How much house can we afford?

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HarleeGirl
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How much house can we afford?

Post by HarleeGirl »

My wife and I are just starting the search for a home. We are trying to determine what a reasonable purchase price would be. We are both on the conservative side of the spending spectrum, but of course we receive encouragement from family/friends on what would be a "reasonable" home price.

Age: Both 28
Gross Income: 210k, stable health care jobs. Graduated 2 and 3 years ago.
Debt: 150k in federal student loans for me. Currently two years into Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Current payment is $0 due to COVID, but will be between $500-700 per month on PAYE plan. Also 10k left on car loan.
Location: Low cost of living area in the Midwest
Current living situation: 2 bedroom apartment @ $740 per month.
Savings: 70k in checking for down payment/emergency fund, 130k in 401ks, Roth IRAs and HSAs. We have been and will continue to max the 401k, Roth IRAs and HSA.
Cost of living: $53k in 2020 living in same apartment.
Future plans: Plan to begin having 2-4 children in a few years. It is likely that our income will drop somewhat when the children are young, as my wife and I would both like to spend time with them at home. I think it's reasonable to assume that our income won't drop to less than $175k gross during the next ten years, but one never knows.

We are currently looking for homes in the 300-350k range, but we realize that we can probably safely afford to even be in the 400-450k range. In our area, 300-350k will buy a ~3000 sq ft, 3-4 bedroom / 2-3 bath house that we would certainly be happy raising kids in when they are young. Homes in the 400-450k range have more of the nice-to-haves, such as a larger lot, finished basement, nice kitchen, etc. We are torn between buying a clearly affordable house and buying more of our dream house. We would each like to be in the situation where we can drop down to part-time work around age 50.

What are everyone's thoughts?
sailaway
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by sailaway »

Have you ever lived in a 3000sq ft home? That is a lot of house. Could you find something closer to 2000 to 2500 in your area, so that you stick with the price range and get the nicer finishes?

Are you up for projects? Might be nice to do your own kitchen, your own way once you have rebuilt the savings.
MrCastaway
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by MrCastaway »

I’d say given your age and income level, even at 175k you can afford what is at your upper bound. 5 years from now you will likely view a difference of 100k in home price as a much smaller amount then you do now.

As in you may be kicking yourself for not buying a little more house.
bloom2708
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by bloom2708 »

"Savings: 70k in checking for down payment/emergency fund"

If you have $30k for an Emergency Fun, you have $40k for a down payment/closing costs/immediate costs.

That equates to a $200k house with 20% down.

You can't use the full $70k because then you have no EF.

I would keep saving if a $200k house is too low.
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lthenderson
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by lthenderson »

I've never known anyone who bought a house in their 20's that is still living in it. There are quite a number of factors that cause people to change homes. Right now you are looking for a home to start a family, which could quite possibly end up being a lot different when you get up to four children which will definitely be different with those children out of the house. I have never believed there was such a thing as a dream home, unless it is just a temporary dream home. Even then, every house I have ever bought, had something that I would like to do differently with my next house purchase.

During the market collapse after 2008, most of the houses I saw foreclosed upon in my group of peers were all people who stretched to buy bigger houses than they needed. They are taxed a lot more, require more maintenance to upkeep them as well as just got more for basic utilities. Our house is only 1600 sqft but has four bedrooms and three full baths in it for our family of five. Only when we are entertaining guests have I ever wished it was slightly bigger. But in ten years, it will be back down to just the two of us and will probably be a lot more house than we need. My peers always ribbed my "small" house but they are still working and I was able to stop working nearly 10 years ago now.
ktdintex
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by ktdintex »

At your income level, if the difference between $350K and $450 is the difference between LIKE and LOVE, I'd spend the extra and get the house you really love. The difference in mortgage payments won't be huge, and you'll grow into them as your income increases.

The only red flag to me is that you don't have very much in cash. I would save up a decent down payment, 20%, before buying a house.

We were conservative with our first house purchase. For a little more, we could have gotten a larger lot, three car garage, and few other nice amenities. While we stayed in that house for 10 years, I think we'd still be there if we had stretched a little bit to get the house we really wanted.
jt90505
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by jt90505 »

If you expect to stay in the same area long term, consider buying the house that meets your needs and wants long term. 3000 sq ft. for a family of 6 sounds very reasonable, and you *will* appreciate the nicer touches.

That said, kids are not cheap and having increased costs with a reduction in income, initially sacrifices will probably have to be made. Over time your salaries will increase.

Keep in mind you are very fortunate to have this "problem" :happy
Not Law
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by Not Law »

Spend no more than your annual income and your future selves will be ever thankful.
PowderDay9
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by PowderDay9 »

ktdintex wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:08 pm At your income level, if the difference between $350K and $450 is the difference between LIKE and LOVE, I'd spend the extra and get the house you really love. The difference in mortgage payments won't be huge, and you'll grow into them as your income increases.

The only red flag to me is that you don't have very much in cash. I would save up a decent down payment, 20%, before buying a house.

We were conservative with our first house purchase. For a little more, we could have gotten a larger lot, three car garage, and few other nice amenities. While we stayed in that house for 10 years, I think we'd still be there if we had stretched a little bit to get the house we really wanted.
+1

Save for another year or two to increase your down payment. Casually keep your eye on what comes on the market. If you see something you really love then I'd go up to the top of your price range.
wilked
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by wilked »

My advice. Pay off the car loan tomorrow (clear the $10k debt)

Do both of you have student loans, and are both on the public debt forgiveness?

Also, mentally put the e fund aside from down payment savings. Combining them as you did implies you are willing to dip into the e fund for house funds.

I personally don’t like being 2 years from school with $160k debt seeking to double that debt, but I am very conservative in nature. I don’t know enough about the public debt forgiveness to say though
RXfiles
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by RXfiles »

Not Law wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:16 pm Spend no more than your annual income and your future selves will be ever thankful.
Depends on priorities. I save enough for retirement. I'd rather live in a nicer home for my family. My future self would wish we bought a nicer house when we knew we could afford it.
Bogle_Bro
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by Bogle_Bro »

Hi, I have two kids and live in a 3200sqft home. My opinion...

No need to buy a huge house years before you even plan to begin to have kids. You'll be wasting a huge amount of money, space, utilities, and time with lawn and general maintenance for no reason.

Especially without 20% down to avoid pmi

No need to buy a starter home either. Transaction costs to trade up in five years aren't worth it.

If I were you I would rent the space you need now for the life you have now.
Last edited by Bogle_Bro on Mon Apr 05, 2021 9:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
KlangFool
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by KlangFool »

HarleeGirl wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 6:06 pm
Future plans: Plan to begin having 2-4 children in a few years.
HarleeGirl,

1) Don't buy a house until your kids ready to start school.

2) Between buying more house or paying for the kids' college education, what would you choose? It is unlikely that you can do both.

KlangFool
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KlangFool
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by KlangFool »

RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:24 pm
Not Law wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:16 pm Spend no more than your annual income and your future selves will be ever thankful.
Depends on priorities. I save enough for retirement. I'd rather live in a nicer home for my family. My future self would wish we bought a nicer house when we knew we could afford it.
RXfiles,

1) Do you save enough for college education?

2) Do you plan to pay for your kids' college education? Many of my peers choose a nicer house versus paying for college education. Their kids ended up with student loans.

3) OP plan to have 2 to 4 kids.

KlangFool
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sailaway
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by sailaway »

You might consider having your first child where you are. This would allow you to build an idea of your own parenting style and what you would prioritize in the layout for a family house.
RXfiles
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by RXfiles »

KlangFool wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:29 pm
RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:24 pm
Not Law wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:16 pm Spend no more than your annual income and your future selves will be ever thankful.
Depends on priorities. I save enough for retirement. I'd rather live in a nicer home for my family. My future self would wish we bought a nicer house when we knew we could afford it.
RXfiles,

1) Do you save enough for college education?

2) Do you plan to pay for your kids' college education? Many of my peers choose a nicer house versus paying for college education. Their kids ended up with student loans.

3) OP plan to have 2 to 4 kid.

KlangFool
Good questions to ask. Those are still do able with a bigger house. 1x salary becomes more conservative the more you make. We gross 350k. After 2 back door roths, 2 401ks, 457, HSAs and taxable on top of that we still have more than 12k a month expendable income. We also have a near 1 year E fund. No other debts. 1x salary would put us around 1.5k-1.7k month. 2x salary is a little less than 3k. We still have over 9k a month additional a month. What else am I missing? We don't have kids but saving for college for them wouldn't be an issue even with a 2x salary house.
KlangFool
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by KlangFool »

RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:50 pm
KlangFool wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:29 pm
RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:24 pm
Not Law wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:16 pm Spend no more than your annual income and your future selves will be ever thankful.
Depends on priorities. I save enough for retirement. I'd rather live in a nicer home for my family. My future self would wish we bought a nicer house when we knew we could afford it.
RXfiles,

1) Do you save enough for college education?

2) Do you plan to pay for your kids' college education? Many of my peers choose a nicer house versus paying for college education. Their kids ended up with student loans.

3) OP plan to have 2 to 4 kid.

KlangFool
Good questions to ask. Those are still do able with a bigger house. 1x salary becomes more conservative the more you make. We gross 350k. After 2 back door roths, 2 401ks, 457, HSAs and taxable on top of that we still have more than 12k a month expendable income. We also have a near 1 year E fund. 1x salary would put us around 1.5k-1.7k month. 2x salary is less than 3k. We still have over 9k a month additional a month. What else am I missing? We don't have kids but saving for college for them wouldn't be an issue even with a 2x salary house.
RXfiles,

It should be obvious to you that your circumstances has no relevance with OP.

A) OP makes a lot less.

B) One of the spouse may stay home and further reducing the income.

C) OP has 150K of Student Loan and etc....

KlangFool
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RXfiles
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by RXfiles »

KlangFool wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:54 pm
RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:50 pm
KlangFool wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:29 pm
RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:24 pm
Not Law wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:16 pm Spend no more than your annual income and your future selves will be ever thankful.
Depends on priorities. I save enough for retirement. I'd rather live in a nicer home for my family. My future self would wish we bought a nicer house when we knew we could afford it.
RXfiles,

1) Do you save enough for college education?

2) Do you plan to pay for your kids' college education? Many of my peers choose a nicer house versus paying for college education. Their kids ended up with student loans.

3) OP plan to have 2 to 4 kid.

KlangFool
Good questions to ask. Those are still do able with a bigger house. 1x salary becomes more conservative the more you make. We gross 350k. After 2 back door roths, 2 401ks, 457, HSAs and taxable on top of that we still have more than 12k a month expendable income. We also have a near 1 year E fund. 1x salary would put us around 1.5k-1.7k month. 2x salary is less than 3k. We still have over 9k a month additional a month. What else am I missing? We don't have kids but saving for college for them wouldn't be an issue even with a 2x salary house.
RXfiles,

It should be obvious to you that your circumstances has no relevance with OP.

A) OP makes a lot less.

B) One of the spouse may stay home and further reducing the income.

C) OP has 150K of Student Loan and etc....

KlangFool
I thought you were 1x salary as a hard set rule. My mistake
KlangFool
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by KlangFool »

RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:01 pm
KlangFool wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:54 pm
RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:50 pm
KlangFool wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:29 pm
RXfiles wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:24 pm

Depends on priorities. I save enough for retirement. I'd rather live in a nicer home for my family. My future self would wish we bought a nicer house when we knew we could afford it.
RXfiles,

1) Do you save enough for college education?

2) Do you plan to pay for your kids' college education? Many of my peers choose a nicer house versus paying for college education. Their kids ended up with student loans.

3) OP plan to have 2 to 4 kid.

KlangFool
Good questions to ask. Those are still do able with a bigger house. 1x salary becomes more conservative the more you make. We gross 350k. After 2 back door roths, 2 401ks, 457, HSAs and taxable on top of that we still have more than 12k a month expendable income. We also have a near 1 year E fund. 1x salary would put us around 1.5k-1.7k month. 2x salary is less than 3k. We still have over 9k a month additional a month. What else am I missing? We don't have kids but saving for college for them wouldn't be an issue even with a 2x salary house.
RXfiles,

It should be obvious to you that your circumstances has no relevance with OP.

A) OP makes a lot less.

B) One of the spouse may stay home and further reducing the income.

C) OP has 150K of Student Loan and etc....

KlangFool
I thought you were 1x salary as a hard set rule. My mistake
I am not hard set on 1X salary. I am just alerting OP that in his case, he may not be able to do both: spending 400K to 450K on the house plus paying for college education of 2 to 4 kids. There will be a tradeoff.

KlangFool
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Trader Joe
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by Trader Joe »

HarleeGirl wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 6:06 pm My wife and I are just starting the search for a home. We are trying to determine what a reasonable purchase price would be. We are both on the conservative side of the spending spectrum, but of course we receive encouragement from family/friends on what would be a "reasonable" home price.

Age: Both 28
Gross Income: 210k, stable health care jobs. Graduated 2 and 3 years ago.
Debt: 150k in federal student loans for me. Currently two years into Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Current payment is $0 due to COVID, but will be between $500-700 per month on PAYE plan. Also 10k left on car loan.
Location: Low cost of living area in the Midwest
Current living situation: 2 bedroom apartment @ $740 per month.
Savings: 70k in checking for down payment/emergency fund, 130k in 401ks, Roth IRAs and HSAs. We have been and will continue to max the 401k, Roth IRAs and HSA.
Cost of living: $53k in 2020 living in same apartment.
Future plans: Plan to begin having 2-4 children in a few years. It is likely that our income will drop somewhat when the children are young, as my wife and I would both like to spend time with them at home. I think it's reasonable to assume that our income won't drop to less than $175k gross during the next ten years, but one never knows.

We are currently looking for homes in the 300-350k range, but we realize that we can probably safely afford to even be in the 400-450k range. In our area, 300-350k will buy a ~3000 sq ft, 3-4 bedroom / 2-3 bath house that we would certainly be happy raising kids in when they are young. Homes in the 400-450k range have more of the nice-to-haves, such as a larger lot, finished basement, nice kitchen, etc. We are torn between buying a clearly affordable house and buying more of our dream house. We would each like to be in the situation where we can drop down to part-time work around age 50.

What are everyone's thoughts?
If I were you, the answer is no, not at this time. You already have significant debt and you appear to be looking to add additional debt to your current debt burden.

I would never do this.
Topic Author
HarleeGirl
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by HarleeGirl »

Thank you everyone for your replies so far. We really appreciate it!
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Watty
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by Watty »

HarleeGirl wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 6:06 pm Age: Both 28
Gross Income: 210k, stable health care jobs. .....

Future plans: Plan to begin having 2-4 children in a few years.
It sounds like your net worth is something like $50K so right now is not a good time to stretch too far on the house.

If you do have two or more kids then you may also find out that having a stay at home parent makes financial sense because a lot of the second income is going towards taxes and child care.

You may also need expensive fertility treatments or adoption costs.

Something else to consider is that when you have kids, especially young kids, when you are in a very large house it will be hard to keep track of them. When they are teenagers keeping an eye on them is also very important. It was a different situation but I bought a house when we had a kid in middle school and we intentionally bought a smaller house just to help enforce some closeness.

A 3,000 square foot house is huge especially if it has an unfinished basement. Even without one it is far from a starter house that you would need to really upgrade from even you want to get a fancier house someday when you can afford it better.

Go with the less expensive house. Even getting into that will be a stretch with trying to get a 20% down payment to avoid PMI.

Your life will take unexpected twists turns both good and bad and not being stretched financially may help you deal with them.
Slacker
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by Slacker »

After your 20% down payment, when you move into a much bigger house you'll likely want to buy additional furniture/decorations. I'd budget for that as well. A 3000 sq ft house feels really empty and looks quite stark with the furniture and decorations from a 2 bdrm apartment.
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FOGU
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by FOGU »

If your first two kids are close in age, the first one born 3-4 years from now, you could raise them both in that two-bedroom apartment until they are about 4-5 years old. Babies and toddlers do not take up much space and they don't care about vaulted ceilings, larger lots, finished basements or anything else house-related. Babies take up hardly any space at all, maybe 4 square feet in the first year.

This scenario gives you some 8 years to save like mad on your housing expense (and your other expenses) as a young couple. You could knock out the student loans, and evaluate where you really want to live in a permanent dwelling when you actually need to live there (school, work commute, nearby parks, kids' activities, and on and on).

Just curious, you don't owe me or anyone else an answer, but what is the rush to buy a house you don't need for another 6 to 8 years (by my calculation)? Even if my time estimate is off, you don't need the house right now, and certainly not the big one, when single family house prices are at an all-time stupid.
flyfishers83
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by flyfishers83 »

You can probably afford the upper end of your range. However, My suggestion is to take some time and figure out priorities. Life isn’t all about money, but if you took a couple of years to really save and invest, you have the opportunity to really set yourselves up nicely. Then you’ll be in a position to buy without stretching, have a better idea about kids and be looking at school districts.

What you probably don’t want to do is get on the house treadmill-Buying, furnishing and selling every few years. Unless you buy really well, that’s usually not a good idea in a LCOL area where house appreciation is slower and won’t keep up with selling costs.
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eye.surgeon
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by eye.surgeon »

No point in buying a big house for 2 people. You plan for kids but that doesn't always happen. Move if you need to fit a bigger family when you have it. A lot of unpredictability in future family size-- infertility, special needs kids, etc. all can change plans in a hurry. I speak from experience.

And whatever house you buy I'd pay off that car loan yesterday from your ER.
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neverpanic
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by neverpanic »

Buy the neighborhood, not the house, especially since you're still pre-kids. If you're looking at great homes in the 300-350K range that are ~3000sf, then you can probably get a super-nice, but smaller home in the 240-250K range I would imagine.

I really love my home, but I'd be much happier in a house half the size while still in the same neighborhood.
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jdstripling
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by jdstripling »

Based on your salary and listed expenses, it appears you can afford the mortgage payments at the upper end of your range. I think it really comes down to your priorities on debt reduction, current/future loan rates, and housing market conditions. If you wait several years as some posters have recommended, rates could easily go up a full percentage point or more and your mortgage payments wouldn't be much different buying a house near the upper end of your price range now vs a house near the bottom of your range later.

As much as it is a good idea to have 20 percent down to avoid PMI, I bought my first house 5 to 6 months before I was prepared to and bought more house than I planned to at the time because I came across a deal that provided me around 50k in instant equity. This led to over a year of PMI payments but I still came out way ahead and have now grown into the larger home now.

Another reason to go for a larger home is if you are confident you will remain in the area long term. Transaction costs on buying and selling homes can add up quickly. Keep in mind that your yearly expenses could easily increase by 15 to 20k per year due to additional monthly housing costs (mortgage, property taxes, insurance, utilities, etc).
Topic Author
HarleeGirl
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Re: How much house can we afford?

Post by HarleeGirl »

FOGU wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 11:01 pm If your first two kids are close in age, the first one born 3-4 years from now, you could raise them both in that two-bedroom apartment until they are about 4-5 years old. Babies and toddlers do not take up much space and they don't care about vaulted ceilings, larger lots, finished basements or anything else house-related. Babies take up hardly any space at all, maybe 4 square feet in the first year.

This scenario gives you some 8 years to save like mad on your housing expense (and your other expenses) as a young couple. You could knock out the student loans, and evaluate where you really want to live in a permanent dwelling when you actually need to live there (school, work commute, nearby parks, kids' activities, and on and on).

Just curious, you don't owe me or anyone else an answer, but what is the rush to buy a house you don't need for another 6 to 8 years (by my calculation)? Even if my time estimate is off, you don't need the house right now, and certainly not the big one, when single family house prices are at an all-time stupid.
Great point that there is no rush to buy a home. A quick answer to your curiosity about wanting to buying a house now; We would like to be in a different part of town that has better access to outdoor activities. There aren't any rentals in that area. We are also thinking of getting a dog, which isn't allowed in our current apartment. Everyone's replies have been great. It has certainly helped us lean back to the conservative side of thinking.
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