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  • Writer's pictureDr. Mark Lee Levine, Professor

Homeownership: Is this the Right Time to Buy?



Buying a Home:


With all the activity in the market, one personal issue that continues to warrant discussion is whether one should own a home. If there is a desire to own a home, an additional and concomitant question is: Should I buy a house, now?


Of course, this topic has many sub-issues contained within the broad question of choosing to own a home and the timing for such acquisition.


Assuming there is a desire to own a home, as opposed to renting a home, there are many additional queries within this broad issue.


First, can one qualify to own a home, even with the stated desire to buy a home?


In one recent study in Visual Capitalist, their study noted those cities where it was most and least affordable to buy a house. That is, they looked to the current position in the housing market as to interest rates, pricing in major cities, etc.; they developed a summary of what it takes in income to qualify to buy a home, today, in the given city. (They used a 30-year loan, assuming a 6.37% interest rate, which rate is a bit low at this moment for 30-year loans in many instances. But it does allow for a reasonable range to test for buying the home.)


In the area of least affordable homes, the study noted:


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Thus, this table shows how difficult it is to buy a median-priced home if the taxpayer does not have a large enough salary to qualify for the average home.


On the other side of the coin, the study concluded that there are many cities in the US where homes are more affordable. The study summarized this point:


… cities in the Midwest and South, like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Louisville, are far more affordable, requiring less than $63,000 a year to buy a home.”

In summary, the study concluded:

“So to afford a median-priced home in the country, an American needs to earn closer to $100,000 a year, up from $75,500 in 2022. And even then, they would be priced out of owning a home in nearly half of the 50 largest cities in the country.”


Maintenance:


As current homeowners will testify, buying a home is one concern. Maintaining the home is another issue.


This consideration was examined recently by the US Census Bureau when they cited an American Housing Survey (AHS) that showed how the cost to maintain an older home (median age of 41 years) must be considered by homeowners.


In the AH Study, the homeowners estimated that with these older homes, the home improvement projects over a 2-year period cost about $4,100 on average. The study also concluded that the maintenance cost was an average of about $540 on an annual basis.


Certainly, homeowners know there are many more expenditures regarding the home, beyond the mortgage payments for principal and interest. There are monies expended for taxes, insurance, utilities, water and sewer, and

other special emergency costs (leaking roof, etc.) that must also be considered.


Given the initial outlay to acquire a home, coupled with the existing, yearly costs to maintain the home and related expenses, many taxpayers choose to or are forced to consider the other major alternative to home ownership, i.e., renting—for now.


By

Dr. Mark Lee Levine,

Professor, University of Denver

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