Why the Idea of a 'Forever' Home Is Overrated

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on April 11, 2021

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Family standing in front of sold house holding a key.

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Don't assume you'll stay in your property forever.

For many people, homeownership dreams include buying a "forever" home. That's a home you plan to purchase, set down roots in, and remain in for most or all of the rest of your life.

While this concept may sound great in theory, in reality it isn't necessarily practical, and it's not always the best goal. Plus, looking for a forever home may not be the smartest way to buy property. Here's why.

Life circumstances, and property values, play a role

Planning for a forever home can be problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it can lead you to make impractical choices when it comes to buying a property.

You may end up waiting until the "perfect" home comes along and missing out on homes that would be a better value in the meantime. Or you could find yourself missing out on years of appreciating property values because you delay purchasing your home until you find one you think you want to live in forever.

In some cases, it's also easy to justify going over budget, taking out a large mortgage, and buying a home you can't really afford because you plan to be in the home forever. This could compromise other important financial goals, such as saving for retirement. It could also increase the chances that you'll lose your home to foreclosure if you have a spate of bad luck.

These financial risks might be worth taking if you indeed found a property that you really can live in for life. But many people don't accurately project what their future needs will be -- and plans can change.

You may imagine having children, for example, but end up changing your mind when your career takes off. Or you may expect to stay child free but change your mind. Career opportunities could come along that prompt you to leave an area, or illness could make remaining in your home impractical.

Since you can't guarantee that any home will work for you forever, setting such an aspirational goal for your home purchase puts pressure on you needlessly.

Finally, assuming your property is a forever home could lead you to miss out on the chance to take advantage of rising property values. If you buy a home in a hot market and it increases dramatically in value, sometimes it pays to sell it and pocket your gains if downsizing or relocating makes sense. You don't want to let the romantic ideal of a forever home prevent you from making this type of move if it's the best choice.

Of course, you do want to make sure that you're purchasing a property that you'll be comfortable staying in for at least two to five years. If you aren't going to commit to staying that long, it usually makes more sense to rent because you'll have a hard time recouping your transaction costs if you move soon after buying a property.

But instead of searching for a home with plans to stay there forever, look for a home that's well within your price range, that's in a good neighborhood, that's likely to go up in value, and that you'll enjoy living in. This can take the pressure off and let you make much better choices during the home-buying process.

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