Financial Advice Needed...
My husband-to-be (yes, he finally did propose, and right when he said he would) and I are reaching a difficult decision point in our lives. He is a professional horse trainer and needs to move where the business is, mainly in Texas. We are both in the Midwest now and both our families are nearby, so moving deep down south will be difficult for both of us. The worst part is that we are having a hell of a time finding a place to live. All the apartments in the Huston/Conroe area are insanely expensive and negotiating leases long-distance is risky at best. We've already been cheated out of several places and lied to about available units, lost money, etc. We are both becoming increasingly frustrated and it looks like renting will not be an option. 

That leaves us with only one other option; buying a house. But here's where I'm even more frustrated. How the hell does anybody afford a house these days? There's no way we could make a decent down payment without completely depleting our savings: I mean, who has 30,000 dollars just lying around? Is this the fate of millennials today, that is, not being able to afford the homes our parents bought without selling our souls to the bank? 

I don't want to be in debt for the rest of our lives, but renting long-term is extremely expensive with no long-term payoff. You're basically making payments on a place you'll never own anyway. 

Anybody have any advice? If you own a home, how did you afford it?

St. Mary of Egypt, Ora Pro Nobis!

I strongly suggest that you do not buy a house until you have lived in an area for at least one year.

.You don't know the neighborhoods.  You don't know the local codes.  You don't know the local traffic. You haven't checked out the grocery stores, the local doctors, the local schools (I know, no baby yet but babies do come).  You don't know if you will be successful in your new business in a new state/market.  You don't know what good interest rates  are and where to get them, you don't know the property laws.  You don't know the insurance requirements for property yet.  You don't know where the easements are for new roads, schools and bridges, meaning, you may buy a place that feels like you are out in the country only to find that the new interstate is going up next door.  You don't know the flood plains.  You have never lived thru a Texas summer.
Here is how it is done:  One of you goes to Texas and finds a place to live and a place to work.  Find the job first - it is better to drive 15 minutes to work than to commute across town.   If money is really tight, sleep in the car one night and sleep in a hotel room for the next, continue until you find a good place.  Landlords are not excited about renting to out-of-staters.  Beware long lease contracts, but this will be dependent on the local practices.  In one town most leases were 6-12 months, when we moved here most leases were 24 months and required a credit score.  One town generally  required a deposit equal to one months rent, another required a deposit equal to two months rent, but you won't know what is what until someone gets there.  Over the phone is prime scam time.  Anyone can email you a "lease" to sign with a deposit to "keep the apartment available", just because you get such an email doesn't mean they actually have a place to rent to you.
After you have been in the town for a year or two, then you look to buy.  NEVER buy a house under pressure.
Moving is hard work.  It requires separation.  You need to see the apartment.  You need to check online, if possible, to see that the apartment you are being shown is actually owned by the guy who is trying to rent it to you.  Lots of scams out there.  Lots.
Be cautious.  Don't trust people.  Find out how much the deposits for utilities are - from the utilities, not the landlord.  How long does it take to get the utilities turned on?  24 hours or 4 days?  How often does the trash get picked up?  This is Texas you are talking about, it gets hot and stinky there.  Are the neighbors nice and quiet and clean, or is the building full of college students who party til 4am every night?  Does the landlord mow the grass or do you?  Not a big deal either way, but you need to know this before you sign a contract.
Early in my marriage we moved a lot.  We always moved with a job in hand.  We never moved without a job already in place.  Maybe not a great job, but a job.  Then, my husband, the guy with the job, went to his new job and found a new place for us to live while I stayed in the old place until all was set up.  I was packing and cleaning.  Then, he came back over a weekend and we loaded up the trailer and drove to the new house.  When my daughter moved to her new town two years ago she followed the same practice.
How do you afford a home?  I don't own anymore and home ownership is out of my price range.  Home ownership is becoming prohibitive.  You have to get out of the city, maybe far out.  After all, if you are going to be working with horses you need land and that kind of land is not available in the city.  Yes, home ownership seems to be cut off for many people today.  Look for the least expensive house in the best neighborhood.  Get the old house, the rundown house and fix it up as you can.  Try to do home improvements on cash only, altho, if you don't have a working bathroom you do need to get that fixed fast.  Or, look for the edges of rough neighborhoods that are on the brink of gentrification, but be aware that these neighborhoods are in flux and can be more dangerous.  You have to find the balance of what you want and what you need.  Cleanliness matters.  Safety matters.  Decent roads and bridges matter.  Most importantly, the job matters.  Without the job, nothing else works.
Good advice, MaryTN. Another option, not for everyone mind you, is a motor home or travel trailer full time until you're ready to settle down. I know someone who lived in a motor home for years while working as a paver operator. He was able to find steady work by following the jobs. I've read of married couples and families who've done this as well. Not ideal, but an option.
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  • MaryTN
In my area of the country (just north of Texas) you can get a 4 bedroom house for about $170k-180k. My husband and I are millennials with two kids so far, and we live in a 3 bed house that in 9 years is almost halfway paid off. However, the only debt we have is our mortgage, so depending on your debts that may not be realistic. The cost of living in the south central US is cheaper in general. Maybe you guys need to look more rural? I do agree with MaryTN about renting for a year though before buying a house.
(03-06-2019, 08:22 PM)jack89 Wrote: Good advice, MaryTN.  Another option, not for everyone mind you, is a motor home or travel trailer full time until you're ready to settle down.  I know someone who lived in a motor home for years while working as a paver operator.  He was able to find steady work by following the jobs.  I've read of married couples and families who've done this as well.  Not ideal, but an option.

Good idea.  If training horses is the work then you might be able to park the motor home/trailer on the property and hook up to the owners utilities and then pay for the electric/water.  I don't know the codes in Texas.....
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  • Catherine
I'll say all of this with a caveat: I own a home and didn't face a lot of this.  My first home is now a rental property for us.  Rents go up around 10% a year - if not more.  

- The advice you've been given to not buy until you know the area is spot on.  

- I've moved cross country - sight unseen - and across the world - also sight unseen.  My best advice is whomever is in charge of the money needs to (1) do a lot of research and (2) consider making a trip.  Since finding a job requires travel (I assume), I would recommend having a few locations picked out and sending your fiance to check them out and pick one while he's there securing work.  That's what Pilgrim and I did.  I literally had the entire rental application, down payment, and references ready to go into a FedEx envelope as soon as he made the choice.  I had talked to the rental manager and explained our situation, made him an appointment, and planned every detail for him.  This made both of us part of the decision making process.  We rented for one year and then built our first home.  When we moved into that home, there was only dirt in the yard.  We put down the sod, planted the trees, did everything ourselves.  Working together connected us as a couple in ways I didn't imagine were possible.

- Keep in mind that RVs and travel trailers are a diminishing investment - like a car.  Some banks don't lend on them.  That being said, there are some *very nice* options out there and, as long as you recognize that you will never get 100% of what you paid for it out of it, they can be a good option.  A scenario might look like this: find a nice, used trailer and an RV park you can live in for at least a while until you find something more permanent.  Then find some land (horses - of course you'll need land) and park your trailer on it.  You will need to take it to empty your gray and black water tanks, refill water and the like, but it might be worth it because of cost savings.  This would be a viable option while you save to build your house the way you want it.

Why would I say that this is actually a good idea?  Well, when you rent, you are basically giving away the cost of an apartment every month - with no gain at all.  In my area that's around $1000 a month - minimum. Rents go up with no increased benefit to you.  Rents tend to go up more than any raise you might receive from your employer, so over time, you are losing massive amounts of money.  If you can buy a trailer, then you are insulated from those costs to some degree.  Yes, you will have lot rental for a while, but if they are charging too much, you can choose not to stay.  There are many places that will allow you to camp with no fee (google it).  You might stay there and spend a night in an RV park when you need to empty your tanks etc.  This way, you are in greater control.  Yes, you will still lose money on the investment, but travel trailers don't cost as much as a house (fifth wheels are relatively cheap) and you will lose more long term paying rent every month ($12,000 a year with no end in sight - where I live).  It might even be possible to stay on whatever property is offering to employ your fiance as a trainer.  I know of at least one place near me that offers that benefit to their trainers.   Mary already said this.  :)

Hope some of this is helpful to you.  There are a lot of big decisions to make and I would encourage only one thing: take your time and work through all the options together.  Pray on it.  I will be praying that you two find your path forward.
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