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What Does it Mean to be “House Poor”?

What Does it Mean to be “House Poor”?

If you’re a current or aspiring homeowner, you’ve likely heard the phrase: house poor. This situation occurs when a person spends a large proportion of their total income on home ownership, which likely includes mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance, and utilities. As a result of high home ownership costs, these individuals are short on cash for discretionary items and may experience difficulty meeting other financial obligations, such as vehicle payments and childcare services.

 

In most cases, being house poor is a result of “buying too much house.” Put simply, the homeowner has overestimated the amount of financial contributions they are able to make toward a home. Purchasing smaller homes or waiting to save money are great ways to prevent this situation, but it is not uncommon for a homeowner to bite off more than they can chew in a mortgage agreement. This may be the result of total cost underestimation, but it may also be the result of a lost job or decreased income.

 

The best way to prevent becoming house poor is to clearly and strategically budget. Experts say consumers should plan to spend approximately 25% of their income on home expenses. If a homeowner has other expenses and no additional debt, they can potentially spend up to 30%. In all cases, it is important to start a savings account to help save each month to address issues around the home.

 

Unfortunately, even the best budgeting can’t prevent job loss or emotional trauma. Changes to a household’s spending outlook may create difficulty in making mortgage payments. There are ways to reduce spending, such as canceling vacations or downgrading vehicles. Many individuals choose to pick up a second job to pay additional housing bills, while others choose to simply sell the home and purchase or rent a smaller property.

 

Though becoming house poor is a scary concept, many American homeowners are experiencing the phenomenon. As a result, it is important to only spend within your financial limits—especially when it comes to large investments, like homes and cars.

 

Rachel Richardson

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