Much has been written and reported about the difficulties young adults face in our economic times. Wages have stagnated, inflation has not. An income that could support a family of four fifty years ago cannot pay the rent on a two-bedroom apartment in today’s dollars. With the rising cost of higher education, those who have pursued a college degree get saddled with student loan debt whether they graduate or not and it’s an obligation that cannot be relieved by bankruptcy. Between student loans, car payments, and ever rising rent costs, how is anyone supposed to save for a down payment on a house?
While I would not argue that establishing an independent, adult household is an easy prospect, there are choices that make it harder than it has to be. Here are a few things that can add to the difficulty of being able to buy a home.
- Delaying marriage. High divorce rates give marriage a bad name. Here is the good news. More than half of all first time marriages last a lifetime. Those that get married and stay married are up to four times wealthier than their single counterparts.
- Not delaying having children. If getting married makes you wealthier, having children makes you poorer. If you want to have financial stability in life, get an education, get and stay married, and wait to have children until after you are married. Having children outside of marriage in the new normal for this generation of young adults and it may be a contributing factor to why they can’t afford to buy a house.
- Supplementing income with credit. When we leave our parent’s home, we all would like to maintain the lifestyle we enjoyed there. But, usually that isn’t possible because we don’t have the income to sustain it. Many solve that problem using credit cards. Using a credit card with a plan to pay it off is one thing. Using a credit card for living expenses is another. If you cannot live on what you make, you need to find a new job or a new way to live. Borrowing money for liabilities will bring you nothing but poverty.
- Buying new cars on credit. According to financial advice guru Dave Ramsey, car loans are the single biggest destroyer of personal wealth. Most of us are not auto mechanics and the fear of being stranded along side the road with a broke down vehicle is real. However, a membership to a discount towing service and regular car maintenance is vastly more affordable than the loan payment, taxes, and insurance on a new car. If you are willing to make due with a paid off clunker, you will have the means to save for something better and maybe a garage to park it in.
- Not tracking spending. When finances are tight, it is important to know where each dollar you earn is going. If there is always more month than money, it may be time to re-evaluate your life choices. If housing costs are more than 50% of your income, that is not a sustainable situation. It may be time to consider moving to a cheaper location, a smaller apartment, or sharing with roommates. If eating out is a huge expense, may be now is the time to learn how to cook. Brewing coffee at home in a coffee maker can also breath life into a sickly budget.
If you marry young and well, delay having kids for a few years, live within your means, and drive old cars, you will likely be able to buy a home sooner than you think. Make these mistakes, it might take you a lot longer.
I have heard it said that open houses are more for real estate agents trying to find potential clients than they are a means of marketing a home for a seller. While there is some truth to this claim, agents can make new contacts at an open house, the open house is also a valuable selling tool.
First, an open house provides an opportunity for buyers to tour a property at their own pace without the formality of making an appointment or the worry of wasting someone else’s time. In today’s information age, most buyers do research on their own before selecting a real estate agent and open houses are one of the ways they can narrow their search criteria. Second, open houses are a way for neighbors to see what is being offered and how it compares to their own home. It can inspire them to call a friend who they would like to have as a neighbor or entice them to make an offer themselves. Finally, an open house provides a seller with instant feedback from the public about the positive and negative features of the home, giving the owner the opportunity to make changes that will make the home more appealing and able to sell.
The following is a list of things sellers can do to improve their home’s first impression.
- Sweep the front sidewalk and exterior entry. Clear any cobwebs or dirt from door and window frames.
- Make sure there are bright, working bulbs in all light fixtures and turn them on.
- Don’t stuff the closets. People will open them and you don’t want anything to fall on them.
- Open all the blinds and curtains and clean the windows.
- Clear the front and side of the refrigerator of papers and magnets.
- Clean window blinds and check window sills for dead flies.
- Clean the air-intake vent and bathroom fan.
- Remove small appliances from kitchen counters to clear as much space as possible.
- Take down family photos.
- Remove evidence of pets as much as possible. Put the litter box in the garage.
- Live plants are great. Fake plants are not.
- Put your cosmetics and medications away, out of sight.
- Clean tubs and toilets
- Take out the trash
- Make sure the house smells pleasant. Light a candle, bake some cookies, or spray an air neutralizer.
One of the most effective ways to make your home feel larger, newer, and cleaner is to remove excess items. Often we collect things over time and don’t realize how much we have until there is no more room for anything new. Here are some tips to get started on your journey to a clutter-free home.
- Start small. Don’t try to tackle too much at once and get overwhelmed. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. The same principle applies to de-cluttering. Start with one category (clothes, books, movies, craft supplies, etc.) and allow yourself enough time to sort that one group of items.
- Keep what’s used and appreciated, toss what’s broken or guilt-inducing. Do not keep something because it was a gift or belonged to another family member. Memories can be held separate from objects.
- Don’t hold on to objects that make you feel bad like clothes that no longer fit, home decor that is no longer in style, or towels that are frayed or smelly. Make room for things that make you happy.
- Don’t feel like you need to keep aspirational items, things that represent the person you aspire to be, rather than who you actually are. For example, I purchased a yoga mat and instructional guide, thinking I might take up yoga. I didn’t. I bought a food processor thinking I might make bread. I haven’t. I bought craft supplies to make cards and scrapbooks. I did, but not so much now. It is okay to let go of past goals if they aren’t present goals. You don’t need stuff reminding you of what you used to want to do.
- Enlist the help of a brutally honest friend with a minimalist streak. I am that friend for a lot of people. They will give you the courage to let go of things you feel like you should keep but really shouldn’t.
- Consider how you can share what you have and borrow what you don’t. We all have things that we keep because we use them seasonally or sporadically, like the 6 foot ladder to get on the roof or the air compressor to blow out the sprinkler system. If you don’t have something, rather than buying it, consider borrowing from a friend. Then return the favor when your neighbor is in need. This way you can build a friendship rather than a storage unit.