Aaron, I looked up some houses in Oshkosh and came up with these.* I'm basically in your exact same situation making 45k a year and I'm 24.* I've been slowly going from 12k to 45k over the last 4 years, so I've always sort of budgeted low.* I bought my first house on 9 bucks an hour and had 3 roommates! It sucked, but it has helped tremendously in the long run.* Anyways, looking to spend 400 to 500 a month out of your own pocket would leave you with 800-1000 a month for a house if you had 1 roommate and probably 1200-1500 if you had 2 roommates.* So, with this in mind, you probably have around 120k to spend on a house, give or take 20k.* So, lets look for houses with 3 bedrooms in that area.
And one of my favorites so far:
All of these homes are going to cost below 600 in mortgage and with tax, title, insurance, etc will be around 700, figure in about 300 in utilities and you're at 1000 a month.* If you finance it 100% you'll be at 1100 a month or something, whatever.
Granted homeowning is a pain in the ass and stuff breaks, which is always annoying.* You'll be able to spend your younger years with a couple of roommates who are basically paying your mortgage for you and you'll have a very nice tax deduction which you really need at 43k.* Figure paying 6k in interest per year(well, your roommates are actually paying it) and then you'll get back 30% of it come tax time.*
So, two roommates at 400/mo util incl(collecting rent and then splitting utilities sucks ass, just include them, the fewer times a month you have to ask for money the better)
800 rent + 400 you = 1200 mo
You put in 400/mo just like now, but you get the principle that gets paid down over time, 1800/yr back from taxes, and you don't have to live in an apartment.
The first couple of years you'll only make like 2k in principle so 2k + 1800 = 3800 bucks for your troubles, which isn't much, but it is something.* After 5 years it starts to change dramatically and there is one more thing.....the damn thing just might appreciate a little, but never count on that, not in the midwest.
IMHO, finance a house with as little money out of pocket as possible, but get nice fixed loans. Think of it as diversifying your portfolio which is already rich with money that will have lots of time to build on itself if it is uninterrupted for the next 25 years, so don't set yourself up to have to pull a big chunk out of your 401k because you're getting your first house at 35. Make some sacrifices now and the house basically pays for itself, by 35 you have your down payment on your first house already paid from years of hard work.