First Person: My Smartest Financial Move in My 30s

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First Person: Our Home Is Finally Worth More Than We Paid
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We purchased our 1,800-square-foot house in 2005.

I'd like to say my smartest financial move in my 30s was investing for retirement, but I can't. It may be another 20 years before I realize I wasn't just throwing my money into the black hole that is the stock market. I know a lot of my Generation X peers are upset about the stock market as well as the housing collapse. Many might say buying their home was their worst financial move in their 30s. Even though it took an entire decade for me to see the financial benefits of homeownership, I can now say that buying a home is the one financial move I'm glad I made in my 30s. And, I'm not ashamed to admit, we purchased a home at the height of the housing bubble in 2005. We watched our home that we purchased for $183,000 go up in value to about $220,000 and then melt down like the Wicked Witch of the West to $109,000.

Getting into homeownership at 30

I purchased a townhome after I turned 30. I bought the townhome in a new Florida subdivision that included golf courses, a clubhouse and amenities such as swimming pool with waterslides. I was surprised that the townhome only cost about $103,000. After two years, I sold the townhome and walked away with a profit of about $30,000. I was lucky enough to be able to sell during a seller's market. However, I then put myself in the position of being a buyer in the same seller's market.

Saving up for a down payment

Having that big chunk of change from the townhome sale allowed us to put 20 percent down on our new home in 2005. If we didn't have the $30,000 from the townhome, it would have been difficult to purchase a house when prices were going up every day. We were so desperate to make a deal with a new home builder that we put down a deposit on a lot without even seeing the lot. On the plus side, we were able to lock in the price while we waited more than a year for the home to be constructed.

Staying put during the housing decline

After we moved into our home, the values continued to increase for about a year. A few neighbors "flipped" their homes, making profits of as much as $75,000. However, our best move was to stay put as the values dropped down. For a few years we had negative equity in our home. After they hit bottom more than a year ago at $109,000, they started to increase. When we went to refinance to 2.75 percent recently, the appraiser told us our home is now worth $130,000. We currently owe about $100,000.

I know a lot of people will argue that renting is a smarter decision. However, people who rent a home such as our 4-bedroom and 3-bathroom home pay about $1,300 a month. Our newly refinanced 15-year fixed rate mortgage comes with a payment of only $900. Moreover, we will be free of a mortgage in another 15 years if we pay the minimum. Now that the smoke has cleared, I can definitely say that becoming a homeowner was the smartest money move I made in my 30s.

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