Buying a house when you have a lot of debt

A reader who recently moved to Seattle contacted with a question that I think many will relate to.   He contacted me offering his story:

"One idea you may be interested in writing about are house buying options when you have good credit and income – but a lot of credit card debt. We’re paying off the credit card debt slowly — very slowly, and seeing housing prices rise 15% or more annually. It’s frustrating because as time goes by — the dream house only gets further out of reach. We will be able to buy a nice house — but not the dream house we could if not saddled with the credit card debt. The credit card debt also isn’t tax deductible!"

I work with many families who have visions of their "dream home" while they’re trying to manage monthly debts.   And as if buying a home wasn’t stressful enough on it’s own, many home buyers seem to feel panicked over our local appreciation with home prices.   It’s a definite balancing act of buying as much home you can afford without "betting the ranch".   If you’re over burdened with credit cards AND you take on a hefty new mortgage payment, you could be setting yourself up for financial (and emotional) disaster.   

I do not encourage using a mortgage such as an Option ARM for sole purposes of stretching into your dream home.   If you make the minimum payments (which most will opt for) the deferred interest will reach it’s cap and you will be faced with a much higher mortgage payment.  If you cannot afford the mortgage payment using a fixed period ARM or fixed rate product, you probably cannot afford the home.   

It’s very possible that home buyers may need to redefine what their dream home is.  Buying a home that needs a little TLC or is a little further out from the city may afford you more comfort when it comes to your monthly cash flow.   Plus, you may receive a better return on this type of property should you decide to sell it in 5 or so years, using the net proceeds (profit) to purchase your "dream home". 

Modo3530For example, this 1800 sq. ft. completely remodeled rambler (now subject to inspection) was recently listed in Kent for $349,950.   It’s on a corner lot, in a popular neighborhood with four bedrooms and 1.75 bathrooms.   I’m not a Real Estate Agent, but I would bet that similar homes in Seattle would sell for closer to $500,000.   Having the lower payment and more funds in the bank from a reduced down payment can translate into a higher quality of life.   I know…I know…you do have to factor in commute times with our traffic.   But once you’re home, you are HOME.

I will go into more details about this families information in future posts.   They were gracious to share their information with me and their story is certainly not unique.

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