Homeownership is considered a cornerstone of the much-desired American dream. However, we each embark on a path toward fulfilling this dream at different rates, surrounded by different circumstances. If we get caught up in chasing a dream that’s not within our current means, then we run the risk of serious financial hardships in all parts of our lives.
You may have heard of the phrase “buying too much house.” This refers to consumers who purchase a home that they cannot afford to maintain. It’s important to remember that a mortgage only represents a portion of the costs associated with homeownership. You also need to account for regular upkeep and maintenance, utility costs, insurance, taxes and association dues.
For most Americans, a home purchase will be their largest investment. It’s central to their safety, security and livelihood. In order to help protect this investment, we’ve compiled five tips for reducing home-related costs that could save you thousands of dollars.
- Be Mindful of Utilities – The larger the house, the higher the utility costs. When house hunting, take mental notes of the room size, window placement and locations of the AC and heating units. Would it be difficult to heat or cool the entire home? If you’re already established, you can reduce your utility bills by using energy efficient light bulbs, sealing cracks around windows and doors, and unplugging electronics that aren’t in use, such as cell phone chargers. To reduce water costs, only run the dishwasher or clothes washer when you have a full load. You can also reduce outside watering costs by replacing grass or plants with rock and gravel gardens.
- Get a Roommate – Getting a roommate is a quick way to reduce your rent/mortgage and utility costs. If you place an ad for a roommate, check their credit report and perform a background check. The fee associated with these reports will be well worth the peace of mind and potential hassles in the long run. In addition, a roommate should always sign a lease. This protects both parties.
- Refinance – If you’re financially stable, have a good credit rating and have at least 20% equity in your home, then you should consider refinancing. This can reduce monthly mortgage payments, and in some cases, eliminate mortgage insurance. The amount of money you can save depends on your total refinancing costs, whether you plan to sell your home in the near future and the effects of refinancing on your taxes. Talk with a lender or credit counselor before making this move.
- Barter for Services – Maintenance and upkeep can be quite expensive. Consider bartering for these types of services with your own time, talent and experience. For instance, you can trade babysitting or yard work for plumbing. You can also barter house cleaning for house painting. Use your imagination. What do you need? How can you benefit others?
- Sell & Downsize – If you are already suffering hardships from “too much house” or perhaps the kids have moved out, it may be time to reevaluate your housing needs as opposed to your housing wants. Do you need a pool? Do you need two guest rooms or a separate office? Is it easy to maintain the yard? If not, examine the current real estate market to determine whether it’s the right time to sell and downsize. You could use the profit from a home sale to pay off debts or reinvest into a savings or retirement account.