I’m a graduating 4th year medical student and as most physicians know, this has been one of the best years of my life. I just matched into my top choice residency and am one step closer to becoming a primary care sports medicine physician, my dream job. Many of my classmates have capitalized on this time of excitement by making the controversial decision to buy a home before they start residency. I have not. Here’s why:
I don’t have money saved for a down payment. During medical school, I was so busy completing rotations and studying for exams that I barely had time to sleep, let alone work a job. Thus, I didn’t save money for a house down payment. Although my status as a graduating medical student with a residency contract qualifies me for a physician loan, very few of these loans offer a 0% down payment and the ones that do require a higher interest rate in return.
I don’t have cash for the transaction costs. Transactions costs associated with buying a home are expensive. The cost of attorney fees, escrow, home inspections, etc. add up to an estimated 3% of the entire cost of the home. Although some banks can roll these costs into your mortgage, that usually increases your monthly payment, something that may not be a wise decision for a first-year resident on a fixed income.
I don’t have an emergency fund for repairs. As a renter, if something breaks I contact my landlord and she calls someone to fix the issue. Most importantly, she pays for it. If I were to buy a home, this responsibility would fall on me. Having to coordinate repairs is not something I want to add to my plate. Plus, I haven’t had time to save money to pay for these inevitable costs and don’t want to rely on a credit card for these charges.
I already have a lot of [student loan] debt. Despite getting scholarship money, I took out student loans to help pay for my education. Like most medical students, I have over $200,000 to repay. Taking on an additional $250,000 in debt to buy a home I don’t need seems unnecessary. I need to prioritize paying off debt instead of accumulating more.
Homes cost more than I can afford in my area. Many homes in the city center of Atlanta (where I will be doing my residency) cost at least $500,000. As a single person with a resident salary of only $60,000 and substantial student loan debt, I couldn’t even qualify for a mortgage that big, let alone afford one. There are cheaper homes outside of the city, but they are further away from the hospital which would add tons of traffic to my work commute.
I need to save money for other things. I have other uses for the money I’d be able to save a resident. Along with paying down debt, I also need to put money into an emergency fund and save up to buy another slightly used car. Although I love my 2012 Toyota, I may need a different car in a few years. Instead of financing a new car, I’d rather save up money to purchase a slightly-used car in cash.
It won’t save me money in taxes right now. Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, many young professionals bought a house and used the mortgage interest deduction to save money on taxes. Nowadays, that is much less common. Why? Because with the new tax changes, taking the standard deduction saves us more money. If I wait to buy a home as an attending, I might be able to take advantage of those tax savings.
Homeownership costs are expensive and renting is cheaper. After learning about the home-buying process, I’ve realized that you cannot just compare the average rent payment to the average mortgage payment and make a decision. There are many other costs associated with buying a home in addition to monthly expenses like property taxes, homeowners insurance, and repairs that add another 40% to your monthly budget. Renting is cheaper.
My residency is only 3 years. If you live in a home for less than 5 years, there’s a good chance you will lose money in the deal, even if you sell the home for more than you bought it. Why? Because the closing costs associated with buying a home, recurring costs associated with maintaining a home, and transactions costs associated with selling a home are really expensive. It generally takes about 5 years to break even on a home when you consider these costs. Since my residency is only 3 years, there is a good chance I would lose money if I bought a home now.
I’m currently single. On a more personal note, I am an unmarried female. I don’t have to be married to purchase a home, but having a spouse who works would certainly help. As a graduating medical student who has substantial debt and a resident salary for the next 3 years, purchasing a home and paying the homeownership costs by myself is a heavy load I’d rather not bear alone.
I like living in the city. As a young professional, I love living in the city. Restaurants/bars are within walking distance, Uber rides to city events are affordable, and my commute to work is shorter. If I were to purchase a home, this may not be the case. Homes in the middle of the city are more expensive than I can afford as a single resident.
My life may change drastically in the next few years. As an unmarried female, my life could change drastically during my time in residency. I’m no Julia Roberts, but there’s a good chance I could get married and have a child in the next 4 years. If that were to happen, the things I’d want/need in a home would be significantly different. Right now, I loathe the thought of doing yard work and prefer to live closer to the city. However, if I were married with a child I might opt for a place in the suburbs with a backyard and better schools.
My point? Although you may not have all of the same factors in your life as me, I’d venture to say that some of my reasons for not buying a house are applicable to you as well. I’m a firm believer in free choice, but I would caution any graduating medical student against buying a home at the start of residency if they share many of these things in common with me.
Of note, I published this article on KevinMD.com on March 31, 2019.