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Can you truly afford that home?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis January 2, 2014 09:45 AM

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Home prices are rising relentlessly across Greater Boston once again while the number of listings straggle along at record low levels.

It's a bad brew for buyers, who can feel pressured to blow past their budgets in a bid to land a house in a tight market.

Crazy low interest rates - and fears they may be poised to go away - only add to the temptation.

Of course, the last time buyers were under that kind of stress was back during the housing bubble. We all know how that turned out.

So if you are out house hunting, it is more more important now than ever before to make long-term affordability the first item on your checklist.

And that may very mean buying less home, not more.

In practical terms, what does that mean? If your household income is $100,000 or less, that means a home-buying budget that tops out at $300,000.

Don't get taken in by blather about low interest rates and how you can afford to buy more home than you would have a few years ago. Instead, those low rates are helping inflate the prices of homes across the board, so you are effectively spending more money to buy the same house.

Check out this Wall Street Journal piece, which asked financial planners to give advice to home buyers looking to jump into the market in 2014.

Too often real estate agents are the ones doling out advice in these sorts of columns and they invariably focus on the tactics of buying or selling or whether it's a good time to buy now.

By contrast, the wealth and investment managers quizzed by the Journal weren't playing that game - it was all about affordability and staying well within your budget.

"Look for a house that costs less than what you afford,"  writes Charles Rotblut, vice president of the American Association of Individual Investors, in the Journal piece.

Who would you rather take real estate advice from? A veteran agent or a financial planner?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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