Dear Monty: We bought our first home in 2008. It was $90,000. We were in debt with child care, student loans, credit cards, car payments and a mortgage.
Now, except for our mortgage, we are debt-free and have a savings account.
It sounds like we should buy a new home. We are thinking “No way.” Our interest rate will double. Our mortgage payment would be much higher. Plus, we wouldn’t be doubling our home size. Finally, there is a sparse selection of homes today.
We plan on upgrading our current home. We can see never moving if things keep worsening in this market.
Between outrageous real estate commissions, new construction costs and a stressful move, to buy now seems foolish.
Are we looking at today’s situation correctly?
Monty: The decision to upgrade housing is a lifestyle and personal choice. Frequently, we drive decisions by emotion as opposed to logic.
Some of us base our choices on peer pressure, also known as “keeping up with the Joneses.” Other reasons are frugality, minimalism, risk tolerance and changes in the family structure.
Additionally, illness, loss of a job, children coming and going, a new job at higher pay, inheritance and company relocations can spur change.
Interest rates are a significant factor because, as you have stated, they impact the monthly occupancy cost and the amount of money borrowed.
Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (Fed) decisions often have unintended consequences.
For example, the artificially low rates they imposed in 2020 created an unprecedented demand for homeownership, which drove prices much higher.
Many economists believe that an overpriced portion exists in the housing stock. So, the Fed raises rates to reduce demand.
You see the effect of the Fed’s decision based on your comments. No one knows what the future will bring.
Your home has likely doubled in value. Some homeowners traded up in 2021-2023 and now hold a low-interest mortgage.
Only time will tell if these “frenzy” homes will hold their value.
Some economists believe prices will continue to rise. Some markets are seeing home prices decline. Many hot markets still see prices rising, so geography may play a role in current decision-making.
Some sellers are on the sidelines, renting homes and apartments, waiting for a correction. Others have become permanent renters.
Timing can be a matter of luck, but thoughtful planning can create opportunities. There is a certain amount of risk or reward when timing is a factor in your decisions.
An extreme example of using timing to your advantage is simultaneously selling high and buying low. Selling a home in Hawai‘i (median value $900k) and moving to West Virginia (median value $146k) would be a windfall.
Could it happen in your current city?
Remodel vs. Buying Different Home
Every home is unique, whether it’s the home you are living in or a home you are contemplating buying.
Statistics and native advertising mean nothing for particular properties.
Not all home improvements add value or livability, so when making decisions of this magnitude, be conscious of “emotion creep” and logic in your research.
Click here for a Dear Monty article that discusses remodeling and how to test your ideas for improvement.