- Think of a house only as our home. It's a place to live, enjoy and raise a family. Although it does have a value, we don't think of it as an investment, an appreciating asset or savings. We don't worry if our house is going up or down in value since we aren't planning to sell in the near future.
- Know a house is a big expense. If we were barely meeting our expenses while renting, we would not buy a house. To me, the cost of owning is much higher than renting. There is the mortgage, taxes and upkeep. Not to mention the additional time and effort one needs to spend on maintenance.
We try to set aside 1-2% of our house value each year for eventual major repairs, e.g. new roof, new furnace, that do not occur every year. For example, this year we have replaced a furnace and a/c unit and will replace our roof, at a cost of 6% of our home value.
- Get a mortgage that is easy to pay now and in the future. When we bought our house, we could have easily qualified for a 15 year mortgage for 80% of the home value. We chose a 30 year fixed rate mortgage for 60% of the home value to keep our payments lower. When possible, we do send in extra principal payments and are on track to payoff the mortgage in 15 years.
I have never seriously considered an adjustable rate mortgage. I prefer knowing that my monthly payment will be constant for the entire time that I have the mortgage.
- Think of house as savings or an investment. We don't count our home equity in our retirement savings analysis. That's because, unlike stocks, we do not expect to sell our house to raise cash for yearly living expenses.
- Borrow against the increased equity. We don't think of our house as a ATM to get cash. If our house increases in value, we don't borrow against that part. However, I consider OK to refinance the loan for the original amount and time, but at a lower interest rate. This reduces the monthly payment and allows some cash to be taken out.
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This is not financial or real estate advice. Please consult a professional advisor.
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