So, where I live: the cheapest apartments are within $150/mo of a two story house + basement. There are more modest lots available, and this more modest housing is my goal (maybe). Preliminary assessment suggests a house is immediately a cheaper monthly payment than an apartment. (The city over may be even worse. Somehow.) This is days of looking and calling around.

Absolute terms aside, price per square foot ratio makes an apartment look like a rip off unless you hate lawns.

However, my income in intermittent; a little over 10 grand a year; (my family has a history of discouraging me from taking full time jobs for academic reasons. But that may be changing.)

My credit score has been stable at something over 730 - it's actually hasn't been that low in months.

Given my credit score, I'm assuming I could get an apartment if I really had to, but is it possible for me to pursue a mortgage (to save money)?

Or is it truly the case that being poor is very expensive?
If it helps: United States.

  • Did you factor in the running costs of owning a house? Can you give some example numbers so we can understand your calculations?
    – Daniel
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 8:41
  • So are you in school now? Then you're not poor - you have a low income (because you're in school). If you bought a house now , you'd probably end up poor.
    – D Stanley
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


Should I seek a house on limited income?


my income in intermittent

Lenders want consistent income. And a down payment.

a little over 10 grand a year

That's less than $1,000/month. (I won't even ask whether or not it's after taxes.)


A debt-to-income ratio smaller than 36%, however, is preferable, with no more than 28% of that debt going towards servicing a mortgage.

Thus, you could hypothetically afford a $300 mortgage payment, which means -- ignoring mortgage insurance -- you can afford a $27,000 house.

  • the funny thing is, suppose the cheapest rent is $400/month or more...
    – user12515
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 17:07
  • @Michael see the DJClayworth answer money.stackexchange.com/a/87325/22266 for other expenses to owning a house.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 17:39
  • Well my point was more that debt to income should be under 36%, but since renting doesn't count as debt, it may be somewhat easier to exceed this in housing costs.
    – user12515
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 18:28
  • @Michael rent has mortgage, taxes, insurance (including PMI), repair and maintenance all rolled into one. That's why it can exceed 28% of income.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 18:48

All of RonJohn's reasons to say no are extremely valid. There are also two more.

First, the cost of a mortgage is not the only cost of owning a house. You have to pay taxes, utilities, repairs, maintenence, insurance. Those are almost always hundreds of dollars a month, and an unlucky break like a leaking roof can land you with a bill for many thousands of dollars.

Second owning a house is a long term thing. If you find you have to sell in a year or two, the cost of making the sale can be many thousands of dollars, and wipe out all the 'savings' you made from owning rather than renting.

I would suggest a different approach, although it depends very much on your circumstances and doesn't apply to everybody. If there is someone you know who has money to spare and is concerned for your welfare (your mention of a family that doesn't want you to work for 'academic reason' leads me to believe that might be the case) see if they are prepared to buy a house and rent it to you. I've known families do that when their children became students. This isn't necessarily charity. If rents are high compared to house prices, owning a house and renting it out can be very profitable, and half the battle with renting a house is finding a tenant who will pay rent and not damage the house. Presumably you would qualify. You could also find fellow-students who you know to share the rent cost.

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