Ever since Torsten and I started seriously managing our finances, we've been thinking about the idea of owning a home. This seems to be the logical next step in the whole muddle of marriage and kids and all that Future with a Capital F stuff. And we fully plan to buy a house at some point in the next couple of years. We divide our savings between a down payment and our retirement funds. Every now and then one of us admires the beautiful houses in the real estate section of the paper, and tries not to cry upon catching a glimpse of the prices.
The current mortgage and housing crisis doesn't deter me from the idea of buying a house. It seems that with depressed prices, now would be a good time to buy--but only if we're willing to hold onto the house we buy for a few years at the very least. I think what this burst housing bubble has done is hurt the concept of a starter home--a little house that you'd live in for a couple of years, maybe through the first baby, and then leave behind as you became more financially stable and your family grew.
But now that housing prices aren't going steadily up and up, and it's getting harder to sell, the idea of buying a small house and then flipping it when you're ready to upgrade doesn't seem so feasible. Which means that if we were to buy a house, we would truly have to be willing to stay in it for awhile, an undetermined amount of time.
Our lives are in so much flux that it's kind of hard to think about what our housing needs will be five or even more years from now. In five years we could have two kids and be thinking about school districts and second bedrooms and big yards for the dog and a swing set. Which means that if that's what we want five years from now, it should be what we're looking for in a house at the moment. But that's not what we can afford at the moment. At least not in DC. If we want to move to, say, Idaho, we'd be set. But we don't.
Also? I know that everyone says that home ownership is the holy grail, and I know it means you have equity and all of that good stuff. But I LIKE renting. I like that we pay a fixed amount every month, and there are never any unexpected costs. I like that we don't pay utilities, and that if the dishwasher breaks or the tub gets clogged, all I have to do is call the front desk and someone will come by to fix it without us even needing to be home. I like that if we receive a package that needs to be signed for in the middle of the day, neither of us has to stay home from work because the package room will sign for it. I like that the building has a gym right in it, and the security that comes from having a 24-hour front desk monitor and a security guard, and how cheap renter's insurance is. I like that we don't have to mow the lawn and that if we ever want to move, we can do so without worrying about having to pay two mortgages until our old place sells.
And from what I hear, buying a house basically makes you broke. Down payment, closing costs, fees, interest, a monthly mortgage payment--plus contractors, inspections, repairs, upgrades, furniture, decor... it just seems like the costs never end. So yeah, you have the house and the equity, but it's not like that actually leaves you with any more money, at least not until you've paid off your mortgage, which only happens if you live in the same house for 30 years.
Plus, DC has extremely tenant-friendly laws that include excellent rent control. I love that.
We do plan to buy, though, eventually. But not quite yet. We're still contributing to our down payment fund, and figuring out what we want to do, where and what we want to buy and can afford. But it's a big step--it means that we're not as free to move around, to pick up and go whenever we decide that we're looking for a change. I guess that's a part of the whole Settling Down thing that we're in the process of doing. It's kind of a weird feeling.
So am I crazy? Am I missing some huge benefit of home ownership that everyone knows about except me? What about you--do you rent or own? Which do you prefer?
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