Do you think I could afford this?

lot67November 23, 2008

Hi Everyone, Currently my wife and I are looking to buy our 1st house. We're both 29 and have secure jobs. I've never really budget something this big before(been living in an apt). We have about more than 20% for down payment. So here is the math:

Current Take Home Pay,401k has been deducted and health insurance. $6500 mo($10,600 gross)

Probable Mortgage(including tax,insurance)-$2600/mo

student loans falls off in 5-7 years -$600/mo

car payments falls off in 12/09 -$343/mo

Cable/internet -$100/mo

Gas,electric, water,alarm system,other possible bills -$450/mo

Groceries/going out to eat $-500

Car fuel/ins $-280

Entertainment(varies) -$150


Left Over 1477

Extra Savings

Nest Egg/Emergency Funds -800

Roth IRA -200

Left for spending: clothes, things for the house, or just leave it in combine account $477

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Hi, sounds like you're doing well, but apt. living is very different from having a house. There are going to 1,001 little and big things you can't imagine in terms of maintenance and decor to think of, even in a newish, well made house, especially if you don't absolutely love every little thing exactly as it already is when you move in, never mind what 'secrets' the structure might hold, inspector or not. You have put in $450 for htg., but is that based on what you know to be average in your area for a house the size of one you plan on buying? I also was struck by what you still have to pay on school debt. Is that $800/mo. or a year in emergency funds - if it's annual, it's not nearly enough, not these days when what might seem like a secure job cannot be assumed to be so. What you really need to do is sit down with a mortgage loan officer at a bank and go over everything with them to get a true picture of where you stand in terms of actually qualifying for a loan. Plus, of course, there are some hefty items involved in moving to a house, such as lawyer's fees, surveys, taxes, insce., etc. etc., so check into it all before jumping.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 10:56PM
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Sounds ok to me. When I bought my last house, I was higher than you in gross by 15% and my mortgage payment was the same as yours - it was very comfortable for me so I think a small hit in income would make it still comfortable.

Yes - there are a lot more "unexpected" costs with a house - no question. I don't see a line for home improvement/maintenance. The money I dumped there really added up but that was an optional expense. But there are some things that aren't optional. If you really want to plan, I am sure that there is a formula based on sq footage and age of house that approximates your average expenses. It isn't minor. I like to throw this one out for your enjoyment - a sided house should be painted every 5 years and a 1700 sq foot house costs about $3500. That means $50+ a month on paint maintenance on a modest size house. Now add in other maintenance and you can easily be at $100/month - easy. Add in repairs and you could easily get another $100/month - long term average.

On the positive side, here in NC, the utility bills that you mention in my last house 2700 sq ft were more like $200/month. Now - try that in the Northeast. But the point is that you need to look at your area and utility costs for your size house.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 5:33AM
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Hi Lucy- "You have put in $450 for htg., but is that based on what you know to be average in your area for a house the size of one you plan on buying? I also was struck by what you still have to pay on school debt. Is that $800/mo. or a year in emergency funds - if it's annual, it's not nearly enough, not these days when what might seem like a secure job cannot be assumed to be so"

We're currently building a home so everything is new, but youre right nothing will last new and there'll always be something that'll come up. My wife still has school loans and it's $600.00/mo for 7 years($15,000). The $800/mo is a nest egg we're saving. That'll be for any big purchases or emergency fund we need to use.

Our loan officer stated on our combine income, we're at 19.5% front end debt ratio and 25% back end ratio(on gross yearly combine income).

We're also planning to have a child with in 2-3 years. And both planning to work full time.

Our house will be closer to 3000 sq ft

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 6:25AM
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You're not 'both' going to be working full time once a baby or two shows up and not only are they expensive (to some extent anyhow), but the loss of a whole income can be brutal. $800. may be a start, but is peanuts in terms of either emergencies or investment and won't last anything length of time - certainly it won't even cover one month's mtge (Suzie Orman and others say you should always have 6 mos. living expenses for emergencies). And 3000 sq' ... that's a whole lot of house for one young couple (and even 2 kids). Can I say (with good intentions) that the current global crisis is due to people in the US overreaching to the max on housing - not a secret, but people really should be very conservative now, not stretching to their limits for a place that 40-50 yrs ago would have been considered more than enough space for at least two families? Forget the Joneses - they're probably in foreclosure anyhow, and you'll be seen as much smarter if you look to a more reasonable place now, one that you can do well by and still have something left over for living, vs being a slave to all that floor space.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 6:37AM
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Lucy,stop raining on their parade!!! If they want a 3000 sf houese,it's none of your business...And what makes you think they'll be "slaves to all that floor space."?
Perhaps they can afford it,..
You're making BIGTIME assumptions and stereotypes in your follow post,and if you actually listen to the drivel Suze Orman spews you know even less then this poster,she is a quack...Now go stop drinking your cafe latte double expresso from Starbucks, and if you stop drinking 5 of them a day for the next 25 years, you'll save 100 thousand dollars.ROFLMAO

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 7:53AM
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qdogni - I thought one of your constitutional rights was free speech. What part of that have you forgotten?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 8:21AM
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Free speech is okay... but I agree that you were a bit harsh.

The OP does not need a lecture about his choice.
He is free to build what he wishes.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 8:53AM
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Free speech,YES...Bad manners,NO...It constantly amazes me how people whack those who choose to spend THEIR money on large homes,etc, and find nothing wrong with it...I have yet to see a post or thread criticizing people who can't AFFORD to do it...envy perhaps? Jealousy? hmmmmmmm....

Now the next bunch of follow-ups will be how they CAN afford it,but choose not to...While i am certain that may be the case,the posters who criticize others homes likley can't ;)

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 9:23AM
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Lot67, here's what you're doing right:
1. 20%+ down payment; excellent. This used to be the standard, ADULT way of buying a house.

2. You're both 29 and about to leave the dumb-twenties. I always flinch when I read about callow little kids (early 20s) thinking they deserve a house.

3. You're both FULLY EMPLOYED. In these economic times, that ain't chopped liver. Please, continue to let contraception be your best friend!

I see from your second post that you're currently building a home. Does that mean ground has been broken yet, or are you still hovering over blueprints, in the planning stage? I agree with Lucy on the excessiveness of 3,000 sq. ft.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 9:51AM
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I really don't find 3000 sq ft being excessive. It all depends on how you live and what your needs are. For example if you live in an area without basements then this can't even be compared to an area where you have basements. If you can afford it and can afford to maintain it along with the higher cost of monthly bills as compared to a similarly built smaller home then go for it. It is too much house for me as I'm more for having shop/garage space, but each to their own. What I want in shop space others would call that wasted space as well. I'm also in a warm climate so don't need as much indoor space.

Lucy - I think it is wrong of you to assume that just because people have a baby that they won't be working full-time either. There are plenty of people that do and manage just fine.

To OP Sounds to me like you have a sound plan and a straight head on you. 20% down is great. I do worry you may not have enough in emergency funds. Also I did see property taxes and home owners insurance in your numbers, but remember that they are variable and could increase each year depending on where you are.

Since planning on kids you might want to consider that cost too and what daycare costs are in your area since working full-time as well as just regular costs of having a baby. There are lots of calculators out there to give you an idea. It seems like your current saving of $800 mostly would go towards daycare once you have a child.

As others have mentioned even with a new home there is still lots of expenses. You'll want to furnish all those rooms, put curtains, and other decor items. I'd suggest you figure those items into having the cash available to do as well.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 10:22AM
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I think the numbers work, but I think you need more savings. At least three months of living expenses in a liquid fund (not a 401k, etc.).

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 12:53PM
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You can definitely afford your house based on your current debt and dual income.

I think before have children, if possible, do away with the car loan and try to do away with the student loans. If you shed those two, you can always cut back on eating out and learn how to use coupons to make up the wage-gap while you or your wife stays home for XX months when the little one is born. When whomever does return to work, the cost of child care will probably add up to those two current payments, and you will be no worse off financially than you currently are. In the mean-time, try and set aside six months of income for a rainy day.

The 3000 sq ft argument is one that is frequently had on this forum. Do a search and you will see how heated this discussion has become. Bottom line is no one on this forum (or anywhere else for that matter) knows your space needs, nor will they be paying your bills nor living in your home. So, do as you please as long as you can afford it, and block out the naysayers.

Best wishes :-)

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 1:28PM
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My guess is that you are going to "feel" broke with that mortgage. The house is new and probably much bigger than your apartment, you will need some type of window treatments and probably want more furniture to fill the space. If you want kids, even if both of you work it will be a stretch to pay for daycare. $477 sounds like a lot of spending money, but for 2 people it's $60 a week.

My point is to some people $477 extra would be fine, but my guess is that you are used to having a good bit more and will "feel" broke. There is no vacation in that budget or anything else. You sill need to register your car, little things like that will be a burden. It will take you 3 years to save up 6 months of expenses if you save $800 a month and don't touch a dime of it.

I wouldn't do it. Actually I did do it about 6 years ago, I woldn't do it again. House poor stinks.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 2:59PM
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I have to laugh at the square footage "controversy". I live in an area where 3,000 is average and the neighborhood I am building in is 4,000 average. Now I could see if it was 6,000 sq feet but I am surprised (shocked?) to here of issues with 3,000. If you can afford it - go for it.

In my last neighborhood, there are a row of empty nesters living in 5,000-6,000 - a bit ridiculous. The "green" couple with 6 bathrooms (he bikes 8 miles to work) - quite laughable if it wasn't so sad.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 3:04PM
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I think you will be happier and more confident of your purchase/build if you pay off the car and pay off the student loans first. You didn't give the interest on the student loans and I am out of touch as to whether the interest is tax deductible, last I heard was no. The money in your current budget that would go to mortgage service could be spent, starting now, on reducing the other debt, thereby giving you a feel for your future finances. Cutting loose $2600/month towards that debt will really knock it down, and you can add some to your downpayment fund too.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 4:04PM
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qdonj - I answered the poster's question as I saw it - they ASKED if they could afford a house, and what to most of the world is a large one, and so I gave my opinion not only on affordability, but (god forbid) also referenced the fact that the entire world right now is in recession due to the greediness of people who somehow think they 'need' mansions for nothing (and of course the system who let them do it). One can blame the system (lenders, etc.) but there's a point at which the buyers themselves need to take some responsibility for informing themselves about the process and their future should they blindly sign on for unnecessarily extravagant places which a little foresight might have shown them they couldn't afford on a long term basis. These are young people coming straight from an apt. to a very large house in the midst of a terrible economic landscape. They may have good jobs and no kids right now, but that doesn't mean those things will be there forever and if they asked about affordabiity, I think it's a good idea to advise them of the whole picture. Obviously they're free to do whatever they want, but they asked for advice and I gave mine. Why don't you have any, except for going off at me?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 4:37PM
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Giving an opinion is what this forum is about..Chastizing a poster for their choices is another..3000 sf may be a large home in some sections of the country, and perhaps in many areas..However, as others pointed out, it is NOT that large, and there are areas where this home would be modest

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 4:52PM
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Lot67, I think your numbers look doable to me. My only concern is how much "nest egg" you already have saved; should be at least 6mos of your take home. And the nest egg should be only for absolute emergencies, not "fun stuff".

If it were me, I would do as other posters suggested and pay off the car loan before buying. You are going to want to furnish your new digs and getting rid of the car loan will allow you to do that without dipping into the nest egg.

From a cynical standpoint, you might want to seek advice from a real estate market expert in your sense in buying now unless you are fairly confident that the market has bottomed out in your area.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 5:16PM
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Don't forget that you probably will have a nice mortgage interest deduction at tax time that offsets expenses a bit. I would also recommend that young people buy much less than they can afford, to allow for unexpected life changes. I don't care what the square footage is, I would choose to be frugal so that I have a cushion. If you have to ask us if you can afford this house, you probably are already thinking about these things.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 5:48PM
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Hey guys, I hope I didn't start a heated debate in here! My intentions we're not to get anyone fired up, but to seek advice from those who have been through this process. I guess my question should've been can we live "comfortably" rather than "afford". But that's such a hard answer to give because only I know that.

I do, however, want to thank everyone on the feedbacks(even those who don't agree) I do value those and will continue to look at them from every angle.

I agree with Lucy, we can definitively purchase a smaller house and live even more comfortable(travel more, go out to eat, buy newest gadgets). But we want a house that we can live in 7-10 years and ride out this bad economy. So why don't we get something we'll both enjoy? But at the same time be smart about it. And the only way is listening to our resources(IE: lender, forum,families etc).

Anyway, to answer some of your questions:
1.We have no cc debt and my car loan will fall off 12/2009. There's no benefit paying off early, because this is the final year of the loan and most of it is applied to principal. My wife's car is paid off. Her student loans is a govt loan and there is no benefit paying off early.

2.As a wedding gift, her parents will be furnishing our home with new bed,couches, and dinette table.(we're both very blessed) Other rooms can be furnished in the future. I guess that's the excitement of home ownership right? Looking forward to get new things.

3. Since we're making a big down payment, our EF funds will be low, closer to 2 months of saving. But we're hoping nothing tragic will occur and save up a lot the 1st year in the house.

4. $2600/mo is principal,interest,tax,insurance. This is a rough estimate + or - $100.00 If this helps our annual gross combine income is between $134k-$150k.

Again, we both want to live comfortable, but willing to stretch the 1st yr to make it happen. Once my car loans fall off that;s an extra $343.00 a month, but I do understand in the future we'll need new cars and by then we should have money saved up and increase salaries.

Lastly,does my estimate utility bills,groceries look right? I try to estimate them higher..

Again, Thank to all of you that responded so far.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 6:05PM
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I would suggest that you only buy as much home as you can afford on one income. You never know until after you have kids if one of you will want to stay home and parent them. There are also no guarantees that both of your jobs are secure. I don't think that you will ever regret the extra security that you will have knowing that you haven't extended yourself to the max, and the flexibility you will have in your life in not being a slave to your mortgage.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 10:20PM
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"I would suggest that you only buy as much home as you can afford on one income."

Given the items I listed on my 1st post, just on my salary alone, I can afford mortgage,Student loan, Car payment,utilities and groceries. Which leaves items: fuel, cable/internet, savings, and entertainments to my wife's monthly income.

Can most of you afford to live on 1 income? It seems in my situation it's possible to live on my income, but it's really squeezing(bc of car and student loan). So in our situation we're looking a dual income to afford this house. Would this be ok?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 5:05AM
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I think Terriks had a good idea (l income). In another time (the 90's?) and for another more experienced buyer, depending on two incomes might be a great idea, but in the present economic situation, having never been a home owner and contemplating the definite expenses of a child (too often day care ends up costing more than it's worth if working entails 'office' clothing, lunches out, transportation costs, etc.), not to mention jumping into what would be a very large house anywhere else but the once affluent areas of the richest country on earth, I would consider the second (or lesser) income as enforced savings (of which you don't have any to speak of outside of your 40lK), 'mad' money for extras, charity, future educational funds for said children, and a fund for such time as the second earner isn't working, permanently or otherwise, voluntarily or otherwise. But if you want to max yourselves out (and ignore the present economy which is slated to last for years) feel free.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 6:29AM
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Please please buy the house. You can afford it - in fact you could probably afford more. I feel like you are getting very conservative advice here. You must live your life the way you want to. Sure - you could chill in an apartment for a few more years and then perhaps all the liquidity put into the money supply will have driven up inflation to 10%. That new house will be just as affordable as now or less so.

No one can predict the future but given that people are crying hard about the price of their home, I suspect the "activist" government will do all it can to prop up home prices. Easiest way is to print money - money gets worth less, so presto - assets get worth more. So buy the house, it will only get more expensive in a few years.

Think about it - the best way to redistibute wealth is to inflate it away. If the dollar falls 50% in value over 5 years, then houses get worth more and the wealthy become less wealthy. Presto - the middle class gains in a relative sense.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 6:48AM
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I echo the advice to buy only what you can afford for one income. You never know what the future holds. Thankfully, for us, we can afford our home on a modest income and the disability that my husband receives. Too many people would have had to give up their home and severely downsize in our situation. Being diagnosed with a permanant incurable health issue may not seem possible to you as you are entering your 30's, but it CAN happen to anyone at any time. Currently, you sound as though your income is the greater one, and you are relying on that one to be the primary for your life plan. I suggest that you plan around the lesser income being the qualifier for the amount of home that you can afford. And please maximize any and all retirement funding that you can. YOu never know what issues will arise, and it's far better to be able to retire fully funded at age 50 because you can rather than downsize and sell assets at age 60 because you can't afford the health care of a permanantly dependent child for instance. I know my post has a lof of "what ifs" that you may feel don't apply to you. Currently, they may not. But, life is all about planning for those "what ifs" and taking on a mortgage of that size because you depend on your job to be the primary breadwinner is a error.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 9:07AM
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Blah - blah - blah, "buy only what you can afford for one income," Blah - blah - blah. That's crap advice.

You can well afford the house you are building. You are a young couple with, I'm sure, lots of prospects ahead of you and you sound practical and down to earth. You'll do just fine. As far as your comfort level goes with the amount of debt you are caring, I think I look at it more like investments. When you are young you can take more risks and as you get older you can become more conservative. So if you plan to take on huge debt, do it when you're young and enjoy life!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 9:45AM
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Here's another cry of "Buy the House!" You guys are in a very good position right now. Your income can certainly afford $2600 a month without leaving you house poor. It may feel tight for a year or so, but you'll adjust.
The chorus of "You never knows" are aggravating. You never know if you'll lose a job, get a better job, decide against having kids, decide to have a dozen kids, decide to be SAHM or SAHD, decide to both work full time, be seriously injured in a accident, win the lottery, lose a spouse, get divorced, stay together for 50 yrs, blah, blah, blah. All you can do is plan wisely and live your life.

I was a SAHM for a decade, so we did have to qualify for a mortgage and live on one income. Our 1st mortgage in our mid 20's ate up over 40% of our take-home pay (after deductions for taxes, health insurance, and 401K). That was for a basic 3bd/1.5 bath townhouse, so we didn't go overboard. The "you never know" crowd would have insisted we not buy at all or I go back to work or a million other things that really didn't mean much to our family. Instead we cut the budget to the bone and took the plunge. It was hard at first, but over the years his income grew and we were able to afford larger houses. Suddenly the kids were 9 & 10 and I went back to work part-time and income jumped again. Finally this year I went back full-time. Sometimes, we actually look back fondly at those house poor days with 2 kids under the age of 2, no meals out, no movies,no new clothes for me for months, no furniture, etc. We were together and it was fine. You guys are a *way* better financial situation that we were back then but you'll end up adjusting to the new expenditures.

Sorry to be so long winded, but buy the house!

BTW, depending on where you live, the utilities look fine, but the food spending may be a little low if you eat out at lunch, go to nicer restaurants, or shop places like Whole Foods. And if you do both decide to work full time with a infant child, budget closer to $2000 a month for quality childcare. Really, it is that expensive.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 9:52AM
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IMO, the monthly house payment is too high for you. It is stretching you just a bit to far where every month. Your style of living is going to be compromised horribly. Here are some things to consider.

1) Will you buy a new car in the next 7-10 years? In reality, you will probably buy 2 cars in this period.

2) Lawn/Landscaping is not in your budget. You will need a lawn mower, edger, blower, weed/feed, fertilizer, bug stuff, etc (and/or you hire a lawn service). Since this is a new home, you will likely be adding lots of plants(trees, schrubs, flowers, MULCH 4X year) to the landscape like most new homeowners do, and landscape lights and islands and edging and all that other fun stuff that goes on in the spring for homeowners. This is especially true for new homes in new subdivisions. This can be a couple thousand dollars/year before you know it. Add general household tools to this. You will want storage things in your garage or basement, maybe a workbench, lights, etc. You can easily spend $400/month at Home Depot forever...without even buying big ticket items.

3)You don't budget for furniture, decor, clothing, electronics, computers. Sure, you don't have to spend a lot, but plan on at least a few hundred dollars(or more) per month toward all this stuff. The little stuff ads up, even socks, underwear, shoes, sheets, a vase or hamper or picture for the wall. Maybe it's time for a new laptop every 4 years, a camera or a cell phone, etc.

4) Where is the buget for personal items and care: shampoo, hair cuts or salon services, medical items(co-pay for MD visits, cough syrup, glasses, dental expenses), perfume, make-up, purses, belts.

5) Pet/Dog? You might get a pet. This is not real expensive, but can add to monthly costs for food and vet care, plus possible outlay for a fence, crate, general pet supplies.

6) vacations?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 10:29AM
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Also your property taxes likely will increase each year .

I realize above that you DID already account for clothing/house stuff in your list of expenses. In my post above, I specified otherwise. But I don't think you budgeted nearly enough for it.

I think you can afford the home, but I think you will feel that you are a slave to the monthly payment and it will have a negative affect on your overall living to the point that you always feel broke and will be forced to NOT buy many things that you normally should be able to easily afford because you will always feel stretched.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 10:50AM
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I rarely post here, but your financial situation is very close to our own (now) in many ways (but we're way older with one child, and when we got into our house, we were not near as well off financially as you are today), so I thought I could add some real world experience.

First off, before this current economic situation, your numbers would have seemed EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE. You have 20% down, no credit card debt, a modest secured debt (car), student loans that are way lower than most people have in cc debt. and your total debt-to-income ratio is really sound.

As for all the what-ifs. You're saving in a 401K plus IRA for retirement, and able to put away at least an additional 12% of your take home. That additional savings will help alot with life's what-ifs.

As for what to do if you have children. There are so many ways to creatively thrive without full-time $2000/month daycare (yep, that's what it could easily cost you). My DH and I work different hours. I work at home (changed from a corporate job to my own business before having a child). We had an occasional in-home nanny/mother's helper.

We also dealt with ups and downs in the economy, job changes (not always for more money), major family illness, ups and downs in home value, and a major house addition. When times were flush, we added to our son's college savings and did more traveling. When times were tough, we ate frugally, did more kitchen gardening, cut out all the extras and waited it out.

Also, no one mentioned this, but it's obvious real estate prices are super low (at the bottom, who knows?) but that goes in cycles. If you don't have any near-term risks on the horizon, you have a chance to gain some real equity in the coming years.

One last thought... if you're buying a house that you'll grow into, how are the neighborhood schools? Is the neighborhood up and coming, stable, totally new and unknown, young families or not?

Another vote for moving ahead with a house purchase.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 12:59PM
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The current numbers would make me feel uncomfortable. A two month emergency fund is just not enough- particularly in such an unstable time. I also agree that you will feel house poor- some people are content with that, others aren't.

I also agree about being able to live on one income. No matter how certain you are that you will both work after parenthood some things are just out of your control. For example, you might have a child with severe medical issues. One of my best friends is a doctor who is close to shutting down her practice because she has had so much nanny trouble and the costs of working are becoming not worth it. She worked very hard all through school and is one of the most career driven people I have ever known. The best laid plans and all of that!

In your shoes, my DH and I would be on the lookout for a less expensive home. You will still have the joy and fun of that first home together but you will have more money to sock away and more options. We LOVE options!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 1:10PM
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Not knowing your lifestyle this is a hard question to answer (as you can probably see by all the responses)

FWIW, I would err on the side of caution. You have a lot of things happening in the future. In theory, yeah, you can afford the house and the house-poor thing will only last a few years IF things go smoothly (you both get raises/promotions, you pay off cars, no cars break down, the house needs no major repairs - new houses need more than one expects). I found that life is never like theory.

You can still buy a house but maybe you need to look at some assumptions and expectations before going forward (ah, never mind, it sounds like you've already broken ground).

In any case, if you did not include children in your future, things would be pretty easy. But children change things a LOT. For instance, I would say, do not count on two full-time salaries in 5 years if you want to start a family. Maybe count on 1.5 salaries instead. I'm not saying your wife will not want to work full-time but change the expectation of two people working full-time. How do things look then?

Again, I'm not saying you cannot afford the house. It's a matter of your lifestyle and your tolerance for uncertainty. I'm pretty conservative (having made some mistakes) and I agree with others that you will feel more comfortable paying off the loans (at a minimum, the car loan, because there is no benefit to keeping the loan).

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 2:13PM
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I wouldn't do it.

Why? My household income is higher than yours and I can't imagine paying $2600 each month for a house. When I used to have a mortgage, I paid $1900 / month and felt house poor.

And I don't have expensive children.

I'm a firm believer to never go into debt for something you don't absolutely need. Isn't there a reasonable living alternative that isn't that expensive?

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 8:35AM
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Hi Lot,

based on your numbers your mortgage debt would be about 40% of take home and total debt about 55% of take home. i think that is stretching it a lot. i agree with rileysmom, you are putting money into savings but a new house whether new const or old is going to eat that quickly with maintenance, new furniture, updates, etc.

at that mortgage you are at about a $350-400k house. i believe this may be too much house (money wise) for your budget. i say this because my wife and i were in the same position % wise 6 years ago and it was a real problem keeping up with the payments. at over 50% of take home pay dedicated to the fixed costs of mortgage/bills/debt does not leave much room for emergencies. we ended up reducing savings and/or 401k contributions, plus a new family adds to costs.

i dont mean to rain on your parade but i would use that 20% and pay off the cars and student loans. why keep paying interest on those debts. wait another year to re-save that 20% and buy a house then. i think thats the way to go. just wait 12-18 months and you will have a house w/o any other debts.

good luck

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 9:33AM
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As you can see, there are really different views on this.
I think the variety of perspectives comes from our different age brackets and where we live. I live in So. Cal., so $350-400,000 buys a very small condo in a very working class neighborhood. It's hardly extravagant by any means.

But at this point, by all the traditional numbers (20% down, 19.5% front end debt ratio and 25% back end ratio), you are well-qualified and certainly a picture perfect home buyer from any lender's perspective (not just current lending practices which have gotten us in so much economic trouble, that's using numbers that I learned from my father when he was in real estate more than 30 years ago).

So it's up to you, your view about the future, your feeling about both of you working to afford a house, your confidence in your ability to continue to have a job, your health, etc.

As an aside, I've also seen many of the arguments about size of house on this forum. And I would suspect if you posted your question with exactly the same numbers, but said you and your wife wanted to buy a modest 1200 sf 3 br entry level home, I think you would have a much higher level of support from folks on this forum.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 11:03AM
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spacific said..
. " And I would suspect if you posted your question with exactly the same numbers, but said you and your wife wanted to buy a modest 1200 sf 3 br entry level home, I think you would have a much higher level of support from folks on this forum."

How true!!!!! Too many large home haters here,lol...

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 12:35PM
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beachlily z9a

OK, I'm retired. But never in our lives have we ever had a 3,000 sq. ft home. In the Atlanta area, we were forced into a 2,400 sq ft home, the only one story we could find. We hate 2 levels. Now we are in a 2,000 sq ft single-level home that we love. We have never had children so that is an issue.

So the OP wants 3,000 sq. ft. with the hope of having a family. Well, families have survived in much smaller homes very well. Also, larger. Smaller homes will cost less, have less upkeep and will allow you to enjoy life. The lesson here is that starting with the size of home that your parents have isn't a good plan. They worked hard to get where they got, and that's not a starting point for you!

It wouldn't be painful to purchase a somewhat smaller home. Maybe not your goal, but you know, we all had to build to get where we got. My husband and I are multi-million people because we purchased less than we could afford. Not a bad model.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 10:00PM
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Don't forget the quote at the top of this forum "The best way to realize the pleasure of feeling rich is to live in a smaller (or less expensive) house than your means would entitle you to have." - Edward Clarke

    Bookmark   November 27, 2008 at 12:12PM
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beachlily ---
If you and your husband have 1000 sq ft each (two of you in a 2000 sq ft house), why knock someone who wants the same (them and at least one more in 3000 sq ft)??

While I would not want a large house - and no, I am NOT jealous of those who do - I don't understand why so many appoint themselves "square footage police" and want to condemn those who can afford more and desire more....

    Bookmark   November 27, 2008 at 1:35PM
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I agree - buy the house. You've done commendably well with your money so far.

I don't understand the comment that people in their early 20's think they deserve houses. My dh and I bought our first house when we were 19 and 20, and we worked our butts off to save the 20% down payment. We absolutely deserved that house...why not?

And having children won't necessarily take away the 2nd income. yeah, they're expensive, but my husband and I do both worth full time and its working for us.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2008 at 5:49PM
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The first thing you said I found impressive was that you didn't have any credit card debt. The second that you have a traditional down payment. You both sound like you are intelligent and responsible people, and appear to be upwardly mobile. My first husband and I were in practically the same situation many years ago when we bought our first home (if you don't count the condo we had previous to that). We were both in engineering at the time, and the early seventies weren't a stellar economic environment either. Mortgage rates were sky high, and wages were being frozen, jobs in technical fields tightening. What is different from your situation is that we already had two kids, and our total mortgage debt was equivalent to one year of our earnings, and neither of us had student loans to contend with.

Times change, don't they? LOL. But, the more they change, the more they stay the same. I think you are ready for home ownership for sure. Personally, I think the economic situation is going to get a lot worse, before it gets better, but that's just my gut feeling. That alone would not defer me from buying a home. There are a lot of bargains out there. If you could find an equivalent house with a lower mortgage payment than a new build, you might be able to have the best of both worlds.

What I am seeing down the road, as a given, are higher taxes, much higher utility bills, and sudden and unexpected job losses. We weren't in our new home a year when the company for whom I worked just shut their doors. Thankfully, my husband had health insurance coverage through his job as well, because that can be an exorbitant expense to shoulder as a private individual. I ended up going back to school instead and changing my whole career focus. IOW, falling back to one income. Thankfully, we had that option, and could still live comfortably, so there is something to be said for that. The young folks who lived across the street from us bought a similar size and style of house. They maxed themselves out so much that for the two years I lived there, they lived in that house without furniture. LOL.

Yes, if you're are going to take chances, the best time to do it is when you are young. Yes, you can have children and both parents work full time. I regret a lot of the years my children were in somebody else's supervision as they grew up, but it's a way of life for most people these days out of necessity, and that is strictly a personal attitude, and I certainly don't be critical of anyone who doesn't want to give up their career to be a SAHM. That's a very personal decision. But, it's nice to have it be a decision, not a necessity.

The only thing I see in your situation is that you don't have nearly enough put away for unforeseen circumstances. And even if you did, and even if your calculated expenditures are spot on, the extra three hundred something a month you'll save on your car payment won't go very far. Can you really not splurge on anything at all until the student loan is paid? Yes, I think you can pull it off if you want to, but there'll be a few years of living on pins and needles :-) Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2008 at 3:01AM
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Is the home you are looking at getting into at the bottom of your local market's range, in the middle, or at the top?
Is 20% down/$2,600 per month +/- a starter home? Here's the reason I ask.
As a first time homeowner you will be faced with expenses that you are simply not thinking about in the budget you outlined. Do you want furniture? How about a new Grill?
Enough paint to paint one new room a different color will eat up 20% of your $477 monthly discretionary money.
On paper you can afford the house, but you haven't begun to think about making it a home. I am 100% for home ownership, and I think stretching a bit to get into your first house is not a bad thing, but I guess it's hard for me to fathom taking on that kind of mortgage obligation the first time out.
We put 5% down in 1999 on our first home, a 65 year old fixer-upper. We had very little money left after walking out of the closing, and simply didn't think about how much owning a home would really cost us. Things worked out very well for us in the end, but it could have just as easily gone another way.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2008 at 2:14PM
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It's not IF you can afford it, because you can the question you should be asking yourself is SHOULD you. You mentioned you and your wife are both 29. I am 29 and I have 3 daughters - ALL of which I was on bedrest with and could not work. No work = no income, her short term disability could run out and will before her maternity leave is up. Can you live on one income - what if your wife wants to stay home with the kids - can just you swing this mortgage payment? What if one of you loses a job? You should always be able to live on one person's salary, do not depend on two. Especially in this economy, this is why we are in a crunch, because people take too much on their plate. Be careful.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2008 at 10:21PM
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Hi everyone-

I hope you guys had a great holiday weekend! I'm still working slowly on my leftovers! :)

Again, Thank you for all the feedbacks!

Any of you nervous when you bought your 1st home? We did all the math and we can afford it, also got approved easily for the loan(even during new strict guidelines).

But with all the fear the economy is going through, I'm a bit scared and always doubting myself and rechecking my affordability. What are some thoughts and advice or was this something you felt during your 1st purchase?

Also, what do you guys think of the tax credit? Even though I have to pay that back, it would be nice to have $7500 credit and putting in EF savings just in case if I need it (since were planning on putting a large downpayment and will only have 2 months of EF).

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 6:33AM
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Lot67: For my first, second, third and fourth homes..I always bought for less than what I was approved for, usually buying a much, much less expensive home(lower payments/loan) than approved. So I never really was nervous about affordability of the monthly payment, because I made sure the payments were within my comfort zone, not the comfort zone of the lending institutions.

If I was in your shoes, I would not feel comfortable with the monthly payment at all, even being approved easily, etc. So I understand your nervousness totally.

I think in a year or two, you will feel so house poor that you will seriously consider selling. Or, if one of you loses your job and can't replace it with similar pay, you might be forced to sell. The financial strain could also have a negative affect on your marriage and you could end up divorced and then will sell and each go your own way. The strain would not be from being unable to afford the monthly payment. Instead, it would be strain over other minor financial issues that are the direct result of you paying so much each month toward the mortgage and not having left over money for other stuff that is important but you will have to do without.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:58AM
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As I read this thread I keep coming back to the same question.
In the area in which you are looking to purchase a home, where does the home you are looking at and budgeting for sit in the market? Is it a "starter" or your dream home or somewhere in between?
When I referenced my first home purchase above (5% down) I was talking about the following kind of home-
Under 1200 Square feet
65 years old
In need of work, but with potential.
The home was located in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the USA-Fairfield County, CT. At the time (almost 10 years ago) our rent was $1300 for a 1 bedroom apartment. It wasn't a palace or a penthouse-just a pretty average apartment. It wasn't really close to work, but it was as close as we could afford.
Our household income was right at 100K at the time. Mortgate rates were in the 7.5% range. The taxes on that house were $3000 per year.
We wanted a house. The area was so cost prohibitive that we had to move 10 miles further out to get ANYTHING in a decent neighborhood. Everything we looked at needed a LOT of work. The home we bought had some charm that we didn't see in others and we hoped that if and when we went to sell it a buyer would see the same things we did.
Over the first year, we replaced the following-
Windows, Siding, Gutters, Kitchen (to the bare walls). We used Home Depot "same as cash" offers to buy the materials, and I did the lion's share of the work myself. We couldn't afford to pay a contractor. I found a handyman who worked with me @ $300 for an 8 hour day and used him when I needed a helper. I painted the entire interior myself.
The house was too small for us the day we moved in, but it was all we could buy in our area. I gave up every day off I had for that first year and turned that house into the nicest home on the block.
Our hard work and sweat equity paid off. We sold that house 4 years and 10 days after we moved into it for 70% more than we paid for it. After ALL of our expenses including all of the materials,we walked away from that closing with nearly 15 times our original down payment. That money was our key to relocating to a more affordable area of the country. It changed our lives.
I fully realize that it would probably be nearly impossible to do that ever again, ESPECIALLY in the current RE market.
I'm not bragging about what happened to me-I had no idea that things would play out that way for me. I got VERY lucky, but I also busted my rear end working on that house.
The point of all of this is that it takes time to build wealth. If there is a way to spend less money at this time and still get a home that meets your BASIC criteria, that's what I would look to do. The odds are decent that if you pick the right house it should minimally maintain its value. If you do some work yourself and the market comes back you could make some money.
I'm reading this back and I kinda sound like an annoying parent! I guess I wish I had some guidance when I was a first time buyer-we figured it out for ourselves, but it was mostly dumb luck that affected our outcome.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:07AM
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Have you looked at your actual receipts for your bills and used them to figure out the numbers above? I know it's really easy to say "Oh, we won't spend more than $125 a week on food" but that's $2.78 per meal (4.17 per meal if you skip breakfast). When I was getting ready to quit my job to start my own business, we went through the receipts and realized we were pushing $100 per week just for lunches (it's $30 now that we're only eating out once a week).

Also, your cable/internet bill seems low to me. You also forgot cell phone and landline (if you have one) bills.

You can afford to make the payments, but whether you'll be comfortable or stressed about it is your decision, not mine. We currently have about $1400 per month for food and incidentals, and it has cramped our style. We're not hard up by any means, but we don't buy things we don't genuinely need without thinking about it (although I'm not sure that's a bad thing).

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 2:12PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I've moved from a 3,000 square foot home to one that is about 2150 and can't believe how much less work it is to maintain this house. In this smaller home we have two very nice-sized bedrooms with full bathrooms en suite, a large kitchen, walk-in pantry, laundry room, large living room, a dining room, a TV room, a computer room, and the foyer which is actually another furnished room, off of which there is another bathroom. The house is one-story and has extremely good flow through all the rooms and everyone thinks the house is much larger than it is. And yet, when it comes to vacuuming and mopping, those chores seemed endless in the larger house. This house also has a much cozier, personal feel. I mention this because no one has really addressed this issue from a standpoint of quality of living. If you're building you can have a house designed that lives very large with less square footage and a smaller mortgage.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 4:47PM
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And someone else thinks that 2150 sq ft is HUGE and believes that 900 square feet is the perfect size for a house. This is a matter of personal preference. [I lived in 450 sq ft for many years.]

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 5:11PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

graywings, you're quite right, it is a matter of personal preference, and the poster should do exactly what he thinks is best for him and his wife. However, coming from apartment living does not give one a good sense of the size of a large home, or the amount of upkeep it entails. I've lived in many different homes of varying sizes and just wanted to mention what my experience had been. Some points may not have occurred to him since at this stage they are outside his range of experience. So many things you find out by doing, and then sometimes it's too late. Still, we're all individuals with different wants and desires, and any advice can only be a general guideline or suggestion.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 6:37PM
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i still think you bought too much house ($$$) for your existing financial situation. i think you should have paid off your debts with your down payment and then re-save your 20%.

my wife and i were in the exact same boat and it was very stressful. we did it but i would not recommend it again. i would have spent less money to be more secure. with your debts/payments you do not leave enough room for emergencies. $477 is a not a lot if something goes wrong with the house.

good luck anyway.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:02PM
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What's the difference between your current rent and your proposed mortgage payment? Do you feel comfortable paying that much more (plus other homeowner related costs) for housing? My husband and I always qualified for a lot more than we paid for our homes. Just because you qualify for a certain amount doesn't mean that you should spend that much.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:30PM
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I was 24 when we bought our first home and I was a nervous wreck because it was more than I thought we could afford. Moving from an apartment in NYC into a 2800 sf house. Thirty years and 2 kids later, it was the best decision we made. There were struggles, but life is full of them and you learn and manage. We are getting ready to sell our first and last house and I don't regret any of it.

Life has a way of always sorting itself out. Good or bad, I'd go for it or you'll probably always regret it.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 12:59AM
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But WHY would they 'always regret it'? There are a ton of great houses out there to buy, so it's not like this one is the only one they'll ever get a chance at, and I doubt if it's even their dream home, because until you've lived in a house (that is not your parents') you can't really know what makes it a dream instead of a mistake.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 6:07AM
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Because sometimes you just have to take the plunge into the deep end of the pool.

For goodness sakes, this is a healthy young couple making $140,000 a year and no credit card debt. They have a family support network. And they obviously have put some thought into this.

It reminds me of a story my parents used to tell about my aunt and uncle with 2 young children who lived in a tiny apartment waiting for interest rates to drop. This was back in the 1950's when interest rates were around 5 percent. The kids were teenagers by the time they bought a house, and by then I think the rates had gone up to 8 percent. It is like getting married - you can dither forever or you can take a deep breath and do it.

Back to the house size issue. Ingrid, I completely agree with everything you wrote. Smaller spaces fit me well. But my husband would feel crowded in a 2,000 foot home. I don't understand it, I don't agree with it, but that's the reality.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 8:19AM
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For goodness sakes, this is a healthy young couple making $140,000 a year and no credit card debt. They have a family support network. And they obviously have put some thought into this."

they do have debt. they spend about $950 @ month on car and student loan debt. $950 is a lot money for the next several years. in 5 years they will have spent $57,000 in payments plus whatever interest is there. they should have paid those off with their 20% and re-save. in 2-3 years they would have had their 20% again w/o ANY debt.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 7:57PM
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For goodness sakes, this is a healthy young couple making $140,000 a year and no credit card debt. They have a family support network. And they obviously have put some thought into this."

they do have debt. they spend about $950 @ month on car and student loan debt. $950 is a lot money for the next several years. in 5 years they will have spent $57,000 in payments plus whatever interest is there. they should have paid those off with their 20% and re-save. in 2-3 years they would have had their 20% again w/o ANY debt.

The poster also mentioned that he and his wife would like to have children in the next 2 or 3 years. May I point out that daycare alone is probably way more than $950/month - so that money may already be encumbered.

I think the point we fiscal conservatives are making is not that the OP shouldn't buy a house, it's just that the goal of buying or building a dream house may be out of reach in these uncertain economic times. Actually it is often out of reach for one's first house. The OP absolutely has the means and ability to buy a house and he definitely should move forward. But I happen to think the cost is on the high side and may create future stresses (e.g., HAVING to work to meet a mortgage payment versus being able to downshift one's work schedule to meet family needs).

My husband and I have a similar gross income as the OP without car or student loans and there is no way I could imagine paying $2600/month for P&I and taxes and insurance and still have enough money to meet our needs. OTOH, we have two children - can I say they are incredibly expensive? We spend about $100 a WEEK on tutoring, music lessons and sports on my daughter alone. While we can look forward to tutoring ending within the next 6 months (and saving $65 a week), it's not an optional item that we can cut.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 10:40AM
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I still say, live on your current income less $2600/month (pay off the car and student loans) and see how it feels. Hold out another $200 for "fixing up the house". I agree with many other posters - regardless of whether this is a great deal, a generally great time to buy, or you are approvable I think you will feel really strapped. I grew up in a small house (in retrospect I think it was maybe 1200 sf) and I never knew it, and my great memories are of weekend trips to Santa Cruz, not of having an elegantly furnished dining room.

Report back on how a couple of months less $2800 feels!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 2:29PM
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Cindy Noll

It's easy to see why the USA is in such sad shape, but hey buy whatever you want. I knew in 1978 upon graduating from college that things would keep getting better forever. Yea right, what a joke. As long as we keep living on borrowed money & do not make anything here, this is as good as it's gonna get!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 9:18AM
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A brave question as there are so many variables we GW'ers don't know about your situation but...
In this uncertain economic climate I would err on the side of caution. Few jobs are totally secure and you might sleep better if your mortgage was based on one job- cause you never know what is around the corner. We are hearing lots of stories right now about the home buyers who over reached as they under estimated all the additional costs that come with home ownership. So I would say go over the numbers again and try to find a house you can afford -say, if your income suddenly was cut in 1/2. It can happen to anyone. I speak from expererience here. Good luck. P.S. Do you live in a climate where you have to heat 3,000 sq. feet ?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 12:26PM
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At about the time your cars are paid off, you will start having small repair and maintenance bills on them. Have you considered the cost of snow removal, grass cutting, spring and fall cleanups unless you are willing to do all this work yourself with the 5 or 6 thousand dollars of equipment you will need to do it. Honestly I have lived in my small starter split level house for 35 years and raised two daughters with only one bathroom. There were many times we would have killed for more room, but suddenly they are gone, my husband died and I feel like I am rattling around in 1700 sq. feet. In spite of the expenses of keeping up this property, I couldn't live anyplace else for less. Living below your means provides financial security and great peace of mind.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 9:33PM
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Here's an article that addresses the OP's question. It's a good read

Here is a link that might be useful: Washington Post article

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 8:09AM
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You know, if I was a first time buyer reading this thread, all its generalities and all its oh so scary talk, I'd find a cave and never come out.

The OP can indeed afford the house he is looking at. Will they have to make sacrifices? Possibly. It is called life. Choices, sometimes hard choices, result when one takes one path. On the other hand, when exactly is a good time to buy? When prices hit rock bottom? That has happened in many markets. When interest rates go lower? Uh they are pretty darned low right now. I know! the best time to buy is when the market heats up, people are in bidding wars and the interest rates are much higher! *insert eye roll* If you have the down payment, found the house that suits your needs and have fairly stable income sources, now is a fantastic time to buy in many markets.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 9:50AM
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