Purchasing a home is one of the fundamental desires of most people. It will likely be the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime.

However, our homes are more than just financial assets and they are more than just places to live. Our homes are personal. They are integral parts of how we see ourselves in the world socially and financially. You rarely make the choice based on future investment value. You are not just buying a house, you are building a life for your family.

Related: When stretching to buy a home makes financial sense

Owning a home projects a sense of responsibility and implied investment in the neighbourhood you have settled down in. Where we choose to live becomes part of who we are and can determine much of our levels of happiness, fulfillment and feelings of success and accomplishment.

We all know which neighbourhoods are more or less desirable in our cities and towns.

Have you ever met someone new and made a judgment about them based on where they live? You may imagine a couple from Diamondville is more successful than the one from Dustytown when the exact opposite might be true.

Movin’ on up!

If you’ve ever played the board game, The Game of Life, you will recall that on the player’s life path he or she buys a little house, fills up the car with children pegs, then goes on to buy a bigger house.

As in the game, it used to be that people would buy a small starter home and, several years down the road, use the equity to purchase a bigger home to fit the expanding family and perhaps add a few semi-luxury amenities.

RelatedHome buyer’s regret?

Now that the age of first time homebuyers has increased (average age is 36 according to MoneySense magazine) it’s more likely that they will want a larger home right away, and more upscale finishes are more desirable. We want our home to be a showcase.

Scaling back

You visit some show homes and you want every detail featured. How do you keep emotions from hindering your good judgment when optimism and excitement are high?

Don’t fall in love with a house that’s too expensive. Don’t even look at homes outside your price range. Many people fantasize about their dream home, but it’s more important to have what you need, not what you want. Use a list to prioritize. Don’t get sidetracked by the amazing wall fountain or the funky light fixtures.

You may realize the dream house you originally had in mind is, well, unattainable.

Look beyond the aspects you adore and ask yourself if the entire house is the right fit for you with respect to size, layout and neighbourhood. You can always make changes later on.

Mortgage

This desire to buy a bigger, better house is often exploited by lenders. They are all too willing to approve a high mortgage amount. You should ask yourself, “How much can I borrow?” That’s not the same as, “How much should I borrow?”

Related: Non-traditional ways to buy a house

Should you save up a 20% down payment, or, in a rising market, buy sooner with only 5-10% down?

People take pride in negotiating the lowest mortgage interest rates and debate the merits of fixed and variable. But the question is, “Can you manage if interest rates go up?”

Prepaying the mortgage is desirable to many. But, most of the time, over 10 years or more, investing in the stock market is a better deal. The cost of prepaying the mortgage gets higher the lower the interest rate is on your mortgage.

However, some people feel more secure if they are mortgage free – after all, having no mortgage payment feels very liberating.

Is home ownership really for you?

When should you buy a home? Aside from the current economy, interest rates, and house prices, you should ask yourself if it is what your really want. Is it possible for you?

Low mortgage rates and rising housing costs can lead some people to dive into home ownership more quickly than they had originally planned.

RelatedOwning your home vs. renting

Have you heard the comment, “Renting is just like flushing your money down the drain?” Public, or family, pressure may cause someone to buy when they are not ready. Young people today are often more mobile than in the past and for them, renting makes much more financial sense. Don’t be pressured into making the wrong decision, which can result in buyer’s remorse.

The_Real_Cost_of_Home_Ownership

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6 Comments

  1. Jon King on August 19, 2015 at 4:55 am

    Good advice… Many people also think of life as a linear progression (e.g. rental apartment to larger rental to home to larger home). For some people it might be better to think of life as phases or cycles in which you transition from rental to ownership and back again or perhaps you never leave the rental market, because of the path your career and other life circumstances take.

    Do you have any thoughts on how much someone should set aside to cover transaction costs in the purchase of home? What about annual upkeep relative to value of home? Every case is a bit different but I like to hear whether there are rules of thumb about these things.

  2. siraj on August 19, 2015 at 5:51 am

    One argument- is the price too high 700k home @ 3% rates v/s when the prices were low 350k @ 8-10% rates. Avoid interest at all costs and may be debts are the the best investments to pay off for after tax money

  3. Andrew on August 19, 2015 at 6:26 am

    A very tame look at the rampant, sales-hype driven home buying market. It’s hard these days in the given market not to make a completely emotional purchase. The realtor market is also in need of a regulation overhaul as there is zero transparency in the market research to actually know what the right price is for any given home. My 2 cents at least.

  4. John Ryan on August 19, 2015 at 6:38 am

    I live in the Midwest in America, and it’s given me a very different perspective on real estate after living in southern Ontario. There’s all sorts of (nice) properties available here for 1 or 2 year’s income.

    A friend of mine paid 10 times as much for his house in Toronto as I did for my house here. He then proceed to pay more than the value of my house on renovations!

  5. kcowan on August 19, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Let’s face it. Owning a home is the quickest way to get house-poor. Sure you can feel good looking at your net worth. And you can feel even better imagining how much it is appreciating. But ownership in the GTA or the lower mainland no longer makes financial sense for the average wage earner.

    If you are handy and enjoy doing work around the house, you can justify it as an activity. Just not as an investment. Just look at how renting has become the norm in Manhattan and London. Every major urban centre goes through the transition eventually.

  6. Richard on August 20, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    A House is also a money pit. The only ones who win big bucks are the Banks( lenders) the Realtors whether you buy or sell , the appliance and furnishing sellers , the renovators and roofers ( after 10 / 15 yrs. ) insurance company , municipal taxes . You are the owner left holding the BAG and all the responsibilities When you sell it 25 yrs later or more you may come out even$$$ in the Cost of ownership game but whatever you do after it’s sold , buy again or rent ? Or buy a burial plot and someone else gets to spend your money !!!

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