Should You Wait to Buy a House?
With real estate prices always on the move, it can be hard to break into homeownership.
This makes sense: the decision to buy a house often costs a ton of money.
Whether house prices are high or low, it can be hard to decide between pulling the trigger on buying a house or waiting for things to change.
Here are some important factors to consider before buying a house:
Personal Financial Readiness
The biggest factor is your personal financial readiness. That is, can you afford homeownership in the first place?
Here are a few key considerations:
- Do you have a stable job and income?
- Do you have good credit?
- Do you have money saved for a down payment?
- Do you have money set aside for reserves?
- Are you prepared for the maintenance and upkeep costs of homeownership?
Especially if housing prices are high, it can be difficult to save up enough just to buy the property. And that’s before you face the ongoing costs of ownership, like maintenance, taxes, insurance, and your mortgage payment.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to overleverage yourself either. If you lost your main income source for a significant period of time, what would happen?
Do you have reserves to weather the storm? Do you have other income streams? What’s your plan B?
If you’re not ready to face a difficult situation like like, it might be better to wait until you’re in a stronger financial position.
The housing market moves up and down. Prices will move for a variety of reasons.
Assuming you buy a house, do you have the temperament to wait out a dip in prices? Or are you trying to make money in the short term?
If you’re buying a house to live in for the long term, it may not matter if prices dip shortly after you buy. You’ll often make up that value over time as prices rebound and continue to rise, but you can’t get to that point if you panic sell.
On the flip side, if you are buying a house because you don’t want to miss out on an upswing in prices, you may be lining yourself up for disappointment.
It can take weeks for prices to collapse. And it can take years for prices to recover.
In the meantime, you’ll have to make mortgage payments on a property that may not be worth what you paid for it.
If you don’t have the temperament to deal with short-term swings in the market, you probably shouldn’t buy.
Your Local Market Factors
Real estate is an inherently local game.
Every market is different.
A house in one market might make a great deal, but it might be terrible when placed in another one.
Prices, rent yields, growth, governance, and many other factors matter. And every local market differs.
Do your research on the local area, and don’t base your decisions on national headlines.
We like to think of “the real estate market” as one, big thing.
Sure, things like monetary and fiscal policy at the federal level can affect many markets. But there are many things that affect your specific market much differently than others.
In many markets, houses make terrible investments. The return on investment (ROI) is often low, and the hassles of being a homeowner might be greater due to regulatory burdens, high taxes, or natural disasters.
Above all, understanding your local market will allow you to identify the best deals. You’ll have an advantage over someone who buys real estate relatively blindly.
Would the House Work as a Rental?
If you’re on the fence about buying a house, consider if it would make a good rental.
That is, if you wanted to move out of the property some day, could you at least break even by keeping it as a rental? Could the rent from that house offset all of the expenses? Would it cash flow?
Run the numbers on the property before you buy it. If you have the ability to make it into a profitable rental property in the future, you’ll be much more flexible.
Consider House Hacking
If you’re really struggling with whether to buy a house or not, consider house hacking.
This is where you buy a property and live in part of it while renting out the other units. This could be an apartment complex, a duplex, a triplex, or even a quadplex.
You’ll be able to offset your housing costs, even in many expensive properties.
With many of the owner-occupied loans programs, like FHA, VA, and conventional loans, you can use that financing to buy a 2 to 4 unit building as well. These are great options for house hacking. So you can still bring a smaller down payment, get a long-term, fixed interest rate, and bring in some rental income while you’re at it!
A great house hack can completely offset your housing costs. And it’s one of the most common real estate investing strategies for beginners because of it.
Why Do You Want to Buy?
It may seem obvious, but you should carefully consider why you are buying in the first place.
There’s a lot to consider before buying a house. It’s a huge decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you’re buying to make money on the house, your considerations are likely very different from someone who just wants the freedom to build his or her dream home.
Similarly, if you’re trying to house hack, you might look at properties very differently from someone who wants to extensively rehab the property or flip it.
Be honest with yourself about why you’re buying. This can help you better understand how to move forward.
Once you understand why you want to buy, then you can think about your finances, your temperament, your local market, and any plans you might have for the property.
The Bottom Line – Should You Wait to Buy a House?
The bottom line is that there’s no right or wrong answer to whether you should wait to buy a house. It depends on your specific situation.
If you’re not ready, don’t do it. You can always wait until you are ready. But if you’re prepared for homeownership, there’s no reason to wait.
Consider your financial situation, your temperament, local market factors, and whether the property would make a good rental.
If you’re not sure on whether you’re ready, don’t be afraid to consult with a professional and someone who has done what you want to do.
This website, and any communication stemming from it, should not be taken as financial or legal advice for your specific situation. Consult directly with a licensed financial professional should you need investment advice and consult directly with a licensed attorney directly should you need legal advice. Assume all links are affiliate links. I am an Amazon affiliate.