In most parts of the country, buying a home is a rite of passage for a young or newly married couple or someone who has settled into a career.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that at the end of last year, 64.2 percent of Americans were homeowners, but that percentage varies dramatically by age. Of people age 65 and older, 79.2 percent owned homes, but among those under 35, slightly more than one in three—36 percent—were homeowners.
If you live in the Bay Area, you might be chuckling at those statistics. Housing prices in this region are stratospheric and steadily increasing. Between the fall of 2016 and the fall of 2017, the median price for a single-family Bay Area home jumped 15 percent, to $825,000, a new high, according to CoreLogic. The dream of home ownership remains out of reach for many people, even when couples are each making six-figure incomes.
Renting is no bargain either. Bay Area residents pay higher rent than anywhere else in the country, a recent study showed.
If buying a house or condo is important to you and you call this area home, you’re well awarethat you’ll have to make some serious sacrifices to do so. Home buyers who put down $100,000 on a $1 million home will make mortgage payments totaling $54,720 a year on a 30-year mortgage at a 4.5 percent interest rate. And that’s before they add in property taxes, maintenance, insurance and other costs.
By paying $4,560 a month towards a mortgage, some buyers may opt to defer saving for retirement. Instead, they may view their Bay Area home as an investment in their portfolio. In most parts of the country, financial advisers warn against this strategy because home prices can fluctuate. And even if homeowners have paid off their mortgage, selling their home probably won’t yield the windfall they expected because they’ll still need to pay for housing.
In the Bay Area, however, home prices are highly unlikely to plummet. And if homeowners relocate to a less costly area such as Las Vegas—where the median home price is less than $250,000, according to Zillow—they’ll be able to pocket a substantial amount of cash. That money can be used to cover significant retirement expenses, particularly if they moderate their spending as they downsize to a smaller home in a more affordable region of the country.
There’s no “right” choice about whether you should rent or buy in a market where skyrocketing prices put the squeeze on everyone. But remember that if you do decide to purchase a home, you’ll want to carefully think through your long-term financial strategy to make sure that owning a house won’t derail your plans to retire.
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