I love the Property Brothers, and a myriad of the other DIY shows on television. However, there is a big problem. It comes from the average homeowner not having Chip and Johana in their back pocket doing renovations at huge discounts and at the exact same time setting expectations of a home so high. Every time I hear the words “Dream Home” I cringe, and it happens a lot.
There is a new infatuation with the perfect house, huge amounts of space and beautiful finishes. I’m not sure if it is just because of too much HGTV, Flips, or just keeping up with the Jones, but we have a disconnect with wants and needs when it comes to a house in western culture.
When I see trends like this, it always makes me think. I personally know plenty of people remodeling kitchens and homes with nothing wrong with them. Yes, it is nice to have a nice home or that extra counter space, but people get used to whatever they have. So I do what I always do, follow the money.
So many companies and people make money off of remodels, flipping homes, and people trying to have the shiniest new item. There is a huge vested interest in this culture in getting you to want those fancy stainless steel appliances and perfectly decorated home. Including Realtors, and all the companies feeding off of them.
But really? It is a want, not a need, and if you really weighed the cost, you might think that 80’s kitchen in good condition on a moderately priced home is the actual want.
How the Dream Home can become a trap:
The bigger the house you have the higher utility payments you have to make. This over the lifetime you are in your home can really add up. It might make it worth it to get a pull out couch instead of a spare guest room.
“Nationally, based on data from UtilityScore, people in single family homes spend a median of $2,715 annually ($226 monthly) on utilities, or $1.68 on a square foot basis, or 1.4% of the median single-family home value.”
Not to mention the mortgage, maybe the flip in the area is only 20,000 more, and your thinking but I don’t want to pay for workers to upgrade it myself.
Let’s take a mortgage amount of 100k at a 4.5% interest, over 30 years that cost you $182,407. Yipes! That interest really sneaks up on you. So what does that extra 20k cost you in the long run? A 120k mortgage at 4.5% interest over 30 years costs you $218,888. So that 20k extra asking prices actually is more like 36,481 and it can get a whole lot worse depending on your interest rate.
Did I forget to mention that property taxes and insurance are also strongly weighted off the price and size of your home.
And of course lets not forget your most precious asset, your time. That is more time cleaning, landscaping, doing maintenance, or more money to pay someone else to do it for you.
Lets put it all together, I’m going to use the Tucson, AZ market because I know it well. This is a nicer area of Tucson but by no means one of the high-end areas.
Note: Larger houses and more expensive homes go hand in hand when you are comparing directly in the same neighborhood. However, when you start comparing different prices per square footage due to upgrades or different neighborhoods it can make things more complicated, older bigger homes have higher utilities and more repairs, however higher prices regardless of the condition increase price across the board with mortgages, insurance, and taxes.
Okay, so now can actually see the weight of this financial choice, it is time to talk about what you actually need. That is a pretty huge amount of money for 500 sqft or a 75k difference in price. That could be a modest retirement if it was put into the stock market or used to buy a rental property cash.
Remember to stick to your needs. There is a counter-culture movement going right now for tiny houses. People are getting sick of working just so they can afford their house and cars. While I’m not so extreme as to think that is the way to go, as I believe these homes offer very little flexibility and people burn out of them frequently. I do have a family of five living in a 1400 sqft home, and frankly it feels spacious, we even rented a room out to a family member for a while and it still felt fine. I do want to preface that by saying we really do enjoy each others company!
Minimize your losses by buying a forever home. Ideally, financially, you will buy a home and keep it for the rest of your life. Not too many people do this, but it is the wisest financial decision and gives you that paid off residence for retirement. If you choose to part, like most people do at some point because you choose something that will not carry through your life, you will eat 10% of your total property price when you sell, and also lose 3% of purchase price and start the interest-heavy years of your mortgage all over again.
I like to look at houses in terms of flexibility.
Does it have rooms that could easily serve different purposes, depending on whats happening in your life?
If you were to move out could you rent it out and have it at least cover all costs?
How much of the home is rarely usable space?
Could I negotiate the cost of repairs at a lower price, then take my time getting to them?
Take your time, buying a home that is not right for will hurt you more financially than paying extra rent while searching for the one that works. Remember choosing the wrong home can lead you to getting caught in a financial trap.
I not saying don’t get the waterfall countertops or the huge backyard, just make sure you weigh the true value to you and know the difference between your needs and wants. You can always upgrade when things wear out and pay cash for it so your not eating 30 years of interest on a renovation that will not last that long.
While perusing the internet this week, I came across several advertisements for financing your wedding. Because there is nothing that says we are ready for the next chapter of our lives like starting it with a massive debt. Curious, I investigated more. Washington Times reported that the average price of an American wedding had reached a mind-boggling $35,329!
WHAT! On a party?
This amount could send that couple on good economic footing into the world. 35,000 dollars is a great downpayment on a home in most states or even a paid in full, flat-out cash price on some fixer uppers or condos.
It could allow that couple to house hack and cover all of their housing expenses!!! Why would anyone in their right mind finance a wedding?
Where are the friends and families not condoning excess and telling the perpetrators of such wastefulness what they are doing? TIME reports as of 2016 that 1 in 3 people have no retirement savings and that 72% of millennials have less than $10,000 in savings.
Where did we go wrong?
When did declaring our love for someone for our all our friends and families to nourish and protect become a pinnacle of American consumerism?
Does having the $3,000 dress instead of the $300 one say our love will last forever? Well it better, because that debt probably will stick around for a while.
But guess what, it does not, in fact quite the opposite.
On average, if you spend more money on your wedding ring and wedding, the marriage is less likely to last! The professors went on to hypothesize that it was possible that the economic stress of the debt from the wedding was what caused such outcome.
Do we need more reasons to be fiscally responsible, on this special day?
It goes on further to say:
“evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but are high in attendance.“
So if you want that marriage to last, go cheap, but don’t skimp on the people.
I didn’t know all this when I got married, but this is exactly what I had.
A big, cheap wedding.
This is what I did to get the wedding that I wanted without busting my budget, all said and done I think I ended up paying less than $2000 for 80 people:
Buy many of the things you would normally rent. And then sell them back on ebay.com, craigslist.com, or a Facebook group. Net after the sale will be a fraction of the cost to rent. It is usually pretty easy to do in bulk, but you can get more back separate. I got all sorts of things on Amazon.com: Wedding Fairy Lights, Table Runners, Table Cloth, Vases, and anything else you can think of!
Choose a cheap venue. We did a backyard wedding, and it was wonderful. Other places that are cheap are city parks, national parks, and some other public facilities.
Get a pre-owned wedding dress. Using an expensive dress for one day is wasteful. I bought something that I had tried on at a store for half-off the tag. And guess what you can sell it again afterward!! I used Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. Many of the dresses offer returns.
Get a Birthday Cake! I went wedding cake shopping and was disgusted both with the level of quality and the price. Instead, I decided to go to my local bakery and ordered three all white birthday cakes. They were amazingly good and a fraction of the cost.
Rent the tables and chairs, make sure to shop around and don’t mention that it is a wedding.
Don’t skimp on the Wedding Photographer. This was the one thing I wish I hadn’t gone cheap on. Still, there are so many amazing photographers out there I would choose one that isn’t huge on the wedding circuit to get more value.
Food. This was my biggest expense. I had my favorite restaurant cater a buffet. The meal was my chosen splurge for my guests that made my wedding feel not low budget at all.
Get flowers in bulk. I ordered 450 roses in three beautiful colors from Sam’s Club.
Have family help out! Some family members will want to help share in your big day; this is an awesome way. Those flowers need to be arranged, the chairs set up and moved, maybe you have a cousin who would rather give some time than cash for a present!
How do you feel about the modern American wedding? What was your wedding like or what are you planning?