DEAR BRUCE >> I'm 23 years old. My yearly income is $40,000 and I have good credit. I want to move out of my parents' house, but I don't want to pay rent just to pay someone else's mortgage. Is there any way I could buy a house with this salary?

— K.L.

DEAR K.L. >> With a $40,000 income, it's very likely that you will be able to find a small house, given the fact that you have good credit. But I would like to disabuse you of the idea that paying rent is paying someone else's mortgage. It may be the less expensive way to go.

Buying a home is no guarantee of building equity in today's world. By all means, investigate the market for homes in your area. But keep in mind there is a lot more to owning a home than just mortgage payments.

DEAR BRUCE >> I am a 68-year-old widow and I need to get some money out of my home for repairs and maintenance and bills. I live on Social Security and a small VA benefit. No savings, etc.

When I downsized, I put everything in my house, so my mortgage is $150,000 ($900 payments) and my house is worth over $300,000. I can't decide whether to refinance with a conventional loan (I would probably go for $200,000), which would pay for a new roof, pay off my debts and do a few other repairs (I may be eligible for a VA loan due to my benefits), or should I just get a reverse mortgage? Frankly, I'm a little afraid of the reverse mortgage at this time.

— G.S.


DEAR G.S. >> You're in a large club of people who own a home and find themselves relatively well off from the point of view of equity, but are short on cash. At 68, it may well be that you should consider selling the house and moving into a rental property or a considerably less expensive home.

You also say you're afraid of a reverse mortgage, but I don't see why. It may not be for you, but the overwhelming likelihood is that you can get a reverse mortgage and use that to pay off your current mortgage. That would increase your income by $900 a month. You should be able to find a home (rental property) well under the $900.

On balance, though, I'd try to sell the home, walk away with over $100,000 and become a renter.

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