Owning a Home
For most men and women, buying a house is the biggest financial investment they will ever make. They will likely take on large amounts of debt and pay a sizable monthly mortgage along with property taxes. Of course, unlike paying rent to a landlord, the house you buy may increase in value over the long-term, making your investment a sound one. (Although nothing is certain, as the sub-prime mortgage fiasco has showed. Housing prices can go down just as surely as they can go up.)
But a house is more than just a financial asset or an investment; it is where you live and where you are going to raise your kids. Buying a home means that you are putting down roots in a community, and this has psychological and spiritual significance. You are planting a flag, claiming this place as your own.
Home as Nest
The pressure to buy a house sometimes starts with pregnancy. You and your partner may be content living in an apartment, but with a baby on the way the apartment style of living no longer seems adequate. You feel the need to get more space, perhaps to have a lawn or a backyard. You may wish to get a jump on things and try to get into a better school district for your child when the time comes.
Many couples put off having a child until they can get into a house of their own. The reason for this often has to do with people's memories of childhood—how they were raised. They grew up in a house, not an apartment, and they want the same for their children.
Many fathers-to-be notice that their partners develop a nesting instinct when they become pregnant. They want a safe, secure place to have their baby. Security, in their minds, often equates with living in a house.
A Complicated and Expensive Decision
To buy a house, traditionally you first need to come up with a down payment, usually 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price of the home. This is not a hard and fast rule, of course, and mortgage brokers can structure different types of loans for you, depending on your income and resources. You need to be clear and careful about the terms and conditions of any deal you agree to or contract you sign. Basically, you need enough income or financial resources to qualify for a loan that will cover the balance of what you owe on the house. You need to take a hard look at what your monthly mortgage interest payments will be and how much overall debt you are taking on. And don't forget property taxes, household maintenance, and other expenses that will arise on top of your monthly mortgage payment. The Everything ® Homebuying Book, 3rd Edition, is an excellent reference that provides information for buyers in a wide variety of situations.
Generally, the financial burdens of raising children are most acute when the kids are in their younger years. As they grow older, some of these pressures ease. Your partner may also return to her job. Additionally, your income may grow over the years as your career develops. All of this will tend to give you more flexibility and the ability to take on more financial responsibility.
Balancing Your Priorities
To find an affordable place to buy, many families look for a home far away from where they work. While this may be a fiscally sound decision, it also increases their commute and keeps them away from their family longer during the day. Many fathers (and mothers) must get up early in the morning and leave for work before their children wake up. The only time they see them is in the evening.
A house is a worthwhile investment for both family and financial reasons, but once again, it's a matter of balancing your priorities. The increased financial demands of home ownership may force you and your partner to put your child in day care for much of the day. But you may feel this is worth it because you love your home and community and your child will be going to good schools and live in a neighborhood with lots of other kids around.