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Buying a House on a Nurse's Income: How Do Nurses Afford $450,000+ Houses?

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Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 6 years experience.

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One of my goals is to eventually be able to purchase a house.  Many of my nursing colleagues are purchasing homes that are worth $450,000, $500,000 or even more.  Sadly, my budget is about half of that or even less, which means the houses I have to choose from are not appealing.  Most of them are small, old, or both. 

I am just curious how other nurses manage to purchase decent houses? I've been looking through my income, and I just can't find a way to make it possible to incorporate such a house into my budget.  I am salary, so there are no opportunities for overtime.

What are other nurses' experience with buying houses? How did you make it work? Did it require switching jobs? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thanks 😊 

TheMoonisMyLantern, ADN, LPN, RN

Specializes in Mental health, substance abuse, geriatrics, PCU. Has 14 years experience.

I think your mileage may vary depending on where you live. I bought a very cheap home that was actually quite nice for the price and am extremely glad I did. Having a mortgage payment that I don't dread paying because it won't leave me broke is worth not having a more desirable home.

I do have friends that have an entire paycheck dedicated to their mortgage, and they're always picking up overtime and usually quite stressed. I think as a nurse you can have a home but I think it is wise to live below your means so that when times are bad you still have a roof over your head.

I think it truly depends on the cost of living in your area.  I bought a house on my own about 10 years ago.  I would suggest speaking to a loan officer.  They can help guide you.

I could not though afford my house and my lifestyle by myself.  If I were on my own, I would have to live extremely frugally to afford my house and all that goes with it.  

NightNerd, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-surg/tele. Has 7 years experience.

I think it's also a challenge based on how long you've been in the workforce and house much you've been able to save toward a down payment. I don't own a home but hope to in a few years. My house fund is way lower than I would like by this point in my life, but now that I'm not going to get any more tuition bills, I hope to see this change. I will probably temporarily forgo certain fun stuff, like vacations, until I have the down payment I want, and will definitely stick to a home that doesn't have a massive mortgage payment attached to it. I don't need anything huge - too much to clean! And if it requires some updating, that's fine; I can deal with an older house as long as it's livable in the short term.

As others said, cost of living in the area you're looking is a huge factor too. We plan on moving away from our current area for this very reason once I graduate to hopefully have better luck with housing in another place.

Pepper The Cat, BSN, RN

Specializes in Gerontology. Has 35 years experience.

Stop spending money on buying Diet Pepsi’s at work.

Budget.

 

meanmaryjean, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 40 years experience.

Having a spouse with a decent income certainly helps.

And don't compare someone else's fifth house (bought with the equity gain from the previous four) and a typical starter house (where you start building that equity).

We gave up even the thought of annual vacations and newer vehicles to be able to afford the home we wanted for our four kids. It was a trade-off we were willing to make. Despite what media would have you believe- you really cannot have it all. 

Envy gets you nowhere except unhappy. Buy what you can reasonably afford. 

Jedrnurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in school nurse. Has 29 years experience.

2 hours ago, Pepper The Cat said:

Stop spending money on buying Diet Pepsi’s at work.

Budget.

 

Or buy stock in PepsiCo and self-fund the dividends...

My house is small and old (120 yrs old to be exact) in my budget and all my friends want it so I wouldn’t dismiss those kind of homes out of the gate. 
 

Also, after some sweat equity my house is adorbs! 😉

JBMmom, MSN

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

Mortgage lenders will give you much more money than you can reasonably afford to pay back. You need to do the math yourself and figure out what you can spend on a monthly basis for a mortgage. There are also the taxes, costs associated with home ownership and maintenance, and many other aspects to consider. Just because someone else says you can buy a $450,000 house, doesn't mean you should.

CommunityRNBSN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community health. Has 3 years experience.

I live in Connecticut, which is one of the more expensive states. You will hear a lot (a LOT) of people say “Oh you have to spend half a million dollars (or a million dollars) to get a decent home in Connecticut.”  People love to say things like that, no matter where you live. Ignore them, research your area, and explore. I live in a very cute, desirable suburb of a city, we have great schools etc. My home is lovely and we paid around $200,000 for it. I know the exact dollar amount of my one experience is likely not relevant to exactly where you live, but my overarching and vehement advice is, ignore what “everybody says” about your area. Find a good realtor, level with them about what you want to spend, and take some time to find out your options (apartment, condo, single-family; lot size; suburbs that may be less cool or popular but are great places to live, etc). 

CalicoKitty, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatrics, Wound Care. Has 9 years experience.

Easier to buy more house with 2 incomes. Our house was over 400k. He pays the mortgage (~2k/mo), I do most of the bills and groceries. We don't share accounts.

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 16 years experience.

I paid $150,000 for my first house. It’s a starter home, not the one I intend to live in forever. It’s a townhome with an HOA (NEVER doing that again!) and was $25,000 under what the bank approved me for. It’s what I could afford as far as mortgage payment at the time without stretching myself too thin. Those buying $450,000 homes? One, they’re likely double income families. Two, never assume you know someone else’s financial situation. There are a LOT of people who live well beyond their means. 

SilverBells, BSN

Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 6 years experience.

12 hours ago, Been there,done that said:

This is a question for your investment counselor. We are nurses.

 

Valid point.  I just thought I would see if there were any suggestions since I figured if anyone knew how to buy a house with a nurse's income, it would be other nurses.  Plus, it doesn't seem right to reach out to colleagues with nicer homes to see how they are able to afford them.  

SilverBells, BSN

Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 6 years experience.

11 hours ago, LovingLife123 said:

I think it truly depends on the cost of living in your area.  I bought a house on my own about 10 years ago.  I would suggest speaking to a loan officer.  They can help guide you.

I could not though afford my house and my lifestyle by myself.  If I were on my own, I would have to live extremely frugally to afford my house and all that goes with it.  

The biggest problem in my area (and I am sure it is similar in other areas) is that while the cost of living and cost of housing is rising, employers are not offering increased wages to compensate for this.    Additionally, the majority of the new houses being built are quite large, with many of them nearing $1 million if not even more.  The newer homes that are a bit smaller are still in excess of $400k.  Unfortunately, if  I want nicer living arrangements, I have to settle for an apartment or townhouse.   Otherwise, if I want my own house, the only options are old, small houses built in the 50s-70s.   It's a struggle, because none of these options are ideal.  

8 hours ago, Pepper The Cat said:

Stop spending money on buying Diet Pepsi’s at work.

Budget.

 

Why am I not surprised about this answer? 🤣

With that said, even if I were to cut back on my Diet Pepsi purchases, I still would not be able to afford the type of house I'd like. 

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 16 years experience.

5 minutes ago, SilverBells said:

I still would not be able to afford the type of house I'd like. 

Then you need to make a plan for how to get there, whether it's starting with one of the old, small houses built in the 50s-70s (and don't knock those- in my area, they are far superior construction compared to the mass production/building of newer homes) to make the investment in equity or whether it's trimming all of your non-essential costs and putting every extra cent into a savings account for a future home or whether it's finding a way to increase income.

SilverBells, BSN

Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 6 years experience.

7 hours ago, meanmaryjean said:

Having a spouse with a decent income certainly helps.

And don't compare someone else's fifth house (bought with the equity gain from the previous four) and a typical starter house (where you start building that equity).

We gave up even the thought of annual vacations and newer vehicles to be able to afford the home we wanted for our four kids. It was a trade-off we were willing to make. Despite what media would have you believe- you really cannot have it all. 

Envy gets you nowhere except unhappy. Buy what you can reasonably afford. 

A couple of points related to the highlighted: 

1.  It makes sense to not expect that  I would be able to afford the same type of house as someone who has already owned multiple.  However, most of the people that I know of who are buying these expensive homes are purchasing them as their first houses.  They were able to skip past the starter home stage to purchase a more ideal home.   Several of them are a few years younger than myself, so it obviously can be done.  It's just a matter of how.  

2.  I understand that some people have trade-offs, but I am not convinced that it is not possible for some people to have everything that life has to offer as I've observed this among some of my colleagues who appear to have everything.   It's just become apparent that I am likely not one of those people. 

 

amoLucia

Specializes in LTC.

On 3/6/2021 at 8:28 AM, Pepper The Cat said:

Stop spending money on buying Diet Pepsi’s at work.

Budget.

The way you spend on vending machine diet Pepsi, I figure you'd have an extra $300/month for principal pay't. And then what you pay for the peanut butter cups and Snickers.