# The High Cost of Waiting To Buy A Home

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A couple of weeks ago, I got an email asking Save For A Down Payment or Buy Now?, and I wrote a two part article on the subject. Part 2 of Save For A Down Payment or Buy Now? Gave an alternative strategy to make affordability accelerate faster. But there was an obvious, related concern that I let go because it was a very complex calculation, and that was, "What's the effect of waiting to buy on my financial situation down the line?"

This wasn't an easy problem to program, even in a spreadsheet. I'm decent with spreadsheets, but for a lot of the calculations I had to do it by brute force repetition. Had I been able to do certain functions on spreadsheets that I used to do with matrices back in the really dim times, it would have been far easier, but the area I ended up using was three sheets totaling about 60,000 cells. Most of it was change one thing, copy and paste a row or column segment, then change another. It wasn't that hard mentally, but the finished product certainly makes a microprocessor work for a living!

Actually, this is two discrete problems when you really look at it, and they really are disjoint, and no matter how much the folks who sell Reverse Annuity Mortgages might try to link them, they are separate cases. What happens if you keep living there, versus what happens if you decide to sell and move somewhere else when you retire.

Nonetheless, the following simulations are all as representative as I can make them. Except for the effects of state income tax, they are in line with current California computations.

Example 1: Suppose you're talking about a San Diego Condo. \$300,000 present purchase price, no down payment but you can save \$500 per month for a down payment in the future if you don't buy now, and this amount increases proportional to salary increases. The property continues to appreciate at 4.5% whether you buy or not, association dues are \$250 per month and general inflation is 4%, and you can get 7.2% return, net of taxes (10% minus an assumed marginal tax rate of 28%), on the money you save for a down payment. Whenever you buy, you can get a 6% first mortgage, and a 9% second if you need it. I'm also going to assume that in order to see any financial benefit, you're going to have to sell at a cost of seven percent of value. Furthermore, you're stable in your profession, seeing a 3% compounded annual raise in income, and equivalent rent is \$1400 per month currently.

 Year 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 purchase price \$300,000.00 \$313,500.00 \$327,607.50 \$342,349.84 \$357,755.58 \$373,854.58 \$390,678.04 \$408,258.55 \$426,630.18 \$445,828.54 \$465,890.83 \$486,855.91 \$508,764.43 \$531,658.83 \$555,583.48 \$580,584.73 \$606,711.05 \$634,013.04 \$662,543.63 \$692,358.09 \$723,514.21 \$756,072.35 \$790,095.60 \$825,649.90 \$862,804.15 \$901,630.34 \$942,203.70 \$984,602.87 \$1,028,910.00 \$1,075,210.95 \$1,123,595.44 still owe * \$24,489.73 \$46,429.89 \$67,745.37 \$88,445.34 \$108,534.07 \$128,010.82 \$146,869.63 \$165,099.15 \$182,682.37 \$200,029.06 \$217,296.63 \$233,893.12 \$249,747.93 \$264,783.31 \$278,913.68 \$292,045.12 \$304,074.62 \$314,889.39 \$324,366.10 \$332,370.01 \$338,754.10 \$343,358.06 \$346,007.30 \$346,511.78 \$344,664.85 \$340,241.87 \$332,998.90 \$322,671.15 \$308,971.35 \$291,299.48 housing* \$1,354.26 \$1,514.40 \$1,659.59 \$1,801.37 \$1,939.80 \$2,074.91 \$2,206.72 \$2,335.19 \$2,460.26 \$2,581.85 \$2,702.41 \$2,822.91 \$2,939.80 \$3,052.67 \$3,161.06 \$3,264.47 \$3,362.35 \$3,454.09 \$3,539.04 \$3,616.45 \$3,685.54 \$3,745.43 \$3,795.18 \$3,833.75 \$3,860.02 \$3,872.76 \$3,870.64 \$3,852.21 \$3,815.90 \$3,760.00 \$3,680.93 waiting \$0.00 \$160.15 \$305.33 \$447.11 \$585.54 \$720.66 \$852.46 \$980.93 \$1,106.01 \$1,227.59 \$1,348.16 \$1,468.65 \$1,585.54 \$1,698.41 \$1,806.80 \$1,910.21 \$2,008.09 \$2,099.84 \$2,184.78 \$2,262.19 \$2,331.28 \$2,391.17 \$2,440.92 \$2,479.49 \$2,505.76 \$2,518.50 \$2,516.39 \$2,497.96 \$2,461.65 \$2,405.75 \$2,326.67 savings* \$3,186.50 \$3,026.35 \$2,881.16 \$2,739.39 \$2,600.96 \$2,465.84 \$2,334.04 \$2,205.57 \$2,080.49 \$1,958.91 \$1,838.34 \$1,717.85 \$1,600.96 \$1,488.09 \$1,379.70 \$1,276.29 \$1,178.41 \$1,086.66 \$1,001.72 \$924.31 \$855.22 \$795.33 \$745.58 \$707.01 \$680.74 \$667.99 \$670.11 \$688.54 \$724.85 \$780.75 \$859.82

*Still owe 1 final payment after thirty years if you buy today. "Housing" is how much your costs of housing will be in 30 years if you bought at the indicated time is, and assumes you refinance for zero cost into the same rate you have now. Waiting cost is as opposed to buying now. Finally, the savings column has to do with how much you are saving per month over what the equivalent rent will be in 30 years, namely \$4540.76 in this case.

Please keep in mind that the table is the net result 30 years out; the only time variable in the equation is precisely when you bought the exact same condo. Now there is some mildly strange stuff that goes on. For instance, starting 25 years out, there's a period where, under the stated assumptions, your saving for a down payment actually starts to increase in value faster than the property. But by that point, you've missed the optimum time to buy by, well, 25 years. Keep in mind that money will be worth less than a third of what it is today in thirty years (\$1 then will be worth 30.8 cents now), but you are still saving significant amounts of money on your future housing payments by buying as soon as practical.

Now let's look at the situation if you decide to sell your home and go live somewhere else:

 Year 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 purchase price \$300,000.00 \$313,500.00 \$327,607.50 \$342,349.84 \$357,755.58 \$373,854.58 \$390,678.04 \$408,258.55 \$426,630.18 \$445,828.54 \$465,890.83 \$486,855.91 \$508,764.43 \$531,658.83 \$555,583.48 \$580,584.73 \$606,711.05 \$634,013.04 \$662,543.63 \$692,358.09 \$723,514.21 \$756,072.35 \$790,095.60 \$825,649.90 \$862,804.15 \$901,630.34 \$942,203.70 \$984,602.87 \$1,028,910.00 \$1,075,210.95 \$1,123,595.44 net equity \$1,043,032.82 \$1,020,454.03 \$998,513.87 \$977,198.39 \$956,498.42 \$936,409.69 \$916,932.94 \$898,074.13 \$879,844.61 \$862,261.39 \$844,914.70 \$827,647.13 \$811,050.64 \$795,195.83 \$780,160.45 \$766,030.08 \$752,898.64 \$740,869.14 \$730,054.37 \$720,577.66 \$712,573.75 \$706,189.66 \$701,585.70 \$698,936.46 \$698,431.98 \$700,278.91 \$704,701.89 \$711,944.85 \$722,272.61 \$735,972.41 \$753,644.28 liquidation \$7,079.98 \$6,926.72 \$6,777.79 \$6,633.11 \$6,492.60 \$6,356.24 \$6,224.03 \$6,096.02 \$5,972.28 \$5,852.93 \$5,735.18 \$5,617.97 \$5,505.32 \$5,397.70 \$5,295.64 \$5,199.72 \$5,110.59 \$5,028.93 \$4,955.52 \$4,891.20 \$4,836.87 \$4,793.53 \$4,762.28 \$4,744.30 \$4,740.87 \$4,753.41 \$4,783.43 \$4,832.60 \$4,902.70 \$4,995.69 \$5,115.65 net benefit \$594,459.84 \$531,782.24 \$526,736.25 \$495,140.59 \$448,046.96 \$435,547.19 \$407,644.83 \$380,733.08 \$354,624.01 \$329,944.53 \$301,836.93 \$269,957.25 \$239,420.18 \$210,196.49 \$182,428.96 \$155,944.29 \$130,741.38 \$106,921.94 \$84,296.01 \$63,087.55 \$43,073.74 \$24,442.68 \$7,100.56 (\$8,932.23) (\$23,548.85) (\$36,736.02) (\$48,455.14) (\$58,627.44) (\$67,101.14) (\$73,746.48) (\$78,651.68) waiting cost \$0.00 \$22,578.79 \$44,518.95 \$65,834.43 \$86,534.39 \$106,623.13 \$126,099.88 \$144,958.69 \$163,188.21 \$180,771.43 \$198,118.12 \$215,385.69 \$231,982.17 \$247,836.99 \$262,872.36 \$277,002.74 \$290,134.18 \$302,163.67 \$312,978.45 \$322,455.16 \$330,459.07 \$336,843.15 \$341,447.12 \$344,096.36 \$344,600.84 \$342,753.90 \$338,330.93 \$331,087.96 \$320,760.21 \$307,060.41 \$289,388.54

Net equity is what you have left after 7% costs of selling, liquidation assumes that you are taking out 360 equal monthly payments based upon the same return I assumed your money could earn before you bought. Net benefit is the number of dollars difference it makes to your financial position in the future 30 years from now if you buy at the indicated time. Notice that starting 25 years out, it actually hurts you to buy from then on out, as opposed to just letting the investments you were saving for a down payment run. Waiting cost is how much it hurt your future financial position to delay purchase by that much, so if you wait five years, you end up with over \$100,000 less in your pocket.

Now let's do a second example: Still in San Diego, but you're going to buy a starter single family residence that would cost \$450,000 today. Nudge assumed appreciation up to 5.5%, cut association dues out but raise property taxes and insurance costs appropriately. Oh, and the equivalent rent now starts at \$2000, and general inflation I'm going to assume to be 3.5%. Actually, based upon the past seventy years, everything that has happened has been, over time, more favorable to home ownership than this.

Once again, let's look at the situation if you keep living in the property after 30 years first.

 Year 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 purchase price \$450,000.00 \$474,750.00 \$500,861.25 \$528,408.62 \$557,471.09 \$588,132.00 \$620,479.26 \$654,605.62 \$690,608.93 \$728,592.42 \$768,665.01 \$810,941.58 \$855,543.37 \$902,598.25 \$952,241.16 \$1,004,614.42 \$1,059,868.21 \$1,118,160.97 \$1,179,659.82 \$1,244,541.11 \$1,312,990.87 \$1,385,205.37 \$1,461,391.66 \$1,541,768.21 \$1,626,565.46 \$1,716,026.56 \$1,810,408.02 \$1,909,980.46 \$2,015,029.38 \$2,125,856.00 \$2,242,778.08 still owe * \$37,403.63 \$72,247.27 \$107,464.64 \$143,121.84 \$179,283.73 \$216,014.10 \$253,375.62 \$291,429.94 \$330,237.68 \$369,858.41 \$410,350.66 \$451,771.89 \$494,178.40 \$537,625.32 \$582,166.43 \$627,908.86 \$675,787.71 \$724,872.44 \$775,183.89 \$826,740.19 \$879,556.33 \$933,643.75 \$989,009.82 \$1,045,657.39 \$1,103,584.13 \$1,162,781.95 \$1,223,236.28 \$1,284,925.33 \$1,347,819.27 \$1,410,482.12 monthly \$1,151.93 \$1,404.15 \$1,641.99 \$1,883.05 \$2,127.79 \$2,376.60 \$2,629.93 \$2,888.18 \$3,151.75 \$3,421.06 \$3,696.50 \$3,978.46 \$4,267.34 \$4,563.52 \$4,867.37 \$5,179.28 \$5,499.92 \$5,834.96 \$6,178.89 \$6,531.86 \$6,894.07 \$7,265.65 \$7,646.73 \$8,037.44 \$8,437.84 \$8,847.99 \$9,267.92 \$9,697.62 \$10,137.03 \$10,586.05 \$11,036.15 Wait cost \$0.00 \$252.22 \$490.06 \$731.13 \$975.86 \$1,224.68 \$1,478.00 \$1,736.25 \$1,973.99 \$2,178.71 \$2,388.07 \$2,602.37 \$2,821.91 \$3,046.98 \$3,277.86 \$3,514.85 \$3,758.46 \$4,013.04 \$4,274.35 \$4,542.51 \$4,817.67 \$5,099.93 \$5,389.39 \$5,686.13 \$5,990.21 \$6,301.66 \$6,620.52 \$6,946.75 \$7,280.32 \$7,621.14 \$7,962.68 savings \$4,461.66 \$4,209.44 \$3,971.60 \$3,730.53 \$3,485.80 \$3,236.98 \$2,983.66 \$2,725.41 \$2,461.84 \$2,192.53 \$1,917.09 \$1,635.12 \$1,346.24 \$1,050.07 \$746.21 \$434.31 \$113.67 (\$221.38) (\$565.30) (\$918.28) (\$1,280.48) (\$1,652.06) (\$2,033.15) (\$2,423.85) (\$2,824.25) (\$3,234.40) (\$3,654.34) (\$4,084.03) (\$4,523.44) (\$4,972.46) (\$5,422.56)

Equivalent rent would be \$5613.59. Once again, the last three columns are all monthly streams, and they do have a steady worsening the entire time, mostly because your saving for a down payment does not start to catch up to the increase in property values during the simulation period. In other words, the longer you wait, the worse it gets. Indeed, affordability is monotonically decreasing the entire time. That's math geek for "Quit waiting, it only gets worse." Even though a dollar then is only worth 35.6 cents now, wouldn't you like as many 35.6 cents in your pocket as possible?

Now let's examine if you decide to sell this starter home in retirement, and go live somewhere else.

 Year 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 purchase price \$450,000.00 \$474,750.00 \$500,861.25 \$528,408.62 \$557,471.09 \$588,132.00 \$620,479.26 \$654,605.62 \$690,608.93 \$728,592.42 \$768,665.01 \$810,941.58 \$855,543.37 \$902,598.25 \$952,241.16 \$1,004,614.42 \$1,059,868.21 \$1,118,160.97 \$1,179,659.82 \$1,244,541.11 \$1,312,990.87 \$1,385,205.37 \$1,461,391.66 \$1,541,768.21 \$1,626,565.46 \$1,716,026.56 \$1,810,408.02 \$1,909,980.46 \$2,015,029.38 \$2,125,856.00 \$2,242,778.08 net equity \$2,082,917.20 \$2,048,379.98 \$2,013,536.35 \$1,978,318.97 \$1,942,661.78 \$1,906,499.88 \$1,869,769.52 \$1,832,407.99 \$1,794,353.67 \$1,755,545.93 \$1,715,925.21 \$1,675,432.96 \$1,634,011.73 \$1,591,605.21 \$1,548,158.29 \$1,503,617.18 \$1,457,874.75 \$1,409,995.90 \$1,360,911.17 \$1,310,599.72 \$1,259,043.42 \$1,206,227.28 \$1,152,139.87 \$1,096,773.79 \$1,040,126.22 \$982,199.48 \$923,001.67 \$862,547.34 \$800,858.28 \$737,964.35 \$675,301.50 liquidation \$14,138.60 \$13,904.16 \$13,667.65 \$13,428.60 \$13,186.56 \$12,941.10 \$12,691.78 \$12,438.17 \$12,179.86 \$11,916.44 \$11,647.50 \$11,372.64 \$11,091.48 \$10,803.63 \$10,508.72 \$10,206.38 \$9,895.88 \$9,570.89 \$9,237.70 \$8,896.20 \$8,546.24 \$8,187.73 \$7,820.59 \$7,444.77 \$7,060.25 \$6,667.05 \$6,265.23 \$5,854.87 \$5,436.13 \$5,009.21 \$4,583.87 net benefit \$1,681,408.70 \$1,527,603.06 \$1,482,514.85 \$1,390,228.98 \$1,262,990.98 \$1,218,788.65 \$1,139,516.49 \$1,064,002.28 \$991,242.90 \$921,953.98 \$854,914.46 \$790,327.87 \$728,045.15 \$667,919.78 \$609,807.59 \$553,566.46 \$498,733.07 \$440,202.91 \$383,770.99 \$329,344.94 \$276,837.21 \$226,165.09 \$177,250.78 \$130,021.48 \$84,409.45 \$40,352.17 (\$2,207.48) (\$43,321.12) (\$83,034.61) (\$121,387.80) (\$156,994.47) wait cost \$0.00 \$34,537.22 \$69,380.85 \$104,598.23 \$140,255.42 \$176,417.32 \$213,147.68 \$250,509.21 \$288,563.53 \$327,371.27 \$366,991.99 \$407,484.25 \$448,905.47 \$491,311.99 \$534,758.91 \$579,300.02 \$625,042.45 \$672,921.30 \$722,006.03 \$772,317.48 \$823,873.78 \$876,689.92 \$930,777.33 \$986,143.41 \$1,042,790.98 \$1,100,717.72 \$1,159,915.53 \$1,220,369.86 \$1,282,058.92 \$1,344,952.85 \$1,407,615.70

Now it is to be noted, as you may have seen under the first table, a point in time exists starting 26 years out where you will be better off just keeping your down payment money socked away in alternative investments, as opposed to actually using it to buy your home.

I'm planning to start using this sheet with prospects, under assumptions they can set - If they think inflation is going to average 7%, or appreciation only 3%, the sheet can accommodate that. I've played with the sheet over a few dozen simulations, and due to leverage, the numbers appear quite powerfully in favor of buying the best home that you can actually afford, right now. Interestingly enough, however, these number also strongly suggest that as close to 100% financing as you can manage initially will outperform larger down payments, and that's something that seems quite counter-intuitive to the usual run of financial planning. Instead of using it for your down payment, financing 100% of your purchase if you can seems to make your money work harder. Well, I can put a lot of caveats on that, because metaphorical bumps in the road happen, and nobody knows exactly when or how these disasters will strike. If you do, you can plan for it, and could you please drop me an email in warning? When you're just looking at the raw numbers, however, the advice they give is quite strongly to buy the best property you can afford as soon as you can, putting down as little of a down payment as you can, and making the minimum payments while salting away the rest for a rainy day. But be very careful not to stretch too far, because one thing you can count on, even in Southern California, is that it will rain sometimes.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 28, 2008 7:00 AM.

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