Many millennials want to buy a home. But maybe they shouldn't just yet, says Trulia's consumer expert.
There are many reasons to buy your first home, including dozens of financial benefits and lifestyle benefits. And right now, it’s a buyer’s market; interest rates are still low, hitting 4.34% for a 30 year fixed loan this month. According to the latest Trulia survey, 68% of Millennials are in the market for a home priced at $200,000 or lower. However, home buying is not for everyone. For all the positive aspects to home ownership, there are some very compelling reasons not to buy a home right now. So, if you’re ready to jump headfirst into the ‘American Dream,’ read this first.
Home ownership provides stability, but that may not always be a good thing when you are in your career-building years. If you are looking for a promotion, an advance, or job change, you may have to relocate to get to that next level. You need to have the ability to move on short notice, maybe even as fast as 30 to 60 days. Having to sell your home quickly could force you to offer it up at a bargain price to snag a buyer, in addition to incurring thousands of dollars of closing costs.
No Room For Baby
Millennials are in the prime years for starting families. You may not have one now, but chances are you may in the near future. So, buying that cozy home or condo perfect for the two of you may not be such a great idea when baby makes three. Afterall, having a baby is stressful enough. Having to sell your house to buy a larger one with a due date looming can be unbearably stressful, costly, and may even put you in the red.
Five Years In
If for any reason you think you may not be able to stay in your home for five to seven years, you should not buy. It will be cheaper to rent. The rule of thumb used to be seven years, but now that the housing market is stabilizing, that timeline has shifted slightly. With only moderate market appreciation, it will generally take five years for you to recoup the costs of buying, selling, and carrying costs. Unfortunately, in the first years of your mortgage, you won’t be building up too much equity. Banks charge a hefty portion of your interest upfront, with very little going to your principal in the first few years.
No Money Down, No House
If you don’t have enough money saved for a down payment, don’t buy a house right now. I am a big proponent of 20% down. That is not always feasible for most Millennials starting out, and it is lot of money to have saved up. But, unfortunately, it is the safest, most conservative approach to home ownership. If you can’t bank on Mom and Dad for a leg up on the down payment, then you need to keep saving.
Too Much Debt
Student loans, car loans, and any other debt you have accumulated are all reasons not to buy a house just yet. You will need to pay down your debt first. Not only will a home purchase put a dent in you debt reduction plan, banks will not be willing to approve you for a loan with a high debt-to-income ratio.
Shaky Job Security
First, purchasing a home with today’s new qualified loan standards requires some consistent job history. When you’re in the early stages of your career, there may be jumps and gaps in your history, so getting the loan is going to be a challenge. Once you own a home, be aware that job situations can change overnight. Losing a job, periods of unemployment, and changes in income are not as easily weathered when you own a home. Your income may change, but your housing costs will remain the same. You won’t be able to quickly downsize, leaving you to sell your home out of financial desperation.
Home buying often leaves buyers cash poor. After you dip into your savings to come up with the down payment, the closing costs, and any renovation that you need to make prior to moving in could leave your bank account in the double digits. That is not the way you want to start living the ‘American Dream.’ Make sure you will have enough cash leftover to weather a job loss, an unexpected emergency, or even a health issue that could impact your earning power. Bottom line: Don’t end up house rich, cash poor and emergency fundless.