Back when I was a single gal and just starting my career fresh out of undergrad, I seriously thought about buying a house. I had just moved to a new city, had a solid income, and was financially diciplined. I just wasn't sure that I wanted to stay in that location for several years - long enough to make sure purchasing a house made more sense than renting.
My dad strongly advised against purchasing a home. I followed his advice, even though it was tempting to purchase a house because it seemed like a smart investment. That was at the height of the housing bubble. Dodged. A. Bullet. (Thanks, dad!)
I'm a big proponent of *responsible* home ownership and real estate to balance out mutual fund investments. I own two rental properties and would like to own more. So let's say you have the career, the income, the financial discipline, and the down payment. And you are committed to staying in one location for at least the next 5 years. But you don't have Mr. Right - you are either single or just dating someone. Does this mean you should put off buying a house?
No and yes.
Waiting for Mr. Right
I understand the desire to have all of your ducks in a row for making major life decisions. Buying a home is a big commitment, but given that the average age of marriage for women is 27 (29 for men) you could be in your early 30s and still be in the "normal" range for the age at which you get married. That means that from the time you start your career to the time you get married, you may be waiting ten years to invest in a home. That's ten years of lost time to build equity and a sizable investment.
Then there's the chance that you may not meet Mr. Right. How long will you put off securing your own financial future while waiting for someone that may never materialize? (I know, I know. I sound like such a Debbie Downer - but let's look at all the possibilities, okay?)
I can hear one big objection to this and that is a house makes you more stationary and less able to pick up and go. Perhaps it will make it harder to pursue a relationship with someone who doesn't live in the same town. This may be true, but I would still bet that investing in yourself will pay off more than waiting to invest in something that is yet-to-be. I would even wager that the right kind of Mr. Right will be attracted to a woman who is financially stable and smart enough to invest in real estate.
So do yourself a favor and don't let waiting for a ring get in the way ringing in your financial future.
Settling in with just any old Mr.
I'm just going to come out and say it - don't buy a house with someone you are just dating. Just. Don't. And that goes for fiances. I know that my old-fashioned sensibility is coming out, but several of the financial views I hold are "old-fashioned."
When you purchase a house with someone you aren't married to, the chances of things "getting messy" are much higher than if you are married. A divorce takes at least a few months to complete. "Breaking up" just takes an argument and 5 minutes to pack a bag. Here a couple of scenarios to keep in mind if you break up.
1. Neither of you wants to move out but you put up the down payment for the house (he did help pay the mortgage). You don't have any pre-determined agreements about what do to with the house in the event of a break up. That's right - a pre-nup for assets in a dating relationship. Because you have no agreements in place, he gets 50% of the house because his name is on the deed.
2. He wants to keep the house but his credit is too bad to let him refinance the house into a mortgage just in his name. Your name is still on the mortgage and any late payments or missed payments will hurt your credit. Just having the mortgage in your name, even if paid on time, will affect your ability to purchase another house.
Keep your life simple(r) and don't buy a house with someone you are dating.
Now does this mean you shouldn't buy a house for yourself while dating someone? Absolutely not. Date and buy a house. Just don't mix the two.
It's your turn! Do you agree? Disagree? Have a story to share? Sound off in the comments below!