Buy home now or save for later?
My husband and I are planning to save a down payment of $50,000 for a house in five to seven years. We're starting from scratch here. Should we put the money into a money market account or invest the money in mutual funds?
We've already established the "pay our savings
first" habit for six months. The question I have is, "Where
do we put the money to earn more?" Thanks a lot!
-- Heidi Housing
With a five- to seven-year investment horizon, it's pretty easy
to justify investing some of this money in mutual funds investing
in stocks and bonds versus staying in money market accounts or certificates
of deposit. Part of that decision depends on your tolerance for
risk, meaning your ability to accept that your investments will
go up and down in value depending on where the overall markets are
heading in general and your investments in particular.
I'm going to bootstrap a few numbers that might get
you to take an alternate approach. If the $50,000 investment goal
represents a 20 percent down payment on the house, you're looking
at a $250,000 home. What's great about a 20 percent down payment
is that you won't have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI,
on the loan.
The downside is that if homes in your market are appreciating
by an average of 5 percent annually, a $250,000 home in today's
market will cost about $320,000 five years from now and $352,000
seven years from today. So instead of looking at what $250,000 can
buy you today, look at homes in your market priced today at $178,000
I'll admit to pulling the 5 percent number from thin
air. I don't know what will happen to housing prices in your market
over the next five to seven years. My point is that in real estate
markets with rising prices you can be better off buying a home with
less money down and paying the PMI or taking out a piggyback loan
and buying now versus waiting to achieve a down payment savings
goal five to seven years out. Locking in today's relatively low
fixed interest rates on a mortgage also can work toward a lower
FHA loans are another way to finance a home with a
low down payment. Instead of paying PMI, you pay for a government
guarantee on the mortgage called the mortgage insurance premium,
Try to consider the big picture. How long do you plan
to live in the area? What's happening to home prices in your region?
How long would a home that you can afford to finance today continue
to meet your needs -- for space, schools, etc.? If you expect a
lot of changes in the next five to seven years, then saving for
the down payment can make more sense than buying today or in the
next year or two.
Bankrate has an interactive
work sheet that does a nice job helping you think through the
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