Man in a cardboard house.

Is It Worth It To Be House Poor? The Dark Side of Homeownership

Owning a house has gone from a realistic goal to a pipe dream for many Americans. To make it work, some choose to go “house poor” and spend most of their earnings on their residence. Is that path to homeownership worth the financial strife? People shared their opinions on an online forum.  

Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.

Stop While You Can 

Stop sign.
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“Don’t do it,” one person warned, saying life is about experiences, not sitting in a big house with no money to spare. “A bigger house is a longer walk to the couch and more to clean. Nobody on their deathbed says they wish they had bought a bigger house.” 

Turning Back Time 

Woman looking at a clock.
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An older homeowner who went “house poor” wants others to avoid a similar fate. After buying their first house at 25, they had to work two grueling jobs to make the payments. “If I could live my life over again, I would have bought something that had a much cheaper payment.” 

Go Big and Go Home 

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“In my opinion, no,” it’s not worth going house poor another said. They explain one of the biggest reasons Americans live paycheck to paycheck is because they buy homes above their means. “When you tie up most of your income in the form of a housing payment, the house ends up owning you instead of the other way around.”

Play It Safe 

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“Life involves risk, but in my opinion, this is WAY too much risk to take on,” someone added. One way to take things safely is to have a housing payment well below your means. “That way, if you lose your job, you can still make the payment, and your kids won’t be homeless in the middle of winter.” 

Off the Beaten Path 

Older man with suitcase.
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Another person has no interest in keeping up with the Joneses. “For me, the house is where I lay my head. I much prefer to spend my money on traveling and experiences. That life is not for me.” 

Left Behind 

House listing.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

“No, it isn’t,” one person said about whether it’s worth it to be house poor. While they lived in a small home in a rough neighborhood for 13 years, they watched their peers purchase large, beautiful homes elsewhere. Now, the couple has upgraded to their dream home while their friends are stuck paying off mortgages they can’t afford. 

Dough Down the Drain 

Money on a chopping board.
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“You may love your expensive house, but will you love spending the decades most people need to pay it off just sitting in that house?” one person asked. “I go out to eat, take vacations, and have my weekends free. Having a life rather than having a big house is much more important.” 

Following in the Wrong Footsteps 

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One homeowner says they bought a house in the 90s that kept them working three jobs to make the payments. “I couldn’t go anywhere, do anything, or take a day off. I had no money to pay for any repairs, so they went unrepaired.” They urged readers to buy a modest house instead. 

A Worthy Investment

Key sitting on a stack of money.
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In the eyes of one commenter, if the cheapest house you can afford makes you broke, it’s still worth it. Why? Their home, worth $150,000 15 years ago, is now worth $700K. “Things were tight for just around a decade. But that has set me up to be comfortable for the rest of my life.” 

Harder Than It Looks 

Man with empty pockets.
Photo Credit: Deagreez via Adobe Stock.

Most mortgages are 30 years of payments. If each mortgage payment would clear out your bank account every month, you should reconsider purchasing a home. “Don’t assume you can or will want to live below sustenance level for years. Buy less house and have some cash left over.” 

Don’t Roll the Dice 

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“You can always sell and move after a few years if you want something bigger, and you’ll be in better financial shape to do that,” a savvy saver explains. “Having a big home isn’t worth rolling the dice on your financial future.”

A New Perspective 

Couple on a motorcycle.
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While one homeowner agrees that it’s usually a poor financial choice to buy a home above their means, in their case, it was worth leaving their cramped house. “We finally have space for all our things and us! Can’t eat out anymore, and money is tight, but I’m happy.”

Work Your Way Up 

Toy house sitting on top of coins.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

A Houston, Texas, resident suggests starting small and working your way up. “We have been able to experience a lot with our small mortgage,” they said. “I don’t plan to stay here forever, but at the same time, I don’t want a $4,000 house note.” 

It’s the Little Things 

Woman handing keys to a traveler guest.
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“Whenever possible, purchase a home that you only need one income to pay the mortgage for,” a homeowner advises. “Start small; you can always upgrade, but you may enjoy living in a smaller house and having more money available for other things.” 

Living Well 

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One middle-aged couple says they could’ve secured a mortgage on a larger house, but they’re glad they didn’t. “It feels good to be in a home that’s in good working order and very affordable, so we’re not stressing about debt or living paycheck to paycheck.”

Source: Quora

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