To Buy or Not To Buy (A Home)

Relocation is a fact of life for anyone on active duty. But living far away from the place you called home doesn’t necessarily squash your desire to have a home of your own in a new area. So you may start to wonder: Is it crazy to buy a home when I know my time here is limited? What are the pros and cons?

When you get bitten by the homebuying bug, it can help to think first in terms of the big picture.

  • How long will you be at your current duty station?
  • What’s your impression of the local community?
  • What is the economy like?
  • Is the area’s population growing or shrinking?
  • What are the major employers and industries?
  • Are there decent schools, neighborhoods, and parks?
  • Is there a good stock of housing available for sale?
  • How would you rate it overall, in terms of livability?
If you can find positive answers to these questions, a good next step is to research the different types and price levels of residential properties in the area. Look beyond the purchase price of a home and check out things like property taxes, insurance costs, and additional fees such as HOAs. Find out who the utility providers are to get an idea of what you will pay for electricity, gas, water, sewage, trash, and internet service. If these costs are in line with what you can afford to pay, you can keep moving forward.
Now, imagine that it’s time to move again. Is your first instinct to sell the house, or would you be comfortable renting it out as an absentee landlord? If you wanted to sell, could you? Once the sale was executed, would you come out ahead, financially speaking?
If you chose the landlord route, how much could you realistically charge to rent your property? Would this cover your costs of ownership and provide enough of a cushion to cover ongoing costs for property management and maintenance? Would you still be able to cover costs if the property were vacant for a couple of months between tenants?
First time homebuyers often make the mistake of focusing mainly on the exciting aspects of owning property (“It’s a place of our own! We can paint the walls whatever color we want! I can finally plant that garden!”) while downplaying the more mundane details (“Time to mow the lawn again?? What’s the HOA griping about now?  Where can we find a plumber at 0500 on Sunday?”) 
The truth is that homeownership can be a wild rollercoaster of a ride. To get the most out of it, you have to deal with ups and downs, and be willing to see it through to the end.
If this column hasn’t completely turned you away from the idea of buying a home, it might be time to make sure your finances are in order. RINO INVEST’s Entrepreneurial Personal Finance course can give you the skills and knowledge you need to get your finances homeownership-ready. Click here for more details and to register online.  If you’re an experienced homeowner and would like to learn more about buying property for investment, click here to check out our Real Estate Investing course.
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