Can't Afford to Buy a Home? 3 Options to Consider

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on Sept. 3, 2020

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A man and woman carrying boxes into the kitchen of their new home.

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If you're having trouble becoming a homeowner, look at these creative solutions.

There's a reason so many buyers are scrambling to purchase homes right now. With mortgage rates being historically low, it's awfully tempting to secure a home loan before those rates start to climb.

The problem: Limited inventory on the housing market. Because there are few houses on the market these days, houses are being sold for higher amounts. And a lot of buyers are getting priced out. If you can't afford to buy a home right now -- whether because prices are too high or because you simply haven't saved enough -- don’t give up on purchasing property. Try one of these solutions to take advantage of today's remarkable mortgage rates.

1. Buy a condo instead of a single-family home

There's a benefit to buying a standalone home with a yard and a driveway: You get more space and added privacy. But if you can't swing a single-family home and you're eager to stop throwing your money away on rent, consider a condo.

The Ascent recently researched average home prices throughout the country. The study found plenty of benefits to condo ownership. In New Jersey, for example, the median value for a single-family house this year is $355,423. But for a condo it's $275,174. That’s a significant savings.

Of course, there are drawbacks to buying a condo. You might get stuck with limited space, and it may not sell as easily as a standalone home would. But if you can make it work for a few years, it's worth considering.

2. Buy jointly with a family member or friend

Maybe you don't have the finances to pay for a home where you live. But if you join forces with a trusted partner, like a friend or family member, you may find that a new home is suddenly within your reach.

There is a danger to going this route. There are legal implications and complexities you'll need to sort out when you buy property jointly with someone you aren't married to.

You'll need to sit down with that partner and map out an agreement to address key issues. The two of you will need to decide who's responsible for maintenance and repairs, as well as what happens if one of you wants to sell.

You'll also need to make sure the person you buy with is financially sound. If he or she causes you to fall behind on your mortgage payments, both of your credit scores will suffer -- even if you're still pulling your weight.

But as long as you work these important matters out, owning a home jointly with someone else could work to your advantage.

3. Buy a home yourself and rent part of it out

Maybe you technically qualify for a mortgage. Perhaps you can come up with a down payment on a home in your area. But what if doing so will leave you with too high of a monthly mortgage payment?

If that's the case, it pays to consider renting out a portion of your home. That way, you'll have a steady stream of income you can use to help cover your monthly mortgage payments. Rental income can also help cover any other expenses that creep up in the course of owning your home.

Of course, having a tenant means you'll need to deal with someone -- possibly a stranger -- living under your roof. And if your home doesn't have a separate living area, like a finished basement, you’ll lose some privacy. But if you're worried about paying your mortgage without help, a tenant could be the right solution.

Let's be clear: Just because mortgage rates are low doesn't mean you must buy a home right now. But if that's a goal of yours, there may be a way to make it work. You’ll just need to get a bit creative.

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