I don’t plan to live in an apartment forever, but for now, it is the housing option that is most conducive to my lifestyle. I shared a house with two roommates’ immediately after college and shortly after that, I moved into my current apartment. While I don't necessarily feel much social pressure as these people do to purchase a home, it's still a goal I plan to achieve (preferably in five years or less). The major reason why apartment life works for my current lifestyle are:
- I don’t have a down payment saved yet. I’m currently focusing on debt payment, regularly contributing to my retirement accounts and building my emergency savings. I hope to be able to focus on saving for home ownership in 2011, but for now, it’s not a priority. I’m aware that I’ll miss out on the homeowner tax credit that is ending this month, but there are other first time homeowner programs that I have been told about by people who have gone through the process that I should be eligible for when I have my savings cushion together. Before I actually purchase a home, I'd like to 'pretend I own it' for several months, by figuring out what my mortgage payment would be and estimating other expenses involved. I'd then send the difference between that estimated (mortgage plus expenses) amount and my current rent payment to savings. If I can do that for several months without feeling a strain on my budget, then I'll feel ready to take the plunge to home ownership.
- I like the flexibility that renting offers. I don’t have plans to move the in near future, but I like the idea that if I did, I could do so without the upheaval that would be involved if I was a homeowner. I won't have to worry about renting or selling property, taxes, and home improvements that would increase property value whenever I decide to move.
- I have great landlord. My landlord is very responsive to any maintenance requests I have had since I moved into my current residence. I’d probably have different views on renting if I had negative experiences, so I consider myself very lucky.
- I love my current neighborhood. I love my current neighborhood but could not afford to own a home in the area on my current salary. Earlier this year, I did some preliminary research and on how much house I could afford on my current salary and actually got pre-approved for a mortgage. But after looking at some homes (and condos) in my city, the options I preferred would have been at the very top of my budget. I anticipate my income to increase over time, so I should logically have more flexibility in living in a preferred neighborhood in the future.
Home ownership is no fun at all if you haven't properly planned for it, and I need to take more time to do that. I consider home ownership to be an important future goal, but I realize that I can’t rush it and I plan to wait until I feel ready mentally and financially for that step.
How did you determine you were 'ready to become a homeowner, or when do you think you'll reach that point if you haven't yet?