My husband, Chris and I have been renting for just over three years now since we sold our last house. We are now debt free and have an emergency savings of three months of expenses. The time is at hand to start considering a house again, but I'm terrified to mess it all up again. I feel like nearly every decision we have made about housing in the last seven years has been a disaster.
When we were first married we rented a little one bedroom apartment on the "westside" of the freeway. The counter tops were peeling up and there were cops with their flashlights searching the parking lot almost every night. It was the best deal my husband could find at $700.00 a month.
As our six month lease expired, we decided to "save money" by moving in with my parents. This wasn't a horrible decision, just cramped. My brother and his wife and child were already living there as well. As I approached my due date for my first child, my husband was laid off. It was lucky then, that we were living with my parents, or we wouldn't have been able to pay rent.
Chris acquired a new job in southern Utah and so we moved to Cedar City. We were able to rent a 2 bedroom, all be it tiny, apartment on the SUU campus for only $400.00 per month. This was great because my husband was making $5.00/hr less than he was making in Salt Lake.
We started getting the feeling that we needed to have a house. Family and friends were all encouraging us to stop throwing away our money on renting and buy a place. I needed to start working if we were going to afford a house, so I secured a job at the local Pizza Hut as a Shift Manager.
In the meantime, we found a realtor, a home, and a loan. $120,000 which was $820.00 a month. This ended up being more than 1/3 of our combined take home pay. Then, when we had been in the house for two months, my job fell apart and I quit.
I made the rash decision to move back up to Sandy. My husband took a job at my father's company and we found an apartment for $720.00 a month and we sold our house to Chris's step-father as a rental property.
Feeling the pressure of our debts enclosing around us we decided to move in with my parents again. Unfortunately, to do so, we paid nearly $2,000.00 to break our lease.
We lived with my parents for six months before wanting a house again. My brother-in-law was trying to sell a bunch of properties he had in his name before he went bankrupt, so we bought one from him. We paid $178,000.00 for it. We didn't have any money for a down payment so we ended up with an 80/20 interest-only loan, making our payment $1,375.00!! I obtained a job with my dad as well. My husband and I were both making over $18.00 hourly, but we couldn't make ends meet.
We sold the house before it ruined our marriage. I quit my job again to be an at-home-mom to our soon to be 3 kids. We moved to Layton, to be closer to Chris's new job at the Bountiful Skypark. Our rent was $925.00. It seemed doable at the time, but Chris worked 3 jobs to keep the bills paid and food on the table.
Again, my parents house tempted us when our lease was up. But this time we had a plan and we would be debt free before we moved out of their basement again. A year and a half into it, my sister and her family moved in. We were 3 months away from paying off our last debts but the tensions between my husband and brother-in-law took over. Moving again, this time to Riverton with a $815.00 monthly rent.
With all of the added expenses of paying for our own housing it ended up taking us an additional 8 months to pay off our remaining debts. The two bedroom apartment on the third floor was simply inadequate for our 3 kids, and again, one more on the way. It was also a 45 minute drive to and from work each day for Chris, which was costing us an extreme amount of money on gas.
Our last move was the smartest we have done to date. We moved to Bountiful, the town in which my husband works. We landed ourselves a 3 bedroom 1 1/2 bath duplex with a huge driveway and backyard for $800.00 a month. With no debts, this sum is easily manageable. However, 2 months after our move, his job cut his hours down to 15-20 hours weekly.
Luckily, we have some amazing friends who were more than willing to hire Chris on, without even an application, resume or interview! The boss took the word of his son-in-law and daughter. That seemed to be all he required. Chris is now working out of town, but he is making better money than he has our whole marriage.
So the question comes now. We have our finances in order, our ducks in a row. There are two options for us at this point. Option 1 - save money for a down payment on a house. The price range we are looking at is between $100,000 and $120,000. This would mean a 20% down payment of $18,000 to $24,000. At our current savings rate this would take between 2 and 3 years, conservatively. Option 2 - we split our savings in half. The first half, going towards our home savings, the second half going towards retirement investing. If we do it this way, we will have more money when it comes time to retire, but it will take us an additional 2 to 3 years to save for a house, which would mean no house for 4 to 6 years.
What would you do?