Dear Dave: My wife and I are thinking about selling our home. I was recently let go from the military due to downsizing, and I’ve begun a job in real estate but things are starting slowly. My wife brings home about $3,500 a month as a teacher, and the only debt we have is our house payment of $1,616 a month. I was given a $35,000 severance package, but we need some advice to help bridge the financial gap. Any ideas?
Dear Erik: Having little or no income is a lot harder than a variable income situation. Your wife is bringing home good money, but at the moment your house payment is almost half that amount. Are there some things you can do on the side while you’re getting your real estate business going that will create income? If you could make even $1,000 to $2,000 a month, it would change the picture entirely. You guys would be able to keep your home and have a little breathing room while you get your real estate career off the ground.
Looking at it from a long-term perspective, if you’re selling a bunch of houses a year or two from now, you’re in the clear. You could easily stay in the house. But if you don’t find extra income while you build your business, if you’re not willing to work extra hard and sacrifice in the meantime — even if it means just delivering pizzas — then you probably need to sell the house.
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It takes about six to nine months to start making a living in the residential real estate business. So look at it this way: the more houses you sell, the less time you spend delivering pizzas. All this really hinges on is how badly you want a career in real estate and how much you guys want to keep your home. If you want it enough, you’ll do what it takes to get there. And for the time being that’s going to mean supplementing your income with something on the side while you grow your real estate business!
Dear Dave: We’ve made an offer on a house we really like through a first-time buyers program. Now, after looking over our budget and debts again, my wife and I are having second thoughts. We haven’t signed or turned in any paperwork yet. What do you think we should do?
Dear Craig: I wouldn’t go through with the deal. I advise people to be debt-free before buying a home, because you want a home to be a blessing, not a curse.
Homeownership when you’re broke is never a good idea. And basically, that’s the situation you’re describing. You have debt, and you’re trying to squeak into something with a first-time buyers plan. The translation? You have no money. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. That’s Murphy’s Law, and he’ll move into your spare bedroom along with his three cousins — Broke, Desperate and Stupid.
Get your debts paid off, build up an emergency fund, and save up a good down payment before buying a home. I know that’s not the popular answer, but it’s the smart one!
Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.