A nice house. But should I buy it?

A nice house. But should I buy it?

As I browse the business sections of MSN.com, so many articles are written to encourage prospective buyers to take the plunge and buy a house. Headlines read like a “going out of business” sale, “Mortgage rates at rock bottom, buy now” is the theme. But just because mortgage rates are the lowest they’ve been in years, and home prices are much more reasonable than three years ago, does that mean everyone should go out and buy a house?

I’m playing devil’s advocate here, even though my goal is to purchase a home of my own, because I think these articles that are appearing in the business section of major news sources mislead prospective buyers. My stance is this: No one should buy a home unless they are financially prepared to do so, no matter how low interest rates are or how inexpensive homes may seem. Financial Samurai recently posted his interview with Consumerism Commentary and stated that he believes in the 30/30/2 rule when it comes to purchasing property. That is you have 30 percent saved, for a 30 year mortgage (I think this is the second 30, I can’t remember this one – Sam?), and pay no more than twice your annual income for the house. I agree, but with a slightly different variation; a person can probably comfortably afford a home at 2.5 time their income.

This means, however, that if you want to purchase a $300,000 house, you need $90,000 saved. How many new home buyers do you know that put down that much in cash for a house? It’s difficult to save that much money when an average salary hovers around $40,000. And, if you only make $40,000 a year (add a spouse that may equate to $80,000 total income), your home should cost no more than $200,000. Where I live, there are few homes in this price range. So what does this mean? It means I’m not ready to own a home yet, even with articles luring me to purchase because mortgage rates have never been this low and are primed for spiking within the next year.

Marketing pressure is what lead to the recent housing bubble, hopefully this pressure isn’t leading more purchasers down this same path. With tighter lending practices in place, due to the financial melt down, this should remedy some of the problems of the housing market. However, no matter how enticing home prices and mortgage rates seem,  I won’t be making that plunge until I’m sure I can afford a home comfortably.

What is your thought on buying a home? Is it always the best option? Are renters financially illiterate people? What about all the articles sounding like advertisements for prospective home buyers? Should people follow the advice and just buy a home before it’s too late?