How Do I Decide How Much House To Buy?

How Do I Decide How Much House To Buy?

Dear Holly,

I have been working really hard and think I am ready to buy my first home. I am getting conflicting advice; some folks are recommending I buy the cheapest thing I can afford in the area where I want to live, others are suggesting I stretch a little and get an extra bedroom and bath. Do you think I should go cheap or go for broke?


Confused about my purchase

Dear Confused about my purchase,

As I am sure you can attest, there is no shortage of advice out there for first time home buyers. The problem is that those giving advice are often giving general advice and not advice based on your situation.

The first thing I would say is ask your mortgage lender.  I never show homes to people unless they have had extensive conversations with their lender and have a good solid understanding of both what they can--and want to--afford. If your lender clears you to go either way, then you need to do some soul searching.

The first question I ask buyers is how long they see themselves in the house. Once I get their answer, I ask them what kind of life-events they anticipate (transfer, marriage, divorce, children, parents moving in) in the next 7 years.  Do they think that any of these life-events will happen during the course of their ownership?

Once they answer that question, it becomes easier to determine what type of property will best
condo building suit their needs. It is different for every buyer.

Especially in a first home, I ask them if there is any scenario in which they can see taking a room-mate (not a significant other, but a paying tenant). If job loss, or loneliness, might lead them toward this option, I find it helpful to evaluate homes for dual, or triple, living capacity. A three bedroom, 1 bath home will be more difficult to rent a room in  than a 2 bedroom, 2 bath home.

Finally, I ask them to be honest with themselves about their income growth potential. If you are in a field where your salary will continue to grow, it is easier to stretch a bit. Down the road, it won't seem like a stretch at all. If, however, like many people you are in a limited income growth job or career, you need to know that your current 'stretch' may become your lifestyle. If that is okay, then you have your answer.

I hope this helps and good luck!



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 Momentum Realty

A GREAT Real Estate  experience.

If I can help you, your friends or family buy or sell their next home in Northern Virginia, please let me know!

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Comment balloon 4 commentsHolly Weatherwax • June 10 2011 08:37AM


In these times when the economic outlook is so perilous, my recommendation is to be conservative.

Posted by J. A. Michail, Real Property Management of Sarasota & M (Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee) over 7 years ago

This is the best advice for any buyer. You don't have to spend the most you are allowed to spend by a lender. You need to discover the right home for your current and near future needs. Talk to a Realtor. In northern Virginia, talk to Holly

Posted by Glenn Roberts (Retired) over 7 years ago

It's also important for folks to really look at their lifestyle, and the potential work required in buying a larger home. Great post, Holly!

Posted by Jill Kipnis (Move, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Thanks for your comments! I really appreciate it. Super thanks for the nice endorsement, Glenn!

Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) over 7 years ago

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