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I’ve Wondering the Same Thing About Homeownership

Bitter is going to roll her eyes at this post, because she thinks I’m more down on my house than it deserves, but I have to agree with Dr. Helen on the issue of home ownership. It’s a big hassle, for sure. But renting isn’t exactly a panacea either, and in the case of renting, you’re paying for someone else to build value in a property, in exchange for them worrying about the day to day headaches of maintaining a property. You also have to follow terms of a lease, which can often be quite restrictive.

But I have learned quite a bit from buying a house, including what my needs are when it comes to housing. For one, the townhouse I rented had a basement, and I grew up with a basement. I bought a split level house with a partial finished basement. I’ve since discovered I was taking basements for granted. There was barely enough storage for all my junk, and adding Bitter’s on to it meant there was even less room, despite the fact that we both threw away quite a bit. The fact is that a basement is a convenient place to store junk you need some of the time, but not all of the time. My current house has a small attic, but things which go there are soon forgotten.

Every bit if work you think your house needs is a lot more of a pain to do yourself than you think, and finding honest contractors who won’t rip you off is difficult. I grew up in a house that was pretty consistently under construction, so I learned how to do even fairly radical home improvements myself. There’s some things that make sense to do yourself, but others it just makes sense to bring in professionals to do. Just because you know how to do them, doesn’t meant it’s worth your time. I am fairly happy doing plumbing an electrical work. Drywalling, painting, and carpeting are for the birds, and not much to have professionals do.

I wouldn’t suggest anyone buy a house thinking of it as an investment. It’s really a place to live. You can come out ahead financially over renting, but you also have to consider it’ll tie you down in ways you may not particularly like. Would I go back to renting? Doubtful. But home ownership certainly is no panacea. In some situations, you probably are better off just renting.

6 Responses to “I’ve Wondering the Same Thing About Homeownership”

  1. Harry Schell says:

    I get some “psychic income” from owning my own dirt. I have enough space for my cat to get outdoors, work on my car, play music real loud when I want to and never hear noises of other people (doing a variety of things) through the wall late in the evening. I also got lucky to find a house I could afford with a pretty good view.

    It likely isn’t enough to “offset” the finanical loss but it is easier to cope with the stresses. And some chores are a PITA.

  2. The history of American housing is a history of booms and busts. If you don’t know where you are going to live in three years, renting probably makes sense. At least part of the current economic insanity is that a lot of people are now upside down in their homes, and even if a job was available elsewhere in the country, they couldn’t move without losing most of their net assets. Hence, some employers can’t hire people locally–and are having trouble hiring someone from another state.

  3. Ian Argent says:

    In NJ, the property tax burden means a house is NEVER worth it as an investment (friend of mine ran the numbers). But I bought one anyway.

    The way I look at it – it’s an expression of my self-reliance. I can’t call the super to come unplug the tub (not that I did when I was renting, mind you). Plus, I am not a the whim of a landlord jacking up the rates or selling the complex out from under us and what was a fine landlord to deal with becomes a pain…

  4. Laughingdog says:

    The big thing is that, with the exception of during the 96-06 bubble, it’s not even remotely worth it to buy a home unless you’re going to own it for at least 5-6 years. It takes almost that long usually just for the value to go up enough to cover agent fees and closing costs.

  5. Jake says:

    I am not a[t] the whim of a landlord jacking up the rates

    That was my prime motivation for buying. Especially here at Virginia Tech, it’s a rare year when the rent doesn’t go up to a “competitive” rate – but it never goes down while you’re renting.

    Every year the rent goes up until you can’t afford it (or get fed up) and find a cheaper apartment, then the cycle starts again. Once you decide not to renew your lease, of course, the next people get in at a much lower rate.

    When my rent went up nearly $100 (15%) from the year before is when I started looking at home loans, hoping to break out of the cycle. Now, my mortgage + escrow + insurance is $125/month less than I was paying in rent.

    It’s not much – 2BR, 1 bath, about 900 sq. ft. – but it’s all I really need.

    Also, I get the benefit of not having loud parties 3-4 nights a week during the school year, and not having the neighbor’s marijuana smoke seeping into my living space on a regular basis.

    It was worth it for me, but that’s not always true for everyone.

  6. Ian Argent says:

    College town is surely one of the places you don’t want to rent…

    (Side Note: I almost went to VT – did go there for a summer program in high school.)

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