Many people consider homeownership a rite of passage, a part of the American Dream, and a key way to build wealth. But recently, as home prices and mortgage interest rates have risen, some may wonder, “Is buying a home a good investment, no matter what?”
It can be challenging to gather enough funds for a down payment, qualify for a mortgage, and then afford all of the costs that go along with homeownership, such as property taxes, maintenance expenditures, and utilities. But to live in a place you love while building equity can be a win-win.
So if you’re wondering “Is buying a house a good investment?” vs. say, investing your money, you’ll have to take a closer look at how homeownership relates to your personal financial situation. Read on to learn how to evaluate what will be the right decision for you, starting with important questions to contemplate.
Is It a Good Investment to Buy a House?
In order to determine if buying a home is a good investment for you, you’ll need to estimate the amount of time you plan to own the house and the real estate marketplace dynamics.
• If you don’t plan to own the house for at least five years, you may not break even when you sell the home. When you buy a home, you pay for more than just the house and those costs can add up. You’re often paying for appraisals, mortgage application fees, inspections, movers, real estate agent fees, and that can add up to thousands of dollars.
In order to recoup all those fees, conventional wisdom says you need to wait at least five years for your home to appreciate before selling it. If you plan to live somewhere for less than five years, it could make the most financial sense just to rent property.
• You may also want to consider other aspects of whether it’s a good time to buy a house. For example, is it a hot or cool market? Are you likely to wind up in a bidding war (and possibly overpay) because there isn’t enough supply to meet demand? Are interest rates likely to fall over the next year? These dynamics can impact whether now is the right time to jump into the housing market.
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Do You Have Sufficient Savings to Buy a House?
In order to buy a home, you’ll generally have to take out a mortgage to finance your home purchase. Before that’s not the only expense. These costs must also be covered:
• Before you even get to the mortgage stage, you’ll have to save for a down payment (which is often anywhere between 3% and 20% of the property’s purchase price) and closing costs, which are typically 3% to 6% of the loan amount. This can mean a significant chunk of change.
• There are continuing costs you’ll have to account for, such as home insurance, property taxes, general maintenance, and emergency home repairs.
When you are renting, if the kitchen sink springs a leak, your landlord will take care of it. But when you own a home, those repairs will be entirely your responsibility. Having an emergency fund saved up will help you deal with unexpected costs associated with homeownership.
Also, if you are purchasing a house as an investment vs. using it as a primary residence, can you afford to buy a house while still renting? That is a situation in which you will want to map out your cash flow and make sure you are prepared if you can’t flip or rent the property as quickly as anticipated. An emergency fund could also be invaluable in that scenario.
Are You Confident in the Housing Market?
The housing market rises and falls; take a close look to evaluate current trends. Home prices skyrocketed during the Covid pandemic and have continued to rise recently. This can make it difficult for first-time homebuyers to find a suitable home that is in their price range. It’s important to be prepared as you start to look at homes. Understand your budget and make sure you have saved enough money to make a down payment on the property.
Also be sure that you understand how mortgage rates can impact the affordability of housing and what your home shopping budget looks like.
💡 Quick Tip: If you refinance your mortgage and shorten your loan term, you could save a substantial amount in interest over the lifetime of the loan.
Are You Ready for the Responsibility?
When you own your own home, you have a lot of freedom to make the space completely your own. With all of this flexibility comes a lot of responsibility. If the house has a yard, you’ll be responsible for regular maintenance and upkeep.
Will you need to pay for a new roof soon? Buy a lawn mower? If you live in an area with harsh winters, will you need to get a snow blower or hire someone to clear the driveway after each snow storm? These costs can add up.
So make sure you are ready for the financial responsibility that comes with owning a home before you make the purchase. You’ll have to account for repairs, improvements, general upkeep, insurance, and taxes. Not only does all of this cost money, it will take your time and attention as well, which isn’t necessarily the case when you rent. If you’re not ready to always be “on call” for your property’s needs, it could be a homebuying mistake to purchase.
Recommended: Should I Sell My House?
Are You Willing to Live with a Long-Term Loan?
Buying a home can mean you’re taking on a loan for perhaps 15 or 30 years. That’s a major undertaking. Part of the process of learning how to buy a house is educating yourself on how mortgages work and the different types available. Generally, there are two types: fixed rate and adjustable-rate mortgages.
• A fixed-rate mortgage keeps your payment level over time, typically 15 or 30 years, because the interest rate remains stable.
• The interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage loan fluctuates over time. They usually start out lower than a fixed-rate loan but often rise in later years.
To see what a mortgage could mean for your finances, take a look at an online mortgage calculator to compare different types of loans and see what your costs might look like. If a loan could be part of your life for three decades, you want to make sure you’re comfortable with it.
Remember that while it may seem daunting to take on a 30-year obligation, a mortgage helps you build equity in an asset that generally increases in value as time passes. Is a house a good investment? Historically, yes, if you take the long view.
Over the years, homeowners build up equity in the house as they methodically pay off more and more principal with less monthly payments on each loan payment. Many smart borrowers pay extra each month toward the principal to pay off the mortgage sooner.
Recommended: Quiz: Should You Buy or Rent a Home?
Pros and Cons of Buying a Home as an Investment
Before a major financial move, it’s important to consider the benefits and downsides. You’ll want to know what are the pros and cons of buying a starter home or a subsequent property. Consider these points.
Pros of Buying a House
Here are some of the upsides of buying and owning a home:
• You will build equity in your home over time, which can help you grow your wealth. Your home value may appreciate as well.
• There may be tax advantages to homeownership, such as deducting mortgage interest.
• Paying your mortgage payments on time can help build your credit.
• You can renovate the property as you see fit, unlike the case with rental units.
• You likely have a good idea of your monthly housing costs for the long term. If you are renting, you could face significant fluctuations.
• There’s a feeling of security for many people when they know they own their home.
Cons of Buying a House
Next, it’s wise to consider the disadvantages of buying a home:
• You typically need to pay for the down payment and closing costs, which can be a significant financial hurdle.
• You are likely locking into long-term debt, and it can take a while to build equity.
• There is no guarantee that your home’s value will grow over time.
• The costs related to owning a home can be significant. This includes expenses like property taxes and insurance, as well as home repairs.
• You will have less flexibility if you need to move for a job, say, or want to relocate to be closer to friends and family. Selling a house can involve time, energy, and money.
Ready to Buy? Consider a SoFi Mortgage
Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.
Is it wise to buy a house as an investment?
Whether it’s wise to buy a house as an investment will depend on many factors, such as your personal finances and current economic and real estate trends, as well as whether the property is a place that’s a good home for you to live in for at least several years.
Is buying a house worth it in 2023?
Buying a house in 2023 can be challenging because home prices and mortgage rates have been rising. However, if you can afford the monthly mortgage payments, plus the down payment and ongoing costs of homeownership, it may still be the right move for you.
Is owning a home an asset?
In general, a home is considered an asset. Yes, you typically have a mortgage, which is a liability, but on the plus side, you are building equity while having a place you enjoy living.
*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.
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