How to Buy a House Without Regretting It

There's more to it than a down payment and a dream.

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Home ownership has been a building block of most people's financial plans—and a key step on the path to adulting. But as housing prices skyrocket, people are second-guessing the decision to buy. In several episodes of Money Confidential this season, we talked with people who felt home ownership was a mistake for them—and the financial experts that host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez consulted agree that home ownership isn't for everyone.

"There's so much pressure to achieve these things by a certain age, and you can get a lot of that external pressure," says Jannese Torres Rodriguez of Yo Quiero Dinero. "But if you're not honest with yourself about where you are and what your financial picture actually looks like, you're going to find yourself in the same situation that I was, where I had just overextended myself to the point where now these goals that I thought I was going to be able to achieve, like paying down debt and saving money and saving for retirement, felt so much more burdensome."

After she sold her house and opted to rent instead, Torres Rodriguez was better able to put money away to achieve those goals, without the constant concerns of home maintenance.

Jannese torres rodriguez, yo quiero dinero

This idea that home ownership is the only way to achieve and build generational wealth is just simply not true. There are so many different ways for us to build wealth, and it's not just a one-size-fits-all approach.

— Jannese torres rodriguez, yo quiero dinero

The financial outlay of a home purchase may not make sense if you're not sure you're ready to settle down in one spot. "In the first couple of years that you're staying in a home, you're actually not building that much equity in the home itself," says Shang of "Most of your mortgage payment is going towards interest and a tiny, tiny, tiny amount goes to the home equity." So if you sell in those first few years, you haven't built up much equity, and you'll be on the hook for about 10 percent of the sales price in realtor fees, title, taxes, and other costs.

And you also need to factor other housing expenses while you own the home, like upkeep, property taxes, and insurance when you determine the bottom line cost. "I really don't want people listening to jump into home ownership without a big safety net, a big emergency fund, because, as I like to say, something always breaks when you buy a house," says real estate agent Mindy Jensen.

Real estate investor J Scott recommends looking at the end goal for any property you plan to purchase—and thinking about it financially, not emotionally. It's especially important in the current housing market. "Think about where you're going to be in the next year or two or five, and think about what you plan to do with the property once you're done living there," Scott says. "The big reason for this is that we don't know where the market's going. We don't know if in a year from now home values might drop, or two years from now or five years from now. Eventually house prices are going to return, but if you need to be able to sell in a year or two years, you should approach the purchase a lot differently than if this is some place that you can and are willing to live in for the next five or 10 years. So always go in with the lens of what's the worst thing that could happen, then act accordingly."

For a roundup of the very best homebuying advice from this season of Money Confidential, check out this week's podcast episode, "How to buy a house without regretting it," from Apple podcasts, Amazon, Spotify, Player FM, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Read the full transcript.

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