The Five Year Rule
When you purchase a house, the general rule is that you want to be sure you’ll be in the same location for at least five years. Otherwise, you’re probably going to take a hit financially.
The first hit is your closing costs. Every time you go through closing — buying and selling — money hits the table. Depending on where your house happens to be, the buyers and sellers pay different amounts, but everyone pays something. This can easily add up to thousands of dollars, and limiting how often you have to pay that kind of money is always a good idea.
And you take a second hit when you look at your mortgage statement to see exactly where your monthly payments are going. The way mortgages are structured, you pay much more interest in the first few years that you own a house. Usually, it isn’t until you’re about five years into paying down your mortgage that you’ve made enough progress on the principal to make it a better deal than paying rent each month.
If you can wait at least five years to move, you’re in a better position to be ahead of the game.
Defeating the Five Year Rule
Five years is a generality. If you add in a couple of other factors, you can make buying a house that you don’t plan to stay in long-term a better choice.
The biggest factor is how much you’re going to pay on your mortgage. A lot of people buy as much house as they can afford, according to what lenders offer them. That’s usually the upper end of what you can financially manage.
You may also consider buying a house that you won’t stay in for five years — but that you also won’t turn around and sell. It’s not out of the question to purchase a house, start paying it down, and fix it up so that you can turn rent it out. You do need to be careful that you’re choosing a house that you can afford in addition to a mortgage for your next home, even if you can’t find a renter. There are plenty of other arrangements that can work out similarly, but you need to study up on real estate before making such a choice.
Bottom line: My suggestion: Don’t buy the biggest house you can just because a lender tells you what you can afford. Instead, consider buying smaller and then adding extra money to your monthly payments. That extra money will go entirely to paying down the principal loan – that means you will pay less interest over the life of the loan and you will create more equity because you are paying off the principal balance faster.
However, if you’re not going to stay in your home five years and your not looking at it as an investment property, you should probably consider renting.