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jdcfsu
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Florida
 
2007-03-14, 22:35

I'm ready to start looking for my first house. It's kind of an intimidating process and I'm not exactly sure where to start so I'm looking for advice from those of you who have been in my position.

A little bit of quick background information: I'm about two years out of college working at my first job. I've been living back at home since graduating saving up money left and right to put towards a down payment. I've got my student loans that I'm paying back and a very small amount of credit card debt. I've been keeping an eye out for sale signs in neighborhoods I like, but don't have a clue how much the houses cost nor what I can afford.

Should I hire a realtor or continue to search on my own? Also, what is the best way to determine what kind of mortgage I can afford? What other advice can you give me that I am obviously not thinking of?

Thank you all.

90% of statistics can be made to say anything 50% of the time.
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Naderfan
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Ohio
 
2007-03-14, 22:42

Check out www.zillow.com It lets you get details about houses in certain ares (it's not a complete map, and mostly has urban areas). It should at least give you a rough idea of what houses around the area you're looking for cost.

As for mortgages, make sure you aren't taking any of those high-risk loans. Do a regular, fixed-rate deal. Also ask about First Homeowner loans. They're part of a government program to help first-time homebuyers. My husband and I qualified for one and instead of an interest rate of around 6 percent, we got it for 4.99%. Very helpful.

Also, you want to put down as much as possible for a down payment. If you can scrounge up 20%, then you avoid PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). But if you can't, that's ok too.

Other than that, I don't have much advice...we bought our house from my husband's grandparents, so I don't know much about the actual search process. However, once you get close to the point of actually buying, I'd recommend either getting a realtor or an attorney to help with all the paperwork. I hope some of that helps. Good luck! And remember to be patient. The mortgage process especially can take forever.
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iDorf
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Rochester, NY
 
2007-03-14, 23:06

Network around for a good realtor. U have no obligation to do anything - and you do not need to pay them directly. From a good one you'll get useful guidance, financial qualification info, and likely refer to a mortgage lender.

Only 1 thing - when they do "the numbers", it's common that you'll be told you qualify for X$ amount of home. While they are correct that you'll qualify for this amount - it's often an "uncomfortable" figure. Do your own budgeting with their "qualifying amount" (monthly figure), and offer up your own better monthly amount. Let them now re-calculate an new home price based on that. Then look for homes that fit.

I was a realtor - and have experience. Glad to advise more!

Best to you!
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Stone Of Love
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2007-03-14, 23:13

I had a mortgage agent try to take advantage of me at the last minute. My experience says that a mortgage lender can make the most by getting you into a 30 year fixed.

If that is what you want, you should be ok. But if your looking for another type of loan, then beware.

I was ready to walk away from the house I'm in and was saved by another lender at the last minute. This was 11 years ago, and we wanted an ARM so we could get a bit more house for about the same monthly. Mortgage agent said at the last minute that we didn't qualify for that type of loan, but I "could get a 30 year fixed for only $300 more a month"!!

I wish I had a tape of the blue streak I screamed at that woman on the phone that day! I'm sure it would be legendary!! LOL

Good luck, and keep your eyes and ears open at all times!

Different Strokes, for Different Folks.
And So On and So On, and Skoobie Doobie Doobie.
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hustlin
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2007-03-14, 23:41

Note that realtors have access to a lot of listings through MLS and the seller pays. It's often said that your mortgage payments shouldn't exceed 28% of your income, but there are varying opinions about whether that's high or not. Watch out for ARMs if you don't understand what you are doing.
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torifile
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2007-03-14, 23:53

The best thing I can offer is that if you plan to move within 5 years, get an ARM. They're cheaper during those 5 years because the rate's lower.

Don't pay points unless you know you're going to make the money back over the course of your mortgage (e.g., you know you'll be in the house long enough to offset the initial cost).

Think about paying more on your house than your mortgage per month but also think about using that extra money to invest in other things. If your house appreciates in value, it's a good investment but if you're not sure it will, going a more traditional route like a CD with the money might be a better investment.

If it's not red and showing substantial musculature, you're wearing it wrong.
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zippy
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2007-03-15, 00:31

Personally, I would never get an ARM (adjustable rate mortgage). They're just too ify. Just about any Financial Advisor worth their salt will tell you that two of the worst financial decisions are ARMs, and vehicle leases. Best bet is 15 year fixed if you can afford it. If not, 20, 25, or 30 fixed would be my next choices. Chances are that after you are in the house for a year or two, you can start to increase your contributions to the principal amount of the mortgage and significantly reduce the term over the long haul.

Many homeowners are starting to realize that they don't necessarily get their moneys worth from listing with a realtor and are selling on their own. Don't be afraid of buying this way, just make sure you have an inspection done - which will be required by the lender anyway. Or, you can represent yourself and deal with a sellers agent. If you're really not comfortable with this, especially for your first time, go ahead and find a good, reputable agent, but pay attention to the process so that you realize how easy it is next time around.

One rule of thumb is that your mortgage payment should not be above 25-30% of your take home pay. For some, this may be uncomfortable, and for others, they may be good enough with budgeting and avoiding other debts, to go higher on this. It comes down to what you are comfortable with - and be honest, and also what your lender will give you.

Do you know where children get all of their energy? - They suck it right out of their parents!
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2007-03-15, 00:52

It's funny, my family does commercial real estate, and their advice has always been "get the *longest* mortgage you can". See, you'll pay more in interest... if you stay in the property until it's paid off. But if you have a 50, 75 or 100 year mortgage, chances are you're not going to be. (Frankly, most people don't stay in a house for even 20 these days, so it's not that different.)

Your monthly mortgage can be considerably reduced. Now, if you take that difference and invest it wisely, you will end up by the time you sell, *ahead* of the game. Your investment profits will more than offset your additional interest you paid. End result - you make more money.

Totally backasswards from what most folks do, and emotionally, it makes makes me twitch, but numerically, it makes sense. Just a thought.

You do, however, have to be absolutely disciplined in investing the difference, and if you blow it in your investment strategy, you're hosed, but even a conservative low-risk investment will overtake a low interest rate available these days.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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alcimedes
I shot the sherrif.
 
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2007-03-15, 01:00

My only advice would be to keep in mind that when you're buying a house what you're really buying is the neighborhood.

You can make a lot of changes to a house.

Can't do shit about the neighbors.

Google is your frenemy.
Caveat Emptor - Latin for tough titty
I tend to interpret things in the way that's most hilarious to me
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Dave
Ninja Editor
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Bay Area, CA
 
2007-03-15, 03:20

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
It's funny, my family does commercial real estate, and their advice has always been "get the *longest* mortgage you can". See, you'll pay more in interest... if you stay in the property until it's paid off. But if you have a 50, 75 or 100 year mortgage, chances are you're not going to be. (Frankly, most people don't stay in a house for even 20 these days, so it's not that different.)

Your monthly mortgage can be considerably reduced. Now, if you take that difference and invest it wisely, you will end up by the time you sell, *ahead* of the game. Your investment profits will more than offset your additional interest you paid. End result - you make more money.

Totally backasswards from what most folks do, and emotionally, it makes makes me twitch, but numerically, it makes sense. Just a thought.

You do, however, have to be absolutely disciplined in investing the difference, and if you blow it in your investment strategy, you're hosed, but even a conservative low-risk investment will overtake a low interest rate available these days.
That's damn clever!
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kretara
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2007-03-15, 09:10

Since you say that you are in Florida, you will also need to take in to consideration homeowners insurance and flood insurance. My in-laws live in Port St. Lucie and their homeowners insurance for a 2BR, 1600 sq ft house is ungodly high. They are 5-7 miles from the ocean.
Something else that my in-laws are having an issue with is water. About 20% of the city has issues with not having enough water. Imagine not having water for a few days at a time. The water shortages are caused by over building of homes and no upgrading of infrastructure.

If you live near the coast you will also need to look for houses that have hurricane 'proof' improvements (such as high impact windows and doors).

Basically, do your research both in how much you can really afford to pay (as opposed to what the bank will lend you) and how well the house/neighborhood/city fits your needs.

If you buy a condo ask about the monthly fee. Also ask about any pending maintenance issues coming up (like replacing a roof etc.) because you will have to fork over your share of the money to fix these things. Nothing like moving into a new place and then having to fork over a few grand that you did not expect to spend.

Find a good realtor and use their services, but remember that the realtor is the sellers agent NOT yours. Take everything a realtor tells you with a grain of salt. You have no obligation to buy anything they show you or to use them exclusively.

Also, buy wisely. Don't buy the first house that comes along and don't buy on impulse. If you have to look at 30 houses to find the one that is 'right' for you, that is OK.

If you are serious about a home, ALWAYS get the home inspected...ALWAYS.
Always take at least 3 tours (different times of day spread over at least a week) of any home you are serious in. This will give you a chance to get over the initial 'I love it!!' phase and start looking for any issues with the house. Might also be a good idea to get someone who has owned a home for a while (your parents? friend? whatever?) to look at the house with you. They won't have any vested interest in the house, so they will/might be more likely to point out issues that you will miss in your excitement.
Be sure to check out traffic patterns around the house, esp. during rush hour. Wouldn't you hate to buy a house in an area that is almost impossible to get into or out of during rush hour.

Finally, good luck.
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intlplby
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
 
2007-03-15, 09:21

You could also build a monolithic dome house out of polyurethane, 14,000 psi concrete and steel.... that would take care of hurricane and flood problems.

http://www.domeofahome.com/DomeHome_sun-sentinel.pdf
http://www.monolithic.com/
http://www.domeincorporated.com/conc...ts-prices.html
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faust
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
 
2007-03-15, 10:09

The best time to think about selling your home is when you buy it.

If there is something about the house that bothers you, it will bother future buyers. For example, busy street, bad school district, odd lot layout, ect.

Rates are pretty low right now, would be silly to pass up locking in at these rates. From here rates can only go up, can you afford an $800 a month jump in payments?

I purchased my first home this past summer. Its fun but it costs me $$113k in down payment, $25k in closing costs, another $3k to move and set up/close/chnage names on utility bills, probably $20k for some new furniture and windown treetments, etc. Right now I'm doing renovations that are running me $65k.

When you buy a home you need to think of all the costs involved, like heating and cooling the place, electricity-phone-water-cable bills. Some of these things you probably never paid for nor cared about when living with your folks.
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intlplby
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Join Date: Dec 2004
 
2007-03-15, 10:49

heating and cooling costs can eat you alive if you have a large place.... find out how much the previous owners where spending so you can factor that into your budgeting
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Windswept
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Join Date: May 2004
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2007-03-15, 10:56

You need to sit down and do some serious thinking about just what sort of dwelling would suit you best.

You are young and single, I'm assuming. Are you interested in buying a family home with three bedrooms and 2 baths in an established neighborhood? And are you willing to devote every weekend to mowing lawns and doing homeowner maintenance on your older home? Or would you want to shell out to hire someone else to mow the lawn?

OR... would you rather have a townhouse or condo, where the landscaping is taken care of by the homeowner association, and where you have a monthly maintenance fee to cover these expenses? In this case, you'll have no private lawn, but you may have a smallish patio of your own for outdoor barbecues, and not much maintenance.

If you are a homebody type of person, and think you might actually enjoy having a family-size house, and plenty of yardwork on the weekends, then such a house might be a good investment for you - especially if you buy something you might care to stay in after you marry and start a family.

For whichever type of house you choose, the location and quality of neighborhood are *extremely* important in maintaining and increasing the value of your home.

When I was shopping for a house and neighborhood, I saw one brand-new neighborhood with really attractive homes being built. This neighborhood did NOT have a homeowner association destined to take over once the builder finished all the houses and left.

Now, not all that many years later, this once nice neighborhood is very depressing and almost like a slum in some ways, because scattered throughout are houses that are run-down and ill-kept, that have become rentals. Just a few shabby homes can simply ruin a neighborhood, and drastically drag down the value of the nicer homes.

Honestly, it's so sad. I can hardly bring myself to drive through that neighborhood. The decline of these homes would have been completely prevented had there been a homeowners' association with rules and regulations.

The neighborhood I 'did' buy in has one, and still looks very, very nice, because homes are not allowed to become shabby and ill-kept. People are fined if they allow their landscaping to die or get filled with weeds, or if they allow the paint to start peeling. These protections preserve the value of all the homes in the neighborhood.
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intlplby
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Join Date: Dec 2004
 
2007-03-15, 11:24

the other thing is that, depending on the neighborhood, it is usually best to get a cheaper house in a more expensive neighborhood than a more expensive house in a cheaper neighborhood.

do you have a dog? will you eventually?

i have two dogs and used to have a yard with an electric fence... very easy, you just let them out and they do their business on their time.... now i don't and i have to walk them twice a day, when i go out of town i need to get a kennel, etc

how much noise transmits from one home to the other is important with townhomes..... we fortunately live in a townhome with very good walls and never hear our neighbor and they don't hear me even when i play my music loud at night.

how long do you plan on staying in that house? if it is only a few years think about how the property values will change in your city... you could end up making a ton more..... ... my parents' home appreciated over 80% from 98 to today.

you can also look at a house for what it could be..... when looking at a house you have to imagine what you could do with it.....

good example.... a long time ago one of my neighbors was a cat lady and the house she lived in was very very nice, but it had a "cat smell".... the house sat on the market for ages and wouldn't sell because of the smell..... the moment someone finally recommended she change the carpets, the house sold very quickly for a lot more than the cost of replacing the carpets..... if a buyer had thought about this they could have gotten the house below value and fixed it up and made quite a bit when it was time to sell........ can you use the house to create future value?

ask yourself:

How is the neighborhood? How is it likely to change in the future?
How is the city? How is it likely to change in the future?
What is my lifestyle? How does this house meet those needs?
What is the lifestyle of who i might sell this house to in the future? does it meet their needs?

with respect to the last question, i'll give you an example. my parents recently divorced and my father bought a townhouse that was bigger than he needs, but it is the type of property that is going to appreciate most in value in this market in the 1-3 year time frame he has until he plans on moving.... it is also a house that will sell quickly...... ideally you don't want a house that will sit on the market for more than 90 days.... often times a house will be taken off the market after 90 days then relisted so it doesn't appear that nobody will buy it at the current price......

also when buying a house there are things you can look out for to know if you can negotiate a better deal.... is the house on the market because of a divorce? (look for only one set of clothes (mens or womens) in the master bedroom closet of a house designed for a family) is the house on the market because it is now too big because some of the children have moved to college or living on their own? (look in the childrens' rooms for signs of this)
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2007-03-15, 12:05

There is some really good advice in here. I was actually thinking about starting a thread myself as my wife and I are about to buy our first home. We have been supporting our landlords too long. Time to build some equity and have a place we can call our own.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
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CoolToddHunter
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2007-03-15, 12:55

Quote:
Originally Posted by faust View Post
I purchased my first home this past summer. Its fun but it costs me $$113k in down payment, $25k in closing costs, another $3k to move and set up/close/chnage names on utility bills, probably $20k for some new furniture and windown treetments, etc. Right now I'm doing renovations that are running me $65k.


Where do you live? $113,000 down payment? Now, I live in Durham, NC and only have a townhouse, but the total cost of the home was less than that. $113,000 is inconceivable for a first home, to me. Wow.
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Fahrenheit
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2007-03-15, 13:12

A horse takes a lot of looking after. Really think about whether you are prepared to put in that kind of commitment.
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Banana
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Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2007-03-15, 13:39

^
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autodata
hustlin
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2007-03-15, 14:06

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolToddHunter View Post


Where do you live? $113,000 down payment? Now, I live in Durham, NC and only have a townhouse, but the total cost of the home was less than that. $113,000 is inconceivable for a first home, to me. Wow.
eek on both of you. I'm in the chicago area and I doubt there is any sort of anything for $113K within miles of me, and houses in the local crime-ridden area start at about $350k. At the same time, $1m will get a nice 5 br victorian in a decent neighborhood. Actually, you could probably find a 1 br 800 sqft condo in the absolute shit neighborhood to my south for $100K.
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faust
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
 
2007-03-15, 14:08

Sayville, NY, a town on the south shore of Long Island.

My place is 4bd/2.5 baths and cost $530. I put a little more than 20% down for two reasons

1 Anyone who pays PMI is an idiot.
2. Mortgages over $417k are considered jumbo mortgages and are charged a higher rate.

Last edited by faust : 2007-03-15 at 14:10. Reason: bad typing skills
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jdcfsu
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Florida
 
2007-03-15, 21:37

There is a ton of great information here. Thank you to everyone that has commented so far.

I do live in Florida so insurance is a major issue which I hadn't considered. I want to remain here in the Orlando area so flood insurance and some of the hurricane insurance shouldn't be a problem (though the state of Florida's insurance could be a thread in and of itself) though I still need to start thinking in terms of that as well.

As far as type of place, I can see value in a condo/townhome in that it'd be just about all I need, but the condo/HOA fees around here can get ridiculous. If I'm going to get a house, it'd be probably a 2 bedroom bungalow type place.

Some of the comments made about mortgages here are interesting. I remember a college class I took once telling us to avoid ARMs, especially now that the rates are going up. Though, one thing I had never heard/thought of is the 75-100 year mortgage. It makes a lot of sense though even knowing I wouldn't be there for more then 5 years or so it would be damn scary signing something with that kind of "commitment."

An older, wiser friend of mine told me to "always buy a little more house then you can afford." Do any of you give weight to this? Is this solely for when you turn around and sell the property down the road?

Again, thanks for all the advice given so far.

90% of statistics can be made to say anything 50% of the time.
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alcimedes
I shot the sherrif.
 
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2007-03-15, 21:43

I would really recommend not buying a little more than you can afford, especially as a first time home owner.

There are going to be a lot of costs that you hadn't considered, didn't know about etc. The last thing you need is to be strapped for cash going into it.

Google is your frenemy.
Caveat Emptor - Latin for tough titty
I tend to interpret things in the way that's most hilarious to me
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2007-03-15, 23:53

I concur, but heard some interesting advice from a buddy of mine who bought a house in the Bay Area...

To maximize your investment, buy so that it is just plain uncomfortable for the first year or two. Eat ramen if you have to, and don't plan on renovating until year three. This gets you past the real-estate-as-investment taxes timeslot, to boot.

See, if you have a fixed rate (and you should right now,) then your payment will remain steady in the coming years, but the rate of inflation will make it less in real dollars with each passing year. So all else being equal, it will hurt less as time goes on. More pain now means bigger return later, since you put more into the investment.

In theory. In a hot market. I don't totally buy it, but coupled with the long-term mortgage, it's an interesting idea.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
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Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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zippy
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2007-03-16, 01:28

I think the "buy a little more than you can afford" has to do with the idea that a fixed rate mortgage will generally not change (taxes, etc can change it some), but your income will most likely go up - especially if you are just entering the workforce. Both when we bought our condo, and then when we bought our house, I'd say we were a little uncomfortable with the payment right out of the gate, but within a year, it was no biggie, and after a couple of years, a piece of cake.

I think people who take this mentality are trying to avoid getting two years down the road and wishing they had purchased that one house that was just a little more expensive, but so much more of what they wanted....

I've also heard people who disagree with the mainstream view of "pay off the house as quickly as possible". Rather, they just let the appreciation of the house pay for itself, and invest the extra they would have paid. This only works if you are good at doing the investment part.

Do you know where children get all of their energy? - They suck it right out of their parents!
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2007-03-16, 01:49

Quote:
Originally Posted by zippy View Post
I think the "buy a little more than you can afford" has to do with the idea that a fixed rate mortgage will generally not change (taxes, etc can change it some), but your income will most likely go up - especially if you are just entering the workforce. Both when we bought our condo, and then when we bought our house, I'd say we were a little uncomfortable with the payment right out of the gate, but within a year, it was no biggie, and after a couple of years, a piece of cake.

I think people who take this mentality are trying to avoid getting two years down the road and wishing they had purchased that one house that was just a little more expensive, but so much more of what they wanted....
It depends on how you approach it. If you're going to try an eke out every bit of house you can, you're probably going to end up on a treadmill. If, however, you look at it as maximizing your investment, (ie, a 30% rise over a decade on a value of $200k nets you $60k, but the same rise on $300k nets you $90k) then the initial pain is worth it in the long run. I dunno, I try and keep as emotion free as possible in these situations. While I can say whether I like, or don't like, a house, I also can look at it rationally for future renovations, investment possibility, etc. I think if you get into the mindset of "Ooooh, but for only $50k more, I could more house!", it's hard to get out of, because there's always that next level you could jump to if you just borrow a bit more...

Quote:
I've also heard people who disagree with the mainstream view of "pay off the house as quickly as possible". Rather, they just let the appreciation of the house pay for itself, and invest the extra they would have paid. This only works if you are good at doing the investment part.
Good, and very disciplined. The danger is that the extra money saved goes towards a new TV instead of being invested wisely. If you can pull it off though, it may be worth it. If not, then don't even try it.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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NosferaDrew
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2007-03-16, 01:53

I'd say to wait.
Pay off your student loans completely before getting into a mortgage.

I think we're headed for a recession. Housing prices are incredibly inflated (especially here in California), tons of ARMs resetting, forclosures way up, mortgage lenders going out of business, etc.

I make over 100K and I'm having a hard time justifying the price/sq.ft. that I'm seeing out here.
A majority of L.A. County residents are priced out of the market and the people who want to sell are finding it difficult to do so not to mention trying to upgrade.
It's been 10 years of housing prices going straight up. That is unsustainable.
And now, something has got to give.

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jdcfsu
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Florida
 
2007-03-16, 07:34

Drew, so you're thinking a bubble is about to burst or do you think it's more along the lines of a plateauing of home values?
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faust
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
 
2007-03-16, 08:40

I agree, this bubble is almost over.

But I live on an island with tightening building rules so I'm not too worried about my home declining in value. But for folks out in the southwest and down south - I'd be worried since a lot of that growth came from folks buying retirement and vacation homes.
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12 inch powerbook, to buy or not to buy? (need decision making help) stevegong General Discussion 8 2004-08-19 09:25


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