There aren’t many human needs more core to our survival than shelter. In a world that can sometimes throw some pretty harsh elements and predators at us, a home can provide us with necessary protection, well-being, and on a more modern level, can even be a sign of your overall social status. To sum it up, your home in many ways represents your overall quality of life.
Because of that, it’s to the chagrin of many that housing is the most significant expense most families have. In fact, the costs associated with just having a place to live have been calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to account for as much as 20% of a household’s total expenses (and that’s before property tax, homeowner’s insurance, and utilities).
The belief many people had that buying a home was a low-risk move since its value was expected to grow over time was shattered in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. Property values plummeted, and more families lost their homes than during any previous recession or depression in the history of the United States.
In light of that, and to help people prepare to avoid a similar fate should the economy ever tank again, let’s look at some of the best ways to increase the affordability of your home, and enhance your ability to afford it throughout the rest of your life.
Location, location, location
I don’t think it would shock many of you to learn that the average, per-square-foot price of an apartment in Manhattan is typically about 50% higher than an equivalent in Cincinnati, for example. You can get a much bigger home for a similar cost if you go even further out into rural areas. You need what you need as far as space, but sometimes a slightly longer commute can be worth it for the savings you’ll enjoy.
Don’t pay for more space than you need
Sure, a three bedroom, two story house may be what you always had in mind, but if you’re living alone and don’t have a need for three bedrooms’ worth of extra storage, such a home might not make sense from a financial standpoint. A smaller place would be more cost-efficient, and by the way, would require much less maintenance on your part to boot.
Find ways to save on your utilities
You’d be surprised how much you can save by cutting back on your utility usage. It sounds overly simple, but turning the heat down a few degrees, laying out the cash for LED bulbs to replace your incandescent, and even adding insulation in ways as simple as putting nice thick curtains over your windows can save you hundreds per month, and thousands per year.
Handle your own repairs and maintenance
I don’t think there’s been a homeowner in history who hadn’t cringed when they got the bill from the plumber for some minor repair. Given that, wouldn’t it be a great way to save money if you figured out how to make those minor fixes yourself? It never hurts to be self-sufficient, and in this case, it could save you big bucks to boot.
If all else fails, consider renting
Renting a home offers many advantages over buying one, aside from the noticeable difference in the cost of mortgage payments compared to rent. Maintenance costs fall on your landlord, as do property taxes, and in many cases, utilities as well. Even if your ultimate goal is to buy a home, the low cost of renting will help you save up the money you need for that down payment.
Owning and maintaining a home is one of the costliest things you’ll ever have to pay for, but following the tips above can help make the costs a lot more manageable, and make it possible to live somewhere nicer than you might otherwise find.