How I Bought A House On A Whim and Why You Shouldn’t

I bought the current townhouse we live in on a whim. We weren’t looking to buy a house and didn’t even think we’d own a house for the next few years… but here we are. So how did it happen and why shouldn’t you buy a house on a whim? Let’s dig into the details.

The Situation At The Time

I was working a job that I wasn’t a huge fan of. My girlfriend had just gotten a job in a town an hour and a half away. It also happened that my parents lived in the area. They had recently bought a townhouse near the beach to rent out to a relative. It seemed like they got a really great deal for the location and I thought that, given the opportunity, I’d like to own a similar townhouse one day…

Then it happened. A townhouse in the same exact townhouse row went up for sale! It sounded really appealing but I definitely hadn’t even thought seriously about buying a house at the time. I had been saving a bit of money for a house down payment but I thought it’d be at least three to five more years before I bought a house.

The townhouse was within walking distance to the beach and was cheap enough that I’d be able to scrounge up enough for a 20% down payment and closing costs required for my home loan. It was also within 20 minutes of my girlfriend’s new job which was a plus. Then, if she eventually got a job in the town I worked in we could rent the townhouse out easily for more than the expenses to run it.

We’d be able to afford owning the townhouse and renting a cheap place in the town I was working in at the time. It’d be tighter than I’d like but we could make it work within a reasonable budget. We liked the idea of the townhouse, the location, the rental potential and the fact that we could live in it if I got a job in the new town. We put in an offer and got the townhouse. It wasn’t quite that simple… but that’s a story for another post.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a House on a Whim

We are very happy that we were able to and that we did purchase the townhouse. However, there are a few things we should have had in line before buying it.

First, since we didn’t plan on buying a house so soon I had to borrow money from some of my other targeted accounts. Don’t get me wrong, I had the cash available. I just had it saved for a different goal. Don’t fall into this trap or you might run into problems if you end up needing the money for something else. Luckily I was able to replenish this within a couple months of closing on the townhouse without any problems.

Second, we rushed into the deal due to high interest in the property. We didn’t look at any other houses or consider any other options. Our townhouse only has two bedrooms and one and a half baths. It is a bit small but is big enough for us for the next five to ten years… even if we get frustrated at times with some of the size constraints. When you’re buying a house you need to make sure it is the perfect fit for you. This isn’t a decision you can easily reverse without incurring some hefty costs. It ended up working out for us but once again we got lucky.

Finally, I didn’t have a job lined up in the new town. We did have a back up plan of renting the house out if my girlfriend found a job where I was living before we bought the townhouse but we didn’t have a clear plan of what we wanted to happen when we made the offer. We ended up both living in the new place despite it been an hour and a half away from my job at the time. About six months later I found a new job much closer to our townhouse. In a down economy this was a risky move but it paid off for us. Be prepared for a long hard road ahead if you do something similar.

Before you buy a house make sure you consider all of your options. Be prepared for the enormous decision of becoming a home owner.

Have you ever bought a house on a whim? What other tips would you recommend investigating before buying a house?

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. You were lucky that it turned out ok for you! I did kind of the same, I bought a flat 4 years ago and only lived there during the first 6 months, then quit my job and went to another country! I am lucky too as I was able to rent it since an have amazing tenants and no hassle so far. I am aware that it could turn into a nightmare anytime with bad tenants though.

  2. Did not know you were a homeowner, tho after reading this I do see why you always advice people to think twice before purchasing a home. It does sound like it worked out well for you, but like you said it is risky to buy a house when you don’t have a job lined up in the area.

    Hold up tho…walking distance to the beach?!? Awesome!

  3. Sounds like it worked out, but we agree – definitely not a purchase that should be done on a whim. For each of our properties, we probably looked at different places for 8-10 months at least before buying each one.

  4. Yeah, this all makes sense. A Mountain Dew is something to buy on a whim, not a house, lol. It sounds like your decision wasn’t completely without thought, and it’s hard not to jump on something if it comes up and sounds close to what you wanted…but that’s how we get in trouble for sure. We end up with cars, houses and other stuff that maybe arne’t quite what we want!

    • We definitely thought it through, we just didn’t comparison shop enough and went for a very particular idea rather than an optimal idea. I’d still do the same thing today, but you shouldn’t buy a house on a whim!

  5. Yep, I’m a comparison shopper and wouldn’t do this, but hubby might. Isn’t it nice though, that you had prepared for the opportunity by saving up enough cash to be able to pursue it (albeit for other purposes)?

    Chance favors a prepared mind!

    • I used all of the money I had been saving for a future but undetermined vacation along with a couple other things. Glad I had the cash around for sure.

  6. Sounds like it worked out for you. Being a first time homeowner myself, the important thing I learned was the importance of doing your homework. Our realtor took us to a few houses (3-5 maybe) and then had us make a list of what we needed and wanted based off of the different things we saw in the first houses. Once we had our list we looked at about two dozen houses which were then narrowed to three we really wanted. Having our listed really helped us not make a snap or emotional decision, and are still happy with it five years later.

  7. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    With such uncertain times I like to stay as flexible as possible. If a job changes, I’d like to be able to move there without making huge sacrifices like commuting forever. However, this is not even my biggest fear when it comes to buying a house. Something about me not having traveled enough just yet, that makes me hesitate to “settle down” in one place. The idea of settling down is downright scary, but maybe that’s an issue of its own deep down inside that I have yet to explore. At least you found a job nearby, that’s nice.

    • See I have moved my whole life with my Dad being military so settling down almost sounds ideal… we’ll see how it works out! I haven’t lived anywhere longer than 4 years and that was in college!

  8. We totally bought our house on a whim….well, I can’t say that totally as we were looking for a house at the time. However, we had looked at so many awful houses, we finally found one that we were awestruck by and felt instantly that it was the one for us. We only looked at the house once and didn’t really think about anything beyond the fact that we liked it and it was a nice home. We didn’t think about the neighborhood, the distance away from the city, or anything along those lines. We just knew it was nice and we were sold. lol.

  9. We bought a house on the first day we went looking. Honestly, I don’t regret it one bit, but I would not recommend it for most people. It’s really situation dependent, and your situation seemed to work out just fine. But I agree, have a good plan in place, and make sure you have covered all the angles before diving into the biggest purchase of your entire life.

    • It did work out well for us and honestly this townhouse is going to make a great rental when we move up. That or it is an awesome beach vacation house for us at a price of less than a luxury car payment.

  10. Good advice. Not sure you’d be able to buy a home today without a job or larget down payment than in the past.

  11. I am a planner by nature and tend to analyze things before I act. I have my money working for me in the stock market so I could never buy on a whim. My last purchase I bought while I was renting out our home. I had to borrow my down payment because my funds were tied up. All this required planning. It all worked out very well.

  12. 20's finances says:

    So…. Party at your place? Haha. Glad it worked out for you guys. One of my goals is to buy a lake house. 🙂

  13. If you can afford it and don’t hate living there, it wasn’t a terrible idea. I’d love to be able to walk to the beach except during hurrican season…

    • It was actually pretty cheap so we can more than afford it. Hurricane season is a downside and the insurance related to it is crazy. Yay for state run insurance agencies!

  14. At least you can refinance lower right?

    I bought a place on the whim too… not a good idea. Gotta think things out much longer next time!

    • Actually, I have a 4.625% 30 year and the balance is right around $60,000 so refinancing would likely be too expensive to get any benefit out of it.

  15. You already know what I’m going to say, don’t you? If you rushed to buy a house in a recession, that decision will work out well. If you took your time and did everything “right” and bought at the top of the market, that decision would have haunted you for a long time…

    Doing the “stretch and scrounge” to buy in a low market almost always turns out to be worth. So when you buy your next house, I’ sure you’ll wait for the next drop… 🙂

  16. good timely reminder. I have been postponing our plan since last two years now, even though market here in south Florida is ripe at the moment, prices are almost near bottom.

  17. I am glad things worked out, but that sounds like a very potentially dangerous situation. I think we all get house fever from time to time, but ultimately, wisdom and common sense will hopefully prevail.

  18. I’m glad it worked out. You’re right: it sounds like an awesome investment that probably shouldn’t be duplicated. I think that’d be a fun book to read: Things I Did To Get Ahead That You Shouldn’t Try At Home Without A Net. We’d make millions, Lance!


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