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Five reasons why you shouldn’t buy a house right now

For many Americans, higher mortgage rates make this a terrible time to buy a house.

A “For Sale” sign in Crockett, California, U.S., on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. The number of home sellers lowering prices has reached the highest level since October 2019, the latest sign that the housing market is slowing from its once-frenzied pandemic pace. (Bloomberg/Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomber)
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You’ve probably been told repeatedly by your mama, daddy, financial experts, real estate agents and bankers to buy a home.

Renting is too often — and incorrectly — viewed as just throwing good money away. The sooner you buy a home, the sooner you can become rich with home equity, is the money mantra you keep hearing.

While it’s true that you can add to your net worth by owning a home that appreciates in value, it’s not always clear when buying a home makes the most economic sense for you.

Homeownership for many is the key to achieving the American Dream of prosperity. But does it make sense to defer that dream in a still-recovering economy?

June inflation soared 9.1%, a new 40-year high, amid high gas prices

At a time of high inflation and rising interest rates that sage advice to buy a home may not be in your best financial interest.

An interest rate hike will affect anyone with a home mortgage, car loan, savings account or money in the stock market. (Video: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Some folks, in part because of rising interest rates, are realizing now is not the right time to buy. In June, close to 15 percent of home-purchase agreements fell through as buyers backed out of their contracts, according to an analysis by Redfin.

Here are five reasons you shouldn’t buy a home right now.

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Home prices are still too high

Although the housing market is showing signs of cooling down, it’s still pricey for many families.

About half of Americans — 49 percent — say the availability of affordable housing in their local community is a major problem, up 10 percentage points from early 2018, according to a Pew Research Center report released at the end of 2021.

Don’t forget one of the important lessons of the Great Recession, which is that home values can come crashing down. People who purchased at the height of the housing boom had to learn the hard way that homes don’t always appreciate. If you buy too high, you may not be able to sell your home and make a profit.

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And can I throw in this extra piece of advice?

Don’t overestimate the tax advantage of homeownership. Often, home buyers point to a mortgage deduction as a big reason to buy a home. Yet many homeowners with mortgages don’t receive the tax break because they don’t itemize their federal tax returns.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled the standard deduction, resulting in fewer taxpayers itemizing deductions on their tax returns.

What the Fed’s interest rate hike means for mortgages

You need time to build a better credit history

With interest rates rising, you need to do what you can to get your credit score as high as possible. FICO, the scoring model most lenders use, ranges from a low of 300 to a high of 850.

Lenders consider your credit score in determining the interest rate and payment terms on a mortgage loan. The higher your score, the better deal you may get. Even a few points’ difference can push you into a pricing tier that can increase the cost of your loan.

“A higher credit score helps ensure that you’ll qualify for the most affordable mortgage loan,” said Bruce McClary, senior vice president of membership and communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Rising mortgage interest rates make it even more important to review your credit report and address any items that might negatively influence your score.”

McClary highly recommends aiming for a score over 700.

“Because mortgages represent large loans that last for a long time, improving your credit score could save you a ton of money,” points out Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.com and CreditCards.com. “It’s especially important to do whatever you can to improve your score before applying for a big-ticket item such as a mortgage.”

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It will wipe out all your savings

If purchasing a home will clean out your rainy-day fund, you might want to rethink your timing.

If the economy gets worse and unemployment ticks up, you don’t want to be in the position of losing a job and not having enough savings to cover your mortgage and other expenses for at least a couple of months.

As a homeowner, the maintenance and repairs of your property are on you. If you want to keep up your property value or increase it over time, you have to maintain it, which may mean making home improvements.

I’ll just get a home warranty policy, you might argue.

Based on my own experience with various home warranty policies, having one doesn’t guarantee you will get your appliance repaired or replaced in a timely manner. For each visit to fix something that was broken, I had to pay a service fee ranging from $100 to $125, which is on top of the monthly or annual fee for the policy.

Is a home warranty a waste or a smart buy?

“Warranty companies are the subject of thousands of complaints and negative reviews at consumer agencies and groups such as the Better Business Bureau,” according to a review by Washington Consumers’ Checkbook and Checkbook.org. “Even the most comprehensive plans include long lists of fine-print exclusions.”

High monthly mortgage payments won’t leave much cushion in your budget

When qualifying for a mortgage, lenders allow for some debt. But the lending process doesn’t account for the money you need to have in your budget to save for retirement or college savings for your child or children.

Calculate how much more mortgages will cost as interest rates rise

If you buy a home before you are economically ready, it can drag you down financially.

There are signs that the hot housing market is cooling

A year ago, the average 30-year fixed rate was 2.9 percent.

As of July 7, following months of increases, the 30-year fixed rate dropped slightly, to an average of 5.30 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

In an effort to beat back inflation, the Federal Reserve began pushing rates up.

Higher mortgage rates can make it more difficult for some buyers to qualify for a mortgage. Fewer buyers manically bidding up available homes can have the effect of lowering home prices. Less demand, potentially lower prices.

The housing market, at last, appears to be cooling off

Heed this prospective from Freddie Mac: “While the drop provides minor relief to buyers, the housing market will continue to normalize if home price growth materially slows due to the combination of low housing affordability and an expected economic slowdown.”

Yes, homeownership is one path to prosperity. But patience in the current economic environment can also work in your favor.

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