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  • Writer's pictureNeil Joseph

10 Signs You have Too Much House

10 Signs You have Too Much House

The dream of homeownership often takes centre stage for most adults who aspire to establish a sense of stability, security, and belongingness in their lives, while also aiming to build wealth and create a haven for themselves and their families. But as with any desire, there's a fine line between achieving that dream and finding oneself caught in a nightmare of overextension. Is there such a thing as having too much of a house? Let's delve into this question, examining the pitfalls and tell-tale signs of such a situation.

  1. Too much Shelter Costs: When your mortgage payment consumes a significant portion of your income (I would say more than 30% to 40% of gross household income) over a long term, it's not just about the roof over your head; it's about what that roof is costing you. Allocating more than 30% of monthly income to just cover your household mortgage payment could spell trouble. At 40%, your financial wiggle room shrinks drastically, leaving little space for savings, debt repayment, or even life's simple pleasures like vacations.  You might struggle to pay down the mortgage balance and might constantly be looking to elongate the amortization period and/or pull equity out to pay off other non-investment debts and expenses.   You can calculate the True Cost of your Mortgage here.

  2. Lack of Equity: Equity is the foundation of financial stability in homeownership. It represents ownership and serves as a protection against market fluctuations. If you possess less than 30% equity in your home even after 5 years of the purchase, regardless of market shifts, you might be in over your head. Low equity not only complicates selling but also worsens liquidity concerns if you must sell the property due to distress.

  3. High Maintenance & Utility Costs: Owning a home cost you more than just mortgage payments; there are ongoing upkeep expenses to consider. Paying too much for utility will leave you with less and potentially no ongoing savings.  Postponing maintenance can snowball into larger issues, diminishing property value and compounding liquidity concerns.

  4. Accumulating Non-Mortgage Debt: If your housing expenses leave little room in your budget for other costs, you might find yourself turning to lines of credit, credit cards, etc. to bridge the gap. This signals financial instability and suggests that your home might be too much for your wallet to bear.

  5. Inadequate Savings: Saving less than 5% of your gross income each year or, worse, spending more than you earn, leaves you vulnerable to life's uncertainties. Without a cushion for emergencies or unexpected expenses, you risk falling deeper into debt or financial hardship.  In the long term, you will end up being “Home Rich Cash Poor” in a best-case scenario and likely “Just Poor” if you end up not having enough equity even after years of ownership.

  6. Low Credit Rating: Your credit score impacts more than just your ability to secure a mortgage; it can influence job prospects and access to credit. If your housing costs are dragging down your credit rating, it's a clear sign that your home might be too much for your financial health.

  7. Lack of Diversification: Having too much of your wealth into a single asset—your home—demonstrates lack of diversification in your investment portfolio. Diversification is crucial for mitigating risk while maximizing returns over the long term. Overcommitting to homeownership can hinder your ability to diversify and exposes you to undue financial risk in retirement.  Once the active income dries up in retirement, it would be difficult to access the equity in your home as you won't qualify with regular lenders.  Utilizing equity through a Reverse Mortgage in the early stages of retirement, particularly during one's 60s and early 70s, may result in the rapid depletion of equity due to accumulating interest costs. This could leave individuals with limited options, including the inability to sell or downsize their home to cover essential living expenses.

  8. Inadequate Retirement Planning: A large portion of your income tied up in housing costs can impede your ability to save adequately for retirement. Planning for retirement requires consistent saving and investment over time. If your housing expenses leave little room for retirement contributions, you may find yourself unprepared for your golden years.

  9. Illiquidity: Real estate is inherently illiquid compared to other assets like stocks, bonds and GICs. Selling a home can take time and incur significant transaction costs. If your housing situation leaves you strapped for cash, you may find it challenging to access funds quickly in case of emergencies or at a reasonable cost.

  10. Opportunity Cost: Every dollar spent on housing is a dollar that could be allocated elsewhere, whether towards savings, investments, or experiences that enrich your life. Overcommitting to homeownership can limit your ability to seize other financial opportunities, potentially hindering your long-term financial growth and overall well-being.

In conclusion, while homeownership is a significant milestone, it's essential to ensure that it remains a source of stability rather than a burden. Assessing the affordability of your home through the signs mentioned above can help prevent overextension and the nightmare of financial hardships in retirement. Remember, it's not just about having a roof over your head; it's about building a solid financial foundation for the life ahead.


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