’s a pretty hot market there — I happen to know someone who’s been shopping for a home in the area and will likely be buying one shortly. They are also using 2x one income as the ceiling, and found a nice place that checks all the boxes within the parameter.

    Good luck to you in whatever decision you make. I hear you on the lawn, garage, etc… Owning hasn’t necessarily benefitted us financially, but I like the space, the mowing, snow clearing, etc… doesn’t bother me a bit.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I think 2x income is a good ceiling. We’d definitely shoot for less than 1.5x though since we’re “frugal” 🙂 Sounds like we have the same mentality when it comes to the chores that come along with home ownership.

      Reply
  11. Claudia @ Two Cup House

    Again, congratulations to you and your fianceé! 🙂

    We own our small house outright, which some folks disagree with. However, our cost of living is much lower now, so our savings rate has increased. We feel more secure, better equipped to take big risks (like entrepreneurship) now that we own a home. That’s my two cents. Looking forward to hearing more about your plans!
    Claudia @ Two Cup House recently posted…Financial Independence at a Tiny House ConferenceMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks Claudia! I definitely agree that if your fixed expenses are low, then it is much easier to take risks. You guys are killing it – keep it up!

      Reply

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