ON JUNE 6, 2018, we closed on our new condo in a 55-plus community. The time had come to avoid the stairs in our three-story house. Moving after more than 40 years was quite a transition. Still, condo living is great—so much less house stuff to do or worry about. Eventually, our monthly expenses will be greatly reduced.
Notice I haven’t mentioned selling our house. That’s because we haven’t. The thought of cleaning out a house,
AMONG THE 16 MILLION who served during the Second World War, many returned home, started families and pursued what would become an integral part of the American dream: homeownership. It’s during this time that the term “starter home” was coined.
My grandfather was one of those proud vets. He and my grandmother bought a place in South Dakota, where they started our family.
In 1950, the average new single-family home was 983 square feet.
FOLKS USED TO SAY, “You can’t go wrong with real estate.” They sure don’t say that anymore. It’s been a rollercoaster dozen years for home prices—and some experts think another rough patch is in the offing.
Since mid-2006, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index first tumbled 27.4% and then bounced back 53.6%, for a cumulative 12-plus year gain of 11.5%, equal to 0.9% a year. Could we be facing another dip?
HOW DID MY HUSBAND and I get where we are today—early retirement in Spain? One of the most critical decisions concerned our biggest expense: housing. As the one in charge of the family’s financial planning, I wish I could say I planned this outcome all along, but I didn’t. We were just lucky—though I like to think it was “lucky” in the sense that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
When Jim and I got married in 2003—a second marriage for both of us—we needed a new place for our combined family of four,
WITH MY OFFER OF $375,000 accepted, I was faced with coming up with $80,000 to cover my 20% down payment and other closing costs. I had additional expenses as well: There was a home inspection, radon test and sewer assessment that all had to be paid for. And because I’d be breaking the lease on my apartment, I would also need an additional $1,800 for that.
Coming up with the first $50,000 was easy.
DURING THE FIRST three weeks of house hunting, I looked at a dozen different properties. None met all the criteria I’d set for my “ideal” home, but a couple came close. My price point of $380,000 limited me to looking at smaller, starter-type homes. The competition for those houses was often fierce. On at least three occasions, a home I wanted to view would appear as a “new listing” one day and be marked as “pending sale” the next.
WHAT SORT OF HOUSE should I buy? My first consideration was budget. While I’d been preapproved for a $403,000 loan, I knew I wasn’t going to borrow that much. Doing so would mean spending well over half my net income on my mortgage. Instead, I figured out how much cash I had for a down payment—$80,000—and then decided to take out a loan of not more than $300,000. That way, I’d be making a 20% down payment and could avoid buying private mortgage insurance.
WHEN I FINALLY MADE the decision to apply for a mortgage, time was of the essence. Mortgage rates were rising daily and I wanted to lock in a reasonable rate as quickly as I could.
Luckily, I’m one of those people who pride themselves on being well-organized. The loan officer at my credit union sent me a lengthy list of financial documents I would need to provide before she could begin processing my loan application.
JUST A FEW MONTHS ago, I wrote about my housing plans. Those plans included waiting until I was closer to retirement age before purchasing a home. Having spent the past five years as a renter, I assumed I’d keep renting until I was ready to leave fulltime work behind.
Living in a relatively inexpensive apartment complex came with a few benefits. It allowed me to invest a large part of my income in various retirement accounts.
IT WAS 90 DEGREES—and we were the unfortunate owners of a broken, 18-year-old heat pump. After evaluating our system, one heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor recommended replacement at a cost of $7,472.
Reluctant to spend that chunk of change, we opted for a second opinion. Company No. 2 spent an hour and a half at our house, changed out a capacitor, added refrigerant and treated the system with “stop-leak,” all for $837.99.
WHEN I GOT DIVORCED, I went from living in a 3,000-square-foot house to a 700-square-foot apartment. For 20 years, I’d been a homeowner. I’d dealt with the drudgery of yardwork, the financial pain of a city-mandated “sewer upgrade” and a never-ending stream of issues with broken appliances, furnaces and hot water heaters.
For the past five years, I’ve been a renter. I’ve dealt with noisy neighbors, steep rent increases and the inevitable boredom that comes with living somewhere where you can’t paint the walls,
I HAVE A WIFE, two children, two dogs, and the need for three bedrooms and two bathrooms. In March 2015, I purchased a four bedroom, 3½ bath, 3,000-square-foot house in a nice neighborhood with quality public schools.
The fourth bedroom was largely unnecessary but, like many people, we occasionally get visitors and feel it’s nice to have an extra bedroom for them, instead of spending money on a hotel room. This is the story of how that fourth bedroom cost me more than $121,500,
I BOUGHT MY HOUSE in Silicon Valley by launching a Kickstarter campaign. Together, the team blew past our target and disrupted an entire industry—all while driving for Lyft (not Uber) and Airbnb-ing our couches, of course.
First, what is a house in Silicon Valley? In the lauded land of garages-turned-unicorns, owning a house means any number of things: A wall, if one’s lucky. A floor. Perhaps a couch.
Not so for the wise who live elsewhere—like my Phoenix-based high school best friend.
WHEN IT COMES TO your home, ignorance about taxes isn’t bliss—and it could be disastrous. I often field tax questions from homeowners. Most don’t understand how they’re affected by continuously changing tax rules. Even worse, they’re totally unaware that the rules have changed.
Want to save thousands of dollars? What follows are reminders of how to sidestep tax pitfalls and take maximum advantage of frequently missed—but perfectly legal—opportunities:
Mortgage points. Do you plan to purchase a new dwelling around year-end?
HOUSING IS THE biggest expense for most American families, typically devouring a third of their budget. Are those dollars getting spent wisely? Here are 10 questions to ask yourself:
Should you buy? If you play around with the mortgage calculator at Bankrate.com, you can figure out how big a mortgage you could support with your monthly rent payments. That will give you a sense for whether homeownership is within reach. Even if it is,