The one thing everyone should do (but no one does) before buying a house – USAToday

The one thing everyone should do (but no one does) before buying a house

By: Jim Wang

Sometime in my mid-twenties, I decided I wanted to stay in the Maryland area and buy a home.

I could afford a mortgage around $1,500 per month based on my expenses—mostly student loan payments—and salary. If I found the perfect home, I could stretch to afford around $1,750 per month.

As I searched for my future home, I played a financial game with myself. I’d soon be saddled with a $1,500 mortgage, so why not spend like I had one already? Why not pay a “pretend mortgage” before my real one so I had a better idea of what it would feel like?

When I was looking for a home, I was sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a friend and paying $600 a month, plus utilities. It was a steep jump to go from $600 to $1,500 a month, so playing this game was important.

At the time, I was budgeting using an app, so I knew I could handle the increase.

I could maintain one of my key money ratios, paying less than 30% of my salary to housing. But I still needed to know how it felt. It’s one thing to see it in an app and another to feel it.

How ‘playing house’ worked for me

Every month, I paid my $600 for rent and set aside $900 in savings. As you’d expect, I didn’t just transfer money from one account to the other, because who has $900 sitting around? If I did, I wouldn’t need to play house!

I had to make adjustments. I contacted my human resources representative to reduce my 401K contributions so I’d have more in my paycheck. I had to adjust my other savings goals as well because I wouldn’t be saving as aggressively.

Making those trade-offs became easier — and easier to explain to friends without having to deal with grumbling, because I was making a clear choice. I was cutting some social time because I wanted to buy a house. I wasn’t saving money for the sake of it. I had a very good reason: to buy a house.

The housing search took about 18 months and I played house for only 12 of them, so I had an extra $10,000 or so saved up in my mortgage account. I took that money and put it toward the down payment.

The house ended up having a mortgage that was a little less than $1,500, and after living with the mortgage payment for a year and a half, I had no trouble adjusting to it.

If you’re thinking about buying a home or making a similar large purchase, consider playing house first.

Todd Baxter leaving Veterans Outreach Center – Democrat & Chronicle

Todd Baxter leaving Veterans Outreach Center

By: Todd Clausen

After three years, Todd Baxter has announced that he will leave his job as executive director of the Veterans Outreach Center

He said in a letter that his last day will be April 14.

“As our youngest Zach is about to graduate high school and go on to college, my wife Mary and I are taking stock in our lives and contemplating future endeavors,” he wrote. “It is for this reason that I will turnover of the management of the Veterans Outreach Center.”

Baxter’s departure marks the second blow to the Veterans Outreach Center in recent months. Founder Thomas Cray was diagnosed with brain cancer, his daughter said in January.

Cray, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, counseled veterans for a group called the Veterans Outreach Project, which was founded by Vietnam veterans in 1973 to help veterans adjust to civilian life. In 1981, Cray oversaw the incorporation of the project into the nonprofit Veterans Outreach Center, which he led until his retirement from the organization in 2010.

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