House Poor

A situation that describes a person who spends a large proportion of his or her total income on home ownership, including mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance and utilities. House poor individuals are short of cash for discretionary items and tend to have trouble meeting other financial obligations like vehicle payments.

People typically become house poor because they buy more house than they can afford, but there are other ways that people can become house poor as well. For example, some people will become house poor after the birth of a child, when one spouse decides to stay at home with the new addition, rather than going back to work.

“House poor” is the term for those who spend too much on house payments and maintenance. It’s a common affliction. Sufferers starve their retirement accounts and miss pleasures such as dining out and taking nice vacations. Being house poor can even fracture a marriage.

In homeownership, as in all things, moderation is best, says Tahira Hira, professor of personal finance and consumer economics at Iowa State University.


  • The condition of having very little cash because nearly all of one’s net worth is tied up in one’s house. (Investor words)
  • People who are short on cash because most of their money is tied up in their homes are “house poor”. (Dictionary by farlex)

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