No. of Recommendations: 3
the company will be starting not long before I officially join a fairly large, 4-year research project.

So, if I understand correctly, it's a start-up company with one major project? In this day and age, I would be really hesitant to buy a house if that were my employment, unless I had a fully funded 12 month emergency fund (other than a Roth).

Funding for research projects is usually dependent on either government funding or venture capital. Neither is a totally stable source of funds....Governments at all levels in the US are looking to cut costs right and left; venture capital goes through ups and downs, and can decide to cut their funding off totally at any point. Here's one of the better-known cases of this happening - Sequoia Capital's "Presentation of Doom" in 2008:

My boyfriend, a programmer, worked for a tech start-up in 2008. The company shut down on Oct 31, 2008, a few weeks after the presentation, because the start-up (with almost 200 employees) couldn't get funding. He was left with no job and no health insurance, not even COBRA, because the company didn't exist any more. He found a contract job about 4 months later, and jumped from contract to contract for 3 1/2 years, until he found a great full time job last September, that we ended up moving across the country for.

Since I owned the house we lived in, it wasn't nearly as difficult for him to be flexible with his employment, and he did consider contracts in other areas of the country at times, but managed to stay in the large metro area we lived in. However, if you are in fairly small metro area, it might not be as easy, and being tied to making a mortgage payment, you might also find yourself forced to sell, or end up paying for housing in 2 different places if you can't sell.

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