Try Before You Buy: I Took a Mortgage Test Run


It’s been more than a decade since I graduated from college and moved out on my own. In that time, I’ve been a renter, a home buyer and a home seller.

And despite all of the complexities that are part of the home-buying process, the most important piece of advice I’d ever received was simple: Simulate the cost of homeownership for three months before you buy.

A friend suggested that I do this when I was considering buying my first house in 2005. I was a 28-year-old single professional living in Columbus, Ohio. Friends were getting engaged, married and moving into “grown-up” homes. And, frankly, I felt like a failure because I was still renting a one-bedroom apartment, which I viewed as akin to flushing $700 down the toilet each month.

So I started to research what was out there.

Much like the housing market today, inventory was low and demand was high. I began my trial run experiment by using the calculators that accompanied online listings to find homes with would-be mortgage payments that I felt were affordable—only a few hundred dollars more than what I had been paying in rent.

Then I called a mortgage lender to get prequalified. Thanks to the fact that I’d paid down all of my debt, my credit score was in great shape. The lender was even willing to provide pre-approval for an amount well beyond what I felt I could afford.

Now it was time to get serious about house hunting.

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  • Sue Alleyne

    Thank you sooo much for this information. Oh my word. I have been enlightened by this. I am in the process of looking at buying a new home but you have just made me decide that holding out for a couple more years and getting some more of my debt paid off will be a wise decision. This was just great for the individual like me who knows very little about purchasing a home and really would like to do so. Again, thank you.

  • Tiffany

    Great article! I definitely didn’t take all of this into consideration when I bought my house at 26. Luckily I bought a townhouse and was able to get a roommate. Eight years later I have everything under control and am able to plan and save as I should. But it definitely took me a few years of being a homeowner to get organized.

  • clout82

    Such a wonderful article–and amazing idea! I am a real estate agent and constantly terrified by how much banks will lend people and tell my clients to think about what they can actually afford based on their lifestyle versus buying up to the max of what the bank will give them for a loan.