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How to Avoid Over-Housing

by Chuck Bentley August 31, 2016

Forbes contributor, Joshua Becker, asks, do you really need that much home? His insightful article points out that we regularly only use 40% of our living space. Yet, Americans carry high mortgages and live with the stress of financial burden. More is not always better.

A small home is typically less expensive, easier to maintain and faster to clean.

Peter Dunn, at USA Today, reports that Americans suffer from over-housing: the concept of paying too much money for housing in relation to one’s income. Homes are emotional possessions that affect family harmony.

So, how do we end up with big houses and big mortgages? Unless we know the realtor well, they will show us what our money can buy rather than what we truly need. And, that mortgage becomes an albatross when unforeseen problems arise that cause a fragile budget to collapse. Often buyers will deplete their emergency fund in order to get a down payment together, then face higher utility costs, greater home maintenance expenses, higher insurance and property taxes, homeowners association fees, and on and on.

If the income of both husband and wife are necessary to cover the budget, then the loss of one job, or an extended illness can create complete havoc.

The stress and damage in such a scenario can be ugly, causing struggles in the short and long term. If you are wondering whether you are over-housed, answer these questions:

  • Are you able to establish and contribute to an emergency fund?
  • Are you regularly paying down other debt and not accumulating others?
  • Are you losing sleep over your financial situation and/or arguing with your spouse over bills?
  • Do you foresee greater expenses in your future?
  • Do you hope to have children or adopt?
  • Will you be paying for private school, homeschool, or college?
  • Will you possibly be caring for your parents, adult children, or grandchildren?
  • Have you purchased adequate life insurance and a will?

It may be that you need to rent temporarily or buy a smaller or less expensive home. Then, this time, buy only what you need, not what you can afford. And, give yourself the gift of financial freedom.

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