Most first-time buyers will tell you that finally closing a deal and getting the keys to a brand-new home feels pretty amazing. It’s afterwards, however, that things can take some getting used to. Between newly established mortgage payments and closing costs (not to mention the normal repair costs that sometimes come with owning your own home), many first-time buyers find themselves feeling “house poor,” with minimal disposable income to put toward retirement, vacations or small luxuries they may have taken for granted in the past.
Here’s how to snag that home and avoid feeling like the trade off is a permanent state of being cash-strapped.
Buy the home you need now. Some people think that buying a bigger house will mean more value down the road, or at least makes more sense if you plan to expand your family. But paying a mortgage on a second bedroom you don’t even use might mean heftier monthly payments. Keep within your budget and buy what makes sense for your needs.
Don’t spend all of what the bank is willing to lend you. Canada has a mortgage stress test for a reason. If home interest rates rise, so will your monthly payments. Taking on a smaller mortgage goes a long way toward leaving you with some contingency funds, which is especially crucial if interest rates rise.
Know what’s worth spending money on. When you feel house poor, it can be tempting to skimp on certain upkeep tasks. However, neglecting these tasks can cost more money over time, or result in you having to pay an unexpected lump sum (to replace a roof, for example). Make sure you understand the necessities of homeownership, as well as the “nice to do” improvements.
Evaluate your life. If you feel like homeownership is causing you to give up things that make your life truly enjoyable—or causing you to lose out on crucial necessities (like medication)—it might be time to re-evaluate things. Maybe it’s time to downsize or look at moving into a more affordable part of the city. Maybe you can make some extra income by renting out a room or picking up a part-time job.
Buying a house should never mean sacrificing an enjoyable life. With some careful planning and a full understanding of what homeownership really costs, you can have your own space and live a full life.