Since I arrived in Seattle in the summer of 1999, I’ve contemplated whether or not to continue life as a renter or take a big leap in life to purchase property. When my career was just getting off the ground, there was no way I could afford anything in the neighborhood I was renting in at the time (a suburb just north of the city), but as my salary grew, I began to consider home ownership more seriously. In the summer of 2019, I thought I may be in a financially stable enough place to begin looking … and then we all know what happened: The pandemic arrived. Now, I just have to research, calculate and breathe to make a determination either way.
Pros and Cons
Every time I prepare for a big life decision, I make a list of the pros and cons of whatever outcome I expect from said decision. Considering a home purchase, my list looks something like this:
- It’s a potential wealth-builder.
- Paying a mortgage on time regularly could boost my credit score.
- I could paint the walls whatever color I want (this is something I’ve desired since I moved out of my parents’ house at age 17).
- It would feel good to put down some permanent roots.
- I wouldn’t need to ask someone’s permission to install a satellite dish or knock out a wall to increase the size of a room.
- I would feel like an adult (finally, in my 40s).
- The upfront cost is significant.
- If something breaks or needs replacing, that’s on me.
- Property taxes are high in my area.
- If I marry or remote work is no longer an option in my career, I can’t just “pick up and move.”
- Covid-19 has increased the prices of homes.
My Financial Reality
Though I survived a spell of unemployment and ultimately re-shaped my career for the better during the pandemic, like many Americans, I’m still nervous about what the future may hold. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected and learn to adapt to whatever the world may throw our way. Though there are places like Freddie Mac that have increased the flexibility for buying during these trying times, I still have to consider the impacts to my life if I begin taking on a big mortgage payment and also prepare for unknown costs like repairs if they should arise.
Solving the Equation
As someone who excels in language, I’m unfortunately not great at math of any sort. Thankfully, there’s a helpful website that specializes in mortgage calculators that doesn’t require any number gymnastics to get the answers I need about buying a home for the first time.
I used the Mortgage Qualification Calculator to help determine what salary I need to make to realistically afford the type of home that I’d want to buy and preserve the quality of life that I have as a renter. There I can take an amount from one of the listings I’m interested in and plug it in along with my current debts and budget details to have an accurate scope of what I’m truly capable of owning.
So what have I decided to do? Unfortunately there are still too many unknowns for me to make a final decision. Like one of those classic Magic 8-balls, my reply will be to “Ask Again Later …”