For renters who are beginning to investigate the possibility of buying a first house, the prospect can look like more than just a steep hill to climb—it can look more like a cliff! Just last month, the Daily Real Estate News cited recent research that indicates in most places (512 counties surveyed, in fact) it can take the average family more than twelve years to save up for a 20% down payment. When you consider the significant financial advantage that a first house brings its owner, the situation seems like a Catch-22. How can you save any faster when that big tax advantage goes only to the existing homeowners?
If a decade-plus wait sounds unreasonable, there’s a lot you can do to trim the delay—
1) (Obvious) Cut excess spending
If you take notes for a month or so about how you really spend your money, you find that the little things really add up: morning coffee, daily lunches, planned and unplanned shopping expeditions all put serious dents in your wallet. Spot the expenditures, you can cut back on, then reduce or eliminate them as soon as possible.
2) (Less Obvious) Create a ‘First House’ account
Create a separate savings account with the single purpose of holding your first house down payment. Watching it grow month by month will more than make up for the inconveniences caused by scrimping on daily and other spending.
3) (Way Less Obvious) Pick up extra work
You may never have considered it, but sometimes moonlighting is a great way to add additional income that quickly build your First House account. If you have a hobby that lends itself to web sales, think of starting a store on sites like Etsy or Amazon.
4) Reduce your current bills
There are those bills that you can’t quite get rid of — cell phone, credit cards and other bills don’t just go away because you’re saving for a new house. For some bills, though, there are options for slimming down your monthly payments. Try negotiating a lower APR or reducing your phone or cable plan.
5) Make (and stick to) a budget
Those notes you made up there on 1) can be the raw material for making a detailed budget that separates necessary expenditures from extras like gifts, trips and special nights out. Find creative ways to entertain yourself and get together with your friends. Hosting movie nights, finding free concerts, and moving cocktail hour to home are all surprisingly doable.
It may seem counterintuitive: why would you decrease the size of your current digs? If you can temporarily scale back, the lowered rent can materially boost your savings. If it’s at all practical, living with relatives might move the process along even more quickly!
The kind of scaling back that builds for a local first house down payment is a lot more fun if you can see quick progress. And the possibility of qualifying for a smaller than 20% down payment is also currently increasing. Give me a call for a realistic discussion of your own first house purchase!