The thought of owning a home never crossed my mind until my early thirties. I remember a myriad of limiting thoughts crossing my mind including, “there is NO WAY I can afford a home,” or “I don’t have the time or the money to maintain a home” or “owning a home is something you do when you settle down…and renting is still cheaper.” Looking back on those thoughts I can’t help but laugh. Yes, those thoughts are all legit, but SO NOT true.
I was 31 when I seriously considered buying my first home. Up until that time I did what all of my other friends did…rent an apartment with roommates. At that time of my life, I was in my last quarter of my MBA program at Santa Clara University. I was going to school part time and working full time as to not take on giant school debt. “Who has the time or money to own a home? All I do is work and go to school at night,” I remember thinking.
A roommate, Greg, told me one night that he planned to buy a house and asked if I would be open to renting a room from him once he found a home. Hmmm….clever. Seeing him go through the home buying process opened my eyes to how that “trick” is done. Greg found a home after a few months search and I rented a room from him at a price equal to what I was paying for the apartment…and he got all the financial benefits. I quickly realized if Greg could do it, so can I.
The first step in buying a home is to get your financial house in order and determine when you are ready to buy a home. Yes, this can be tough given the lack of financial education people receive these days. Or, if you totally “Kanye” your finances buying too many Yeezy shirts. One of the best things I did was meet with a certified financial planner (CFP). Financial planners will help you obtain a clear snapshot of your current financial health and help you identify short-term and long-term goals…including buying a house. Planners will also provide you the tools to get there.
Ask a trusted friend or parent for a referral or there are options available online. Alexa von Tobel created LearnVest to help people get control of their money. Be financially fearless! The service and tools are all available online and certified financial planners are available to work with people one on one to achieve their dreams. I’ve met Alexa several times during my time with a financial technology startup. She is really great and has a passion to help others. Believe me, once you understand your financial strength, the path to affording a home becomes clear. I think many of you will find the path a lot less difficult than you think. I know I did.
A second step in understanding the affordability of a home is the cost of ownership. This is a BIG factor I find many people don’t quite think through clearly. Getting your financial house in order to buy a home is focused mostly on getting approved for a loan to buy a house. This second step is focused on what’s needed to keep and maintain a home once you buy it. So beyond the monthly mortgage payment, homeowners must consider costs of home insurance, taxes, utilities, homeowners association dues (if applicable) and more. These home ownership costs are in addition to the typical living expenses we all have including cable, phone, Internet site subscriptions, going out, etc.
So how is this done? Build a budget! Building a budget helps identify and prioritize monthly expenses within the context of your financial priority…in this case, home ownership. Yikes, many people quickly realize the need to say “no!” to a Tuesday trivia night at a local bar. I remember making the decision to NOT buy a BMW so I can afford a home. I will be writing more about budgeting in a future post…and will maybe throw in some trivia for those needing a fix.
A third step in understanding home affordability is changing the mindset that it’s what people do who want to settle down. Or that renting is still cheaper. I recently wrote a post for TV and radio talk show host, Chelsea Krost, about the benefits of buying versus renting so check that out as a resource.
The shift in mind-set is up to you and it’s hard to change people’s thinking without a catalyst. What shifted my mind into wanting to own a home was my room mate Greg. He bought a home and I rented a room from him. He used my rent money to pay down HIS mortgage and gave HIM great tax benefits. Greg got to experience the many financial benefits of owning a home…and I paid him to do it. That relationship changed my mindset. “I need to look into this!” I remember thinking.
Yes, home ownership is scary. The more you understand how it’s done and the many benefits received the less scary it is. I argue the more EXCITING it is. Home ownership is one of the many things that make America great. It’s your property. You can do what you want with it…within reason, of course. Do laundry at midnight. Fry fish and stink up the house. Netflix all night with the sound WAY up. If you do it in your own house, no one complains to the landlord. Better yet, NO BODY CARES! To me, that’s the true benefit of home ownership.
My goal is to share with others the great opportunities, benefits and risks of home ownership to empower them to make their own decisions for what works best.
Please feel free to Tweet me with questions about this post @ericdunstan.