Jan. 13, 2021
In a buyer's market where mortgage interest rates are low, investing in a home sounds especially appealing. But when it comes to home buying, just because you can doesn't mean you should. In some cases, renting a house may be the more financially responsible decision.
Thinking about taking the leap into home ownership? Here are nine scenarios where it may not be wise to buy a home.
1. You don't have savings
Maybe you have the cash you need for a down payment and your monthly house payment, but owning a home is a much larger investment than just those two amounts.
Loan officer and financial consultant Amber Hutton recommends that anyone thinking about purchasing a home have three to six months of financial reserves saved up for basic budgetary needs.
"If the individual can't demonstrate a lifestyle of financial wellness that yields this protection, they are demonstrating they likely do not have the financial responsibility to be responsible for an asset/liability worth $100,000-plus," she says.
2. You won't live in the home long-term
Before you purchase a house, think about how long you will live there. Do you plan to live in a city for just a couple of years? Will your housing needs change within that time frame? If so, renting may be the better option, says Gary Malin, president of the New York-based real estate brokerage Citi Habitats.
"Buying a home comes with a variety of closing costs, and a five-year timeframe gives the new homeowner sufficient time to recoup these expenses," he says. "As the home appreciates in value, you'll gain equity in it."
Keep in mind that moving out too soon could also result in tax penalties depending on where you live. If you haven't lived in the home for two years, you may have to pay capital gains taxes on your profit on the house if you sell it.
3. You can't put 20% down on the home
Renting may seem like throwing money away, but it could also save you from losing money every month on private mortgage insurance (PMI), says Brendan Willmann, a certified financial planner with Granada Wealth Management.
Sure, it may be possible to purchase a home with a lower down payment. But if you can't put down at least 20%, you'll likely have to pay a pesky PMI until you have 20% equity in the home.
Since PMI can cost up to 2% of your total loan amount annually, you may have to dish out a few hundred dollars a month.
4. You just moved to a new city
Just moved to a new place? If you're planning to stay there long-term, purchasing may seem like a smart idea — unless you decide you don't like the area you purchased in.
Willmann recommends renting in a new city until you get a better feel for neighborhoods and school districts in the area (if you have kids or plan to).
5. You have student loan or credit card debt
Buying a home is often billed as "good debt," since you gain equity in the house over time. But before you can reap the benefits of that investment, take care of your higher-interest obligations.
"If you have a high amount of student loans or credit card debt, you're better off paying those down than spending money on a down payment to buy a home," says Andrew Helling, a Nebraska-licensed real estate agent and the owner of REthority.com.
If your student loans, car payments, and credit cards have higher interest than your mortgage, you'll likely pay more money over time if you don't prioritize them — especially if you can only pay the minimum on your loans due to your house payment.
6. You might change careers
Unless you want to deal with potential tax penalties, investing in a home locks you down in one place — which means you may not be able to take advantage of job opportunities in other locations.
"Renting can be a better option for anyone who doesn't have a stable job, changes jobs often, or [is] considering a career move," says Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner. "You may not know where your next job will be located and whether or not your income would support a house payment."
7. You live with a significant other
If you're in a committed relationship, consider its stability and strength before diving into a huge investment like buying a home.
Are you in a new relationship or a relationship that may not continue? If so, real estate agent Ben Ross recommends avoiding the long-term commitment of buying a home together.
"If your relationship with your partner is rocky and turbulent, I would suggest renting until the waters calm or the relationship is over," he says.
8. You'd rather have a landlord
Owning a home is a big responsibility. From repairs and renovations to yard maintenance and shoveling, you'll have more expenses — and chores — with your new home.
If you'd rather have these things taken care of for you, then certified financial planner Dave Lowell, founder of Up Your Money Game, says you're better off living somewhere with a landlord.
9. It's a seller's market
There may also be times when it's generally just not great for buyers to buy. Before you start looking for houses, talk to a realtor about the state of the market.
"If you're in a hot sellers' market with inflated home prices, it may be better to rent and wait until the housing market flips in your favor, says financial advisor Matthew Kircher, MBA. "The last thing you want to do is purchase a home for too much money and be underwater when it comes time to sell."
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