I think in the case of "omg we need this expense right now" we would be fine with putting it on a card. We don't carry debt otherwise but when we had to make oh-no purchases we did fine with paying them off after the fact. We have a pretty decent amount of credit we can use - $20,000 line of credit.
And yes, we would want a small mortgage. We would only be looking at $100K max. I think we would be qualified to take out considerably more than that but a small mortgage payment is important to us.