Despite the much publicised problems in the US Housing Market, there are still many long term advantages to buying a house in preference to renting.
Buying a house has historically been a good investment; since 1945, house prices have increased faster than inflation and have also outperformed the stock market. Also, buying a house gives you the opportunity to live rent free when you have paid off the mortgage. Mortgages do fluctuate with interest rates. However, generally, mortgages become easier to pay over time. If your mortgage payments are currently $800 a month, this may seem alot, but if you income rises, then as a % of income, your mortgage will eventually fall.
Despite the financial benefits, buying your first house can prove difficult because of the high prices we currently face.
These are some tips for buying your first house.
1. Save a deposit.
As soon as possible try to put money aside for a deposit. If you have a good sized deposit, mortgage lenders have more confidence in lending bigger amounts of money. This is because you are less likely to suffer from negative equity. The problem is that to save a decent % of a house can take many years of careful saving. However, with house prices currently stagnant, it has become a little easier.
2. Borrow From Parents.
Depending on your circumstances, this may be an option. There are several drawbacks to this approach. But, for many it provides the only realistic hope of getting on the property ladder. Parents may be able to release equity from the value of their house and lend you money (hopefully for a very low interest) this can provide the necessary deposit to buy your house. Many parents are willing to do this because they realise that their generation has benefited significantly from rising house prices. In extreme circumstances parents may be willing to act as a guarantor for your mortgage.
3. Joint Mortgage.
It is becoming increasingly popular for young single people to combine their incomes with others so that they can afford a mortgage. Their own salary is insufficient. But, by buying with other people you effectively double your income, and this can enable you to buy a house. However, there are drawbacks. Firstly, you only will only own a 50% share in the house. Secondly, if you fall out with the other person, it can create an awkward situation, both financially and domestically.
4. Interest Only Mortgage.
This means you only pay interest on your mortgage loan. This means it is a cheaper repayment. However, there is a big disadvantage. At the end of the 30 year period, you still owe the entire mortgage loan. Interest only mortgages will only work if you can find an alternative way to invest in paying off the debt.
5. 50 Year Mortgage.
A 50 year mortgage means that you spread repayments over 50 years rather than the standard 25 years. It means that monthly payments will be lower than a 25 year mortgage. The drawback is that you end up paying more interest payments over the course of the mortgage. However, it is likely to still be a better option than renting. Also, if you income increases in the future, you can always reduce the mortgage term at a later date.
6. Move to a Cheaper Area.
House prices in some areas are much cheaper. If you are willing to move to these areas then you can make buying a house a real possibility. Maybe in the future you can move back to more desirable areas. It is worth bearing in mind that cheaper areas do not always mean lower quality. For example, some areas have a premium because they are close to good schools. It is worth researching carefully average house prices in different areas.
7. Self Certification Mortgage.
If you feel frustrated that banks won’t lend more than 3-4 times your income you might like to consider a self certification mortgage. Basically, a self certification mortgage enables you to state your likely income. In practise this can be a way to borrow more than under standard circumstances. Given the recent problems with sub prime mortgages it is advisable to be cautious when proceeding with this option. I mention it mainly because it is what I used to buy my first house, 3 years ago. Buying a house was a little more expensive than renting. But, self certificating was the only option to borrow enough capital. Do bear in mind, if you borrow a high income multiple (5 or 6 times income) you will struggle if interest rates rise significantly.
Getting on the property ladder is not easy for our generation. It is likely you will have to make some sort of sacrifices. However, the alternative of renting is often even more unattractive. Which ever option you choose make sure you don’t go beyond your financial limitations.
Tejvan Pettinger works as an Economics teacher in Oxford. He writes a blog about Mortgages and Finance. This Includes articles about the Housing Market, getting out of debt and paying off your mortgage early
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