The Perfect Home on a Budget Why a Good Enough Home is the Best Choice

Budget-friendly home

Buying a ‘good enough’ home that doesn’t break your budget can help lay a solid foundation to achieve many dreams.

Discover why buying a budget-friendly, ‘good enough’ home can lay the foundation for achieving your dreams. Find out how this smart investment will help you save money and still live comfortably.

Constructed from aspirational Instagram feeds and reality TV, the dream home floats in the imagination like a castle in the sky but dissolves in the rain of hard numbers.

Chasing the dream can lure buyers to overextend themselves financially. Or the high prices can lead first-time home buyers to delay a home purchase — and the opportunity to start building home equity.

For many home buyers, buying a “good enough” home can be a sounder strategy, particularly for those most eager to become homeowners.

“Id rather see people buy a good enough home versus buying a dream home and being cash-strapped over the next 20 years,” says Alyssa Lum, certified financial planner and founder of Luminate Financial Planning in Herndon, Virginia.

Heres the beauty of a good enough home.

It has the essentials

A good enough home may not have artisan tile or stainless steel appliances, but it has the essentials.

Look for a home thats well-maintained, has “good bones” and is in a good location, says Kelly Roth, a real estate agent with Pearson Smith Realty in Ashburn, Virginia. A well-maintained home in a good location will likely increase in value and probably wont be a money pit.

Buyers tend to home in on cosmetic upgrades, Roth says, but she advises focusing on basics, like windows, the roof and the heating and air conditioning system. Then youre less likely to face surprise repairs just to make the house functional.

If you cant have it all — and most people cant — list the features you want, and decide where youre willing to compromise.

Amber Miller, a certified financial planner with The Planning Center in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, bought her first home two years ago. It has features she wanted, such as hardwood floors and a separate dining area, but isnt flawless.

One of the bathrooms has outdated salmon-pink tile. “I thought, well, its not beautiful but its clean and functional,” she says. “This isnt going to be the house Im in forever, but its good enough for now, and I love it.”

» MORE: 12 first-time home buyer mistakes and how to avoid them

It fits your lifestyle

Roth tells of a couple who fell in love with a home that looked like a dream. But the commute to work — 90 minutes each way — became a nightmare.

“They bought it in August and sold it in March,” Roth says.

“Good” is personal. A big yard could be a must for a family with a dog, but a pain if you hate yardwork.

And a good home matches your timeline. It should meet your needs for the years you plan to live there, which probably isnt forever if its a first home, Roth says.

» MORE: Explore first-time home buyer assistance programs by state

It doesnt squeeze your budget

A good enough home has a reasonable price for your budget. Lum recommends keeping your debt-to-income ratio under 30%. Thats the percentage of gross monthly income that goes toward debt payments, including the mortgage.

Lenders will qualify buyers with considerably higher ratios. But that may not leave much for other expenses, says Trey Reed, a loan officer with MVB Mortgage near Washington, D.C.

“Maxing out (debt-to-income) is something I see people do, but not something I recommend,” Reed says.

A good enough home leaves you with enough money for other priorities, such as saving for retirement and emergencies, and for all the costs of ownership besides the mortgage. That includes home insurance, property taxes, utilities and maintenance.

Fifty-five percent of homeowners — 68% of those ages 21 to 34 — had regrets about their preparation for the homebuying process, according to Bank of the Wests 2018 Millennial Study. The top regret for all age groups: costly maintenance.

Miller says to budget about 1% to 3% of the homes value annually for maintenance.

» MORE: How much house can I afford?

It can be transformed

Over time, you can add dreamy features.

When shopping for a home this year in Leesburg, Virginia, Jenny and Mike Virbickis found a beautifully upgraded house priced $75,000 more than they planned to spend. They kept looking and found a home that fit their budget.

“Id rather have a house my family can grow into and we can fix up to make it our own rather than something we cant afford,” Jenny says.

Their home has space for their toddler to play, is structurally sound and is in the neighborhood they wanted. Eventually, theyll make home improvements. But for now, its perfect. After a block party in their cul-de-sac recently, Jenny says, “I came home and said, ‘This is where we were meant to be.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.


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Budget-friendly home

Budget-friendly home

Budget-friendly home