I bought a house for all the wrong reasons. Mainly, it was the thing to do. I never considered myself a follower, but friends were buying houses, and I was sick of my commute to work, it seemed the bright thing to do. After all, a house is an investment has been the mantra of the American Dream for the awhile now.
But it’s just not necessarily so. Well before I ever sold my home to start over, I was becoming disenchanted. I feel like owning a home fits a very specific segment who wishes to be settled and to some degree who find joy in nesting. I was no more settled than any apartment dweller. I was not tied to a community, but in a way my house became an anchor around my neck.
Any time I’d consider looking for another job, I had to keep in mind the commute that would accompany it. It didn’t feel like I could easily relocate. And then there were the various projects that come with owning a home. Despite being reasonably handy and too cheap to pay anyone else to do what I could do myself, I came to loath doing anything around the house beyond general cleaning. If the original paint hadn’t been so cave-like dark, I’m not sure if my 8 years of ownership would have even included repainting. I rarely did anything that I didn’t have to. Yes, when you rent, you’re putting money in someone else’s pocket but if you don’t enjoy these sort of tasks, you should ask yourself if owning a house is really for you.
In the end, I was lucky I was too cheap to sink a lot of money into my little piece of real estate. When I finally decided this part of the American dream was not for me and to reboot my life, the housing market was crashing around me. If I had sunk cash into hardwood floors, new bathroom fixtures, etc., I would have come out woefully in the hole. With house prices falling, it’s very doubtful I’d have recouped that investment. I consider myself to have more or less broken even, but honestly that’s only because I didn’t have to pay someone to take it off my hands. I didn’t leave with the buckets of cash I would have a year or two before.
This is what paints more of my opinion of home ownership. It’s for a group of people who want to live somewhere badly enough to ride out the tough times and who enjoy either spending money on home projects or are big Do-it-yourselfers. Otherwise, you’re very much taking a gamble that you’ll be able to get back what you put into it when the time comes to move on for whatever reason. I haven’t done any hard numbers (and am probably afraid to), but I don’t see myself following this path again. For me, I believe it’s either paying a landlord or being able to save up the cash to buy in the future. Mortgages for me are too much about wagering the future.
What do you think? Who is home ownership really for and should we encourage it for everyone as we have in the past?