Author Topic: Costs of Buying a Home?  (Read 1455 times)

nexus

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Costs of Buying a Home?
« on: July 27, 2020, 03:36:54 PM »
Thanks for stopping by. Apologies in advance if this is a little disorganized. I don't know what I don't know, so am trying to get my ducks in a row so I'm not blindsided by anything.

I'm looking to buy a home in TX and move there from CA. My SO and I will be first time home buyers, so we're hoping to take advantage of the homestead benefit they have available in TX to reduce property taxes. We are also open to consider other states with low/0% state income tax as long as it doesn't snow there, but so far TX seems to be top on our list.

Anyway, I'm beginning to understand that there will be other costs associated with buying a home -- fees for inspections and all kinds of things that I really have no clue about. My mother in law retired on real estate, so she's pretty well-versed in the matter but I haven't had a chance to sit down and really pick her brain. I'd like to get some unbiased prescriptions from my fellow cult members who are of the Mustachian mindset. :)

Can you guys perhaps provide a list of common (or uncommon) things home buyers have to pay for in the process of buying a home?
Anything that's a total waste of time/money that we can opt out of? Anything we should absolutely spring for (such as termite inspection?).
Are the fees wrapped into the mortgage or paid separately?


Extra questions:
> If it matters, we're looking to spend no more than $350k on a home. Are we looking at hundreds of dollars in fees? Thousands? Tens of thousands?
> Is there any rule of thumb that the fees are roughly some small percentage of purchase price?
> Oh, and are the realtor's commissions baked into the sale price, or added on top?

The ultimate point of asking is so that I know how much additional money to save/earmark to cover all these expenses above and beyond our 20% down payment. Right now we have enough for a 20% down payment on a $350k home in cash, but still need to earmark cash for a trip out there to see if we like the area, still need to save money for a u-haul or POD, maybe hire folks to load and unload the truck. I'm thinking of having an extra $10k for that alone.

I'm also wondering if we went for $325k  budget instead and did 25% down ($65k instead of $70k) if that extra $5k would be more than enough to cover the fees.

Many thanks for your input and feedback. I'm super excited about the prospect of home ownership, having a yard so that we can have a dog, and being very hopeful that owning instead of renting will make our NW skyrocket since we will be building equity instead of paying rent.

SunnyDays

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2020, 08:00:24 PM »
The bigger expenses are lawyer fees and inspections.  You wonít have to pay realtor fees because the seller does that.  There are  likely also survey fees.  I expect these will cost less than 10K.

Moving costs will likely be around 10K if you want it all done for you.  Save money by decluttering and limit yourself to moving only things you just canít part with, otherwise buy it all used at your destination.  Donít forget hook up fees for utilities.

Buy the smallest house and property that you NEED, not what you want, especially in Texas, the land of giant everything.  Youíll save a lot of money over your home ownership years by not buying more than you need.

Have fun.  Exciting times indeed.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2020, 08:22:49 PM by SunnyDays »

SailingOnASmallSailboat

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2020, 06:06:10 AM »
We're just selling our house, so I'm peripherally aware of the fees buyers pay. Take this with a big grain of salt!
  • inspection fee
    any additional inspections you want (maybe roof, or HVAC; seller in Virginia takes care of septic and termite)
    appraisal fee
    any mortgage points
    closing costs on the mortgage (fees your mortgage company will charge to execute the loan)
    lawyer fees, sometimes bundled with title insurance

Don't forget about possible new appliances - washer/dryer and refrigerator are often ones that do not convey. I'd also recommend putting aside a chunk of money ahead of time for any improvements you want to make off the bat, or as "rainy day funds" if something big happens.

Uturn

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2020, 06:39:35 AM »
Are you VERY familiar with the area that you are moving to?  If not, then you are not ready to buy a house there.  You need to live in an area for about a year before buying.  An area that looks good on a one or two day visit can be very different once you really learn the area. I'm not talking just the neighborhood, but the surrounding areas as well. 

The seller pays the realtor fees.  Keep this in mind when you are buying, because you will pay that on exit.  6% of 350k is 21k. 

TX has no state income tax, but property tax can be brutal in some places. Every county has a TAD website, go there and verify your taxes before you purchase the house.

Don't use the inspectors the realtor recommends. There could be a conflict of interest. 

Many parts of TX have clay soil that moves a ton, leading to foundation problems. This is not necessarily a deal breaker, but again, you want your own inspector.  A repaired foundation does not decrease the value of the house, but a non-repaired foundation most definitely will, sometimes more than the cost of the repair.

ender

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2020, 07:29:56 AM »
Many thanks for your input and feedback. I'm super excited about the prospect of home ownership, having a yard so that we can have a dog, and being very hopeful that owning instead of renting will make our NW skyrocket since we will be building equity instead of paying rent.

I wouldn't get your hopes up too high for this.


slappy

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2020, 09:30:13 AM »
I agree with what someone else said about being familiar with the area.

I just did a refi on my home, which is different than purchasing, but what I learned was that you can use your own closing company. On my lender paperwork, there was a section called "services you cannot shop for" and "services you can shop for". I googled a few different closing companies and gor pricing. I ended up saving a few hundred dollars. It does take a bit of work, as its not easy to get an apples to apples comparison. For example, you have to consider the title insurance, which should cost the same no matter what, but I got several different quotes, so I had to figure all that out. Also, one place quoted a low fee and then added some extra charges, while other places rolled all charges into one. It took a few calls for me to figure out exactly what I was supposed to be asking for.

NonprofitER

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2020, 09:38:29 AM »
Depending on where you're buying in Texas, and the age of the home, I would spring extra to pay a plumber to inspect the drainage/pipes under the home.  Much of Texas has clay soil, and older homes from the 50's to late 70's often had the original pipes made of orangeburg or cast iron, which eventually fail and are very costly to replace (when tunneling under the home).  It's almost impossible to tell the shape of the pipes in a typical inspection.  I live in TX and buy rental properties in TX, and scoping the pipes is something I do during the inspection period if the home age warrants it.

Also depending on your final destination, the homestead exemption is helpful, but will not necessarily make property taxes reasonable. In most HCOL areas (for TX), the homestead exemption just keeps the taxes from rising more than 10%/year.

Definitely over-estimate the amount you will spend at Home Depot or Lowes in the first 6 months of homeownership. Even if you decide to DIY as much as possible, the hardware store inexplicable becomes your BFF when you first buy a home. Everything from organizing closets to hanging photos and getting basic home maintenance supplies seems to add up.  You could look to buy used, of course, but even then expect to get parts/supplies.  Things like: lawn equipment, cleaning supplies, basic tools, air filters, appliances, paint supplies, organizing supplies, shelves for the garage, etc. Obviously space out big renovations, but even the little stuff seems to accumulate at the beginning.  For us, this finally evened out after the first year or so in the home.

RainyDay

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2020, 09:39:43 AM »
There are also costs to consider after you've moved in.  I've seen estimates that most people spend around 1% of the purchase price making improvements and fixing things in the first year. 
Things it can go to that you didn't anticipate:

-- Exterminators (we moved into a house that had been empty 9 months and it definitely needed it)
-- Gutter cleaning
-- Window cleaning (inside and out)
-- Repairing or replacing broken or worn out appliances
-- Replacing items that don't "fit" in the new space, like a couch that is too big for the new living room
-- Utilities hook-up fees
-- Paying for your own trash service (lots of rentals include this)
-- Painting
-- Window treatments (shades, blinds, etc).
-- Title insurance (usually required by the mortgage company)
-- Lawn care services (fertilizing, lime, weed control) if the yard has been neglected a long time and you don't like yard work
-- Fees or taxes to get cars registered in new counties
-- Possible increases (or decreases!) in car insurance payments

nexus

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2020, 10:13:08 AM »
Many thanks for your input and feedback. I'm super excited about the prospect of home ownership, having a yard so that we can have a dog, and being very hopeful that owning instead of renting will make our NW skyrocket since we will be building equity instead of paying rent.

I wouldn't get your hopes up too high for this.

What I mean by that is the $15.6k annually that we spend on rent ó a fraction of that will go towards the principal annually insteadó with some variance depending on if our mortgage is higher or lower than what our rent was. So Iím assuming, for example, that owning over 5 years will make us look wealthier on paper vs renting for 5 more years. At the end of that arbitrary timeframe that I made up, weíd be able to look at our balance sheet and see what % of our house we own, whereas as renters it doesnít matter how long we rent for because we still own 0% of the place at the end of the day and rent is more of a sunk cost. Iím assuming that there wonít be some catastrophic repair that costs tens of thousands of dollars either*. Iím also not banking on appreciation. But I could be wrong. Thatís why Iím posing these questions as they come to mind :)

*looking for homes built after 2007. In TX they started using more energy efficient building materials by that time. Thereís even some dirt cheap(relative to CA) new homes built in 2020 That we are considering. Thereís a pretty nice new development in New Braunfels that weíre curious about, too.

nexus

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2020, 11:07:47 AM »
The bigger expenses are lawyer fees and inspections.  You wonít have to pay realtor fees because the seller does that.  There are  likely also survey fees.  I expect these will cost less than 10K.

Moving costs will likely be around 10K if you want it all done for you.  Save money by decluttering and limit yourself to moving only things you just canít part with, otherwise buy it all used at your destination.  Donít forget hook up fees for utilities.

Buy the smallest house and property that you NEED, not what you want, especially in Texas, the land of giant everything.  Youíll save a lot of money over your home ownership years by not buying more than you need.

Have fun.  Exciting times indeed.

Thanks, that is great advice! It's hard not to get excited and want to get the biggest home possible. For us, the "biggest home" would basically be 3 beds vs 4 beds. Certainly we need two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for a home office. We're on the fence about having kids, but would rather our first home have the space for our family to grow versus having to move again in the future. We are definitely taking the approach of wanting to make it our forever home, albeit that may be a little naive because we are going to grow and change as people over time. A 3rd or 4th bedroom would allow space for SO's family to visit for extended periods of time. They're all super close, so there will likely be a designated room/space for guests. Other honorable mentions include space for my aquariums (4 at the moment), space for SO to paint/draw & do DIY projects*, and I really need a good ol' fashioned weight rack (maybe outside or in the garage) since I can't go to the gym and don't have space for equipment in our current abode. Two car garage also seems pretty mandatory given the hail out there can do some pretty solid damage to cars.

We're still in the phase of identifying our priorities versus what's actually available and relatively reasonable. I'm hoping that we end up buying something for around $325k instead of at the upper limit of our budget.

I understand that the larger our space, the more it is going to cost to maintain it. I'm also hoping to purchase a place that already has solar panels installed to help reduce our utility bills. From my research, I've learned that TX is around $0.10 per kwh, whereas CA can be as high as $0.35 depending on your tier of usage... so technically (without solar panels) I could use 3x as much energy and my bill would be about the same?

*She's working on a side hustle of repurposing old furniture and reselling on Craigslist.

nexus

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2020, 11:27:01 AM »
Are you VERY familiar with the area that you are moving to?  If not, then you are not ready to buy a house there.  You need to live in an area for about a year before buying.  An area that looks good on a one or two day visit can be very different once you really learn the area. I'm not talking just the neighborhood, but the surrounding areas as well. 

The seller pays the realtor fees.  Keep this in mind when you are buying, because you will pay that on exit.  6% of 350k is 21k. 

TX has no state income tax, but property tax can be brutal in some places. Every county has a TAD website, go there and verify your taxes before you purchase the house.

Don't use the inspectors the realtor recommends. There could be a conflict of interest. 

Many parts of TX have clay soil that moves a ton, leading to foundation problems. This is not necessarily a deal breaker, but again, you want your own inspector.  A repaired foundation does not decrease the value of the house, but a non-repaired foundation most definitely will, sometimes more than the cost of the repair.

Thanks for all the insights, especially the TAD website, inspectors, and potential foundation issues!

We definitely are not at all versed in the areas we're looking into. From my own experience, that hasn't mattered. I moved from CA to Nashville without having ever visited, nor actually touring the apartment I rented. The same was true when I moved from Nashville to the Bay Area. I had never visited any of the places I now frequent. With that being said, I moved from a rough area in CA to a rough area in Nashville (and survived!). From Nashville, I moved to a less-rough area that was still full of low-income families.

Are there any other risks to not knowing an area?

We really don't want to move cross country to rent for a year, then move again if we decide to buy a house. In both cases we'll never know our neighbors ahead of time. I can't imagine getting somewhere and hating it or not being able to adapt. We're definitely going to avoid densely populated downtown areas. Most of what we're leaning towards is on the periphery of the city in either master planned communities, or with a nice gap between our neighbors.

In terms of leisure, we're happy just hanging out at home. Before lockdown, we rarely ever went out bar hopping or to restaurants with our friends so having access to all that stuff is pretty low on our list of priorities. Our most frequented places are likely to be tennis courts, grocery stores, and Home Depot/Lowe's. I'm hoping that if we live relatively close to either a club or nice public facility that the neighborhood will be solid as well.


nexus

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2020, 11:45:13 AM »
Depending on where you're buying in Texas, and the age of the home, I would spring extra to pay a plumber to inspect the drainage/pipes under the home.  Much of Texas has clay soil, and older homes from the 50's to late 70's often had the original pipes made of orangeburg or cast iron, which eventually fail and are very costly to replace (when tunneling under the home).  It's almost impossible to tell the shape of the pipes in a typical inspection.  I live in TX and buy rental properties in TX, and scoping the pipes is something I do during the inspection period if the home age warrants it.

Also depending on your final destination, the homestead exemption is helpful, but will not necessarily make property taxes reasonable. In most HCOL areas (for TX), the homestead exemption just keeps the taxes from rising more than 10%/year.

Definitely over-estimate the amount you will spend at Home Depot or Lowes in the first 6 months of homeownership. Even if you decide to DIY as much as possible, the hardware store inexplicable becomes your BFF when you first buy a home. Everything from organizing closets to hanging photos and getting basic home maintenance supplies seems to add up.  You could look to buy used, of course, but even then expect to get parts/supplies.  Things like: lawn equipment, cleaning supplies, basic tools, air filters, appliances, paint supplies, organizing supplies, shelves for the garage, etc. Obviously space out big renovations, but even the little stuff seems to accumulate at the beginning.  For us, this finally evened out after the first year or so in the home.

That makes perfect sense. Since we don't currently have a yard we will definitely need lawn equipment. Is it weird that I'm excited about mowing my future lawn? I am concerned about having to buy appliances since those costs can add up pretty quickly. We definitely don't want to buy something that we're going to have to put a lot of work into right away so it makes the new construction very appealing... but I imagine even new homes can come with their own list of issues.

What/where is considered a HCOL area in TX? I'm coming from an area where $500k won't get you a house (or if it does it's a total s**hole). I think the 850 sq ft 2 bedroom condo we live in has a Zestimate of about $320k. Built in 1979 and a $340 HOA... and believe me, there's no perks with this HOA. No park, no community center, no fitness center. Some cruddy laundry rooms and a pool I've never used. Whereas, the places I've seen in TX with an HOA of $50 or less have way more amenities.

Uturn

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2020, 11:58:21 AM »
Are there any other risks to not knowing an area?

We really don't want to move cross country to rent for a year, then move again if we decide to buy a house. In both cases we'll never know our neighbors ahead of time. I can't imagine getting somewhere and hating it or not being able to adapt.

I moved from TX to NC just over two years ago.  Luckily, I rented.  The house itself was fine, but the location did not fit.  What initially looked like a nice place to live turned out to not be for me.  There were plenty of restaurants and boutique stores nearby, but no grocery stores within cycling distance.  The restaurants didn't really appeal to me because I don't eat out often, and why would I want boutique stores?. Disc golf courses were 30+ minutes drive away, forget cycling there. The near by grocery stores had poor produce selection, and carried mostly packaged foods.  What initially looked like a nice scenic commute when I visited turned out to be not so nice.  It was around 20 mins off peak, but over 45 mins during peak.

nexus

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2020, 12:34:31 PM »
There are also costs to consider after you've moved in. I've seen estimates that most people spend around 1% of the purchase price making improvements and fixing things in the first year.
Things it can go to that you didn't anticipate:

-- Exterminators (we moved into a house that had been empty 9 months and it definitely needed it)
-- Gutter cleaning
-- Window cleaning (inside and out)
-- Repairing or replacing broken or worn out appliances
-- Replacing items that don't "fit" in the new space, like a couch that is too big for the new living room
-- Utilities hook-up fees
-- Paying for your own trash service (lots of rentals include this)
-- Painting
-- Window treatments (shades, blinds, etc).
-- Title insurance (usually required by the mortgage company)
-- Lawn care services (fertilizing, lime, weed control) if the yard has been neglected a long time and you don't like yard work
-- Fees or taxes to get cars registered in new counties
-- Possible increases (or decreases!) in car insurance payments

Thank you, that's a nice guideline to have. So for $350k it would be $3,500. This seems low, so I'd likely err closer to $10k.

As for exterminators -- did nature just sort of move back in? Like ants, spiders, wasp nests?

Also, is title insurance separate or just wrapped into the monthly payment -- like property tax? Or something entirely separate that you have to maintain over the course of paying off your home?

SunnyDays

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2020, 12:53:35 PM »
If youíre going to live in an always summer climate, consider using garages and sheds to house hobby/fitness/crafting etc interests.  You can get away with a smaller house this way.

RainyDay

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2020, 01:24:18 PM »
As for exterminators -- did nature just sort of move back in? Like ants, spiders, wasp nests?

Also, is title insurance separate or just wrapped into the monthly payment -- like property tax? Or something entirely separate that you have to maintain over the course of paying off your home?

Yes, nature moves back in!  Also roaches (which I assume are well adapted to living in Texas), mice, birds in the chimney or ducts, squirrels in the attic, bats, etc.

Which reminds me of another fun expense:
Duct cleaning, along with furnace and a/c maintenance.  We had both serviced in the first year, just to make sure they would continue working.

Title insurance:  generally paid once as part of your closing costs, so often rolled into the cost of the loan. 

mrsnamemustache

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2020, 01:44:56 PM »

Are there any other risks to not knowing an area?

We really don't want to move cross country to rent for a year, then move again if we decide to buy a house. In both cases we'll never know our neighbors ahead of time. I can't imagine getting somewhere and hating it or not being able to adapt.

-traffic patterns (you can get a sense from a visit, but it takes longer to really get it, and to understand where you spend your time traveling to).
-vibe of a neighborhood. Some neighborhoods are friendly than others, some are louder, etc. While you can't get to know all the neighbors, you can talk to people and learn about this over time if you live somewhere.

I think it is also hard to know what is a good value in a house unless you have lived in the area for a while.

You might be more adaptable than me, but I'd much rather put up with the hassle of a second move than being unhappy about such a big investment. When I moved a few years ago, we did a 6 month rental, even with two you kids, before buying, and are really glad we did. It helped me realize that I wanted to be on a certain side of a busy street, that I wanted to have a certain type of bike commute to work, that living close to a park and my kids future school was feasible, etc.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2020, 02:00:57 PM »
Thereís a whole section on real estate...

MissPeach

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2020, 02:57:38 PM »
I have moved across country a few times and the Pods were the cheapest way for me. I used a company called Door to Door.

Another thing I recommend considering is renting the first 6 months or so if possible. Or air bnb something for a month while you search. I now moving multiple times or dealing with storage sucks but I found in a lot of cases the initial place I looked at wasn't the best fit. I was happy not to be stuck there.


ctuser1

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2020, 05:51:32 PM »
There are lots of categories of invisible "carrying costs" associated with home-ownership that first time buyers don't understand. I know because I was one of them.

- Property taxes. Probably $5k/yr in TX on a $350k house, YMMV based on exact city.
- Insurance? $2k/year on a good coverage perhaps?
- Flood insurance ($?).
- Regular maintenance (this is your typical HD/Lowes stuff, DIY landscaping, intermittent plumber/electrician call). I estimate 1% of the value of the structure = $2k/year (?).
- Amortized costs of roof ($500/yr, more if old roof), Heating/AC ($500/yr. more if systems are old), Driveway ($200/yr, depends on length), appliances/dishwasher/fridge/microwave/oven ($200/year, more if you go too fancy).
- Generally higher utility bill.
- Interest+PMI component of the mortgage.
- Opportunity cost of the principal payment

The above are must-do's. Then there will likely be a lot of nice to have's that you will need to do.
- TX -> huge electricity bill due to AC perhaps? Do you need to now get solar to mitigate the utility bill?
- Some kitchen/bath upgrades?

As you start living in a home, you start discovering more stuff that you would want fixed. I naively expected we will be frugal and won't do it. Well, I have spent a lot of money ($20k-$30k) in these categories over the last 4 years, and currently in the process of getting a $20k solar.

Bottom-line, your carrying costs for a house is generally higher than the rent for a rented apartment. It will almost certainly be higher than $15k/year for a $350k house, probably a lot higher once you add all the amortized carrying costs back.

Of course, your quality of life will also likely be better (it is, for us), which is why you spend the higher amount for a house. But, don't expect a house to be a financial slam dunk over renting. That is generally a myth.

NonprofitER

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #20 on: July 29, 2020, 07:14:12 AM »
What/where is considered a HCOL area in TX?

I would consider Austin and Houston HCOL areas for TX (if you're planning to be close to the city).  Dallas/Ft. Worth has some HCOL areas too, again, depending on the proximity to amenities/downtown. Suburbs can obviously be cheaper, but can have terrible commuting times.  Since you mentioned a newer build home, so I'm guessing you're looking outside of a major city/suburb area?  If you have to commute for work, keep those costs in mind too. I know CA is known for its terrible commuting times, but we have some terrible ones too!




nexus

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2020, 04:06:32 PM »
Are there any other risks to not knowing an area?

We really don't want to move cross country to rent for a year, then move again if we decide to buy a house. In both cases we'll never know our neighbors ahead of time. I can't imagine getting somewhere and hating it or not being able to adapt.

I moved from TX to NC just over two years ago.  Luckily, I rented.  The house itself was fine, but the location did not fit.  What initially looked like a nice place to live turned out to not be for me.  There were plenty of restaurants and boutique stores nearby, but no grocery stores within cycling distance.  The restaurants didn't really appeal to me because I don't eat out often, and why would I want boutique stores?. Disc golf courses were 30+ minutes drive away, forget cycling there. The near by grocery stores had poor produce selection, and carried mostly packaged foods.  What initially looked like a nice scenic commute when I visited turned out to be not so nice.  It was around 20 mins off peak, but over 45 mins during peak.

Ah, duly noted. That's really good intel. I don't know if I can completely avoid running into that sort of situation versus just having to live with it.


Update: we are planning to road trip out there towards the beginning of next month. We've already scoped out some neighborhoods and are hoping to get an Airbnb in/near one of them. From there we can explore and talk to folks. There have also been some pretty helpful and candid videos on YouTube from folks who have already done it (and recorded their journey), and from realtors that help people from all over the country find a home in the city we're interested in.

nexus

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Re: Costs of Buying a Home?
« Reply #22 on: August 10, 2020, 04:19:55 PM »
What/where is considered a HCOL area in TX?

I would consider Austin and Houston HCOL areas for TX (if you're planning to be close to the city).  Dallas/Ft. Worth has some HCOL areas too, again, depending on the proximity to amenities/downtown. Suburbs can obviously be cheaper, but can have terrible commuting times.  Since you mentioned a newer build home, so I'm guessing you're looking outside of a major city/suburb area?  If you have to commute for work, keep those costs in mind too. I know CA is known for its terrible commuting times, but we have some terrible ones too!

Fair point, especially because some of the YouTube realtors have warned that some master planned communities have like 1-2 ways in/out and it turns into a CF during peak hours. The good news is that I work remotely for my day job, so commuting isn't an issue. SO may have to deal with it, but the odds of her getting a job in telehealth is becoming more and more likely due to COVID. The most common reason I drive for is tennis, so the plan is to strategically live somewhere that is near a tennis hub/park, or even just have HOA courts in our community since it ends up being a source of side income for me. Tennis is something I do (play, or teach) 5-7 days a week so it is paramount that I'm near tennis courts, whereas grocery shopping and errands are typically once every 1-2 weeks. In a perfect world I could safely bike to and from the courts.

I do expect our housing costs to increase, but our quality of living will also increase. Plus, we'll most definitely have some fun projects to keep us busy!

Between rent and utilities we pay around $1380-$1400/month. Our P&I will likely be between $900 - $1,300, not counting insurance, HOA, property taxes, etc. By no means will we be "saving*" more money by owning. It will likely also make my timeline to FI a little more drawn out, but I think it'll be worth it.

I think what I failed to articulate is that for me, psychologically, in our current situation 100% of that $1380 is wiped from our NW each month. Owning a home would mean that a fraction of the money we pay towards our housing would transfer over from Cash to Real Estate/equity on our balance sheet. Albeit, maybe it means we're paying $2000/mo for housing in that scenario, of which only $500 is going towards the Principal on the loan. So, it still means we're paying more than we would have before. The only difference between now vs the future scenario is the opportunity cost. For the last 6 years, renting has afforded me a higher savings rate so that I could invest. Now that the investments have some momentum/compounding, I don't mind lowering my investment rate in order to afford a better quality of living. I hope that makes sense?

*having more money left over each month after the bills are paid.