2 min read
As my 40th year grows nearer, my dad insists that I need to consider buying property. To him – and many other Americans – owning a home is one of the cornerstones of success. I remember when my parents bought their first home. It was a source of pride for the whole family – a huge achievement. Owning a home was a visual representation of having “made it.”
Several of my friends are homeowners. Some owned their homes by the time they were 30. They got married, bought homes, had kids: did things “the right way.”
I have no serious urge to buy a home. I keep thinking that one day it’ll hit me. This need to “settle” in one place. I can’t even fathom putting down roots. Right now it’s just me and the cats(tm). If I want to pick up and move to another city, I can do that with more ease than I could if I had a family or owned a home.
San Francisco is unlikely to be my last home. If I have children, I know I don’t want to raise them here, for many reasons, not the least of which includes wanting to be able to afford to feed these kids after paying the rent or mortgage. Which brings me to my next point: to afford to buy a home in San Francisco I’d probably need to auction off a few organs. I’m kind of fond of my kidneys, lungs and liver.
Last winter I finally sold my car and I feel lighter without it. It’s one less thing to think about. My car battery kept dying because I couldn’t be bothered to remember to let it run periodically. Owning a home is an even greater commitment than a car.
There was a time as a kid, when I would pore over house floor plans in the Sunday paper’s real estate section. I’d scan over all the homes for sale in the rich people neighborhoods of Houston and dream of what my future home would look like one day. I’d clip photos of house facades, floor plans and design ideas that fit my fantasy and taped them into a spiral notebook.
When we moved to Houston from Georgia, my sisters and I accompanied our parents on their hunt for our second house. Sometimes we window-shopped homes way outside our budget. The show homes were the best to visit because they’re fully furnished and staged to impress. Wandering through the massive living spaces with brand new neutral-colored carpeting, expansive backyards dotted with shade trees, winding staircases leading to “your” bedroom where you picture the posters you’d put on your wall, knowing damn well your dad isn’t going to let you hang anything on the walls of their new house.
I’ve marathoned my fair share of episodes of HGTV’s House Hunters. Even though I know the show is rigged, it doesn’t dampen the joy of nearly overdosing on real estate candy. It’s all about the fantasy, the boost of delight from playing make-believe.
Still, owning a home isn’t a priority for me. It’s one of those things I think I’ll do “someday,” just not now.
How about You? Do you / have you own(ed) a home? Do you want to own a home one day?
Niki@JamesJanuary 4, 2016
I recently returned to the USA after 9 years overseas. We sold our house before becoming expats. Now, back in the US with a great job and two girls we were looking into buying a house….until last week.
A house is not an investment anymore. It is a way to separate you from your money.
Property tax, HOA dues,maintenance,yard care,costs of purchase and selling.
We looked at Texas (avoid the state income tax) and a 400k home will have a tax bill of almost 10k a year. That does not count towards your mortgage. An online calculator shows us that the break even point of rental vs ownership is 29 years. Yes 290,000 paid in property tax. Plus about 710,000 paid for the mortgage. That 400k home costs you 1 million. Not included is maintenance,painting, HOA, homeowners insurance etc. Your roof will have to be replaced,you will need a new a/c unit,and your water heater will die. In the 30 years of the mortgage those things will be done about 3 times.Each.
So add another 75000 to the cost of the home. HOA of a hundred a month? Insurance of the same amount? That is 72000 more.
The 400k Texas home just cost us 1,147,000 dollars. Or 3186 dollars a month for 30 years.
With those numbers it makes no sense for us to buy. We will rent in Texas. Rent a place for 2000 and put the 1186 a month into our retirement fund. In 30 years with 0 return on our savings that is 426,960 extra dollars.
Unless we get a home well below market or an agro exemption for property tax I just do not see us buying a house.
We really wanted a house. Let the girls play in the back yard. Get a dog. Live the American Dream after being overseas for so long. But the numbers speak for themselves.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJanuary 13, 2016
I found that I was nodding my head through your whole comment. Owning a home today is just not the same as it was 30 or even 20 years ago. And the idea that you have a mortgage hanging over your head for 30 years is just not appealing, especially after the recession. Banks still have a ways to go to rebuild trust, IMO. The good thing is, there are perfectly lovely houses for rent – where other people handle the responsibility for maintenance and upkeep. I hope you find something that works for you and your family!
kalison0515July 13, 2015
I own my home in expensive DC Metro area. I owned one before this in the Bay Area (Oakland). I like your decision to not buy right now, but I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to do it 10 years from now if you don’t want to buy now. If you want geographical and lifestyle flexibility, definitely keep that decision on pause.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJuly 14, 2015
You owned a home in Oakland? I know it’s not as expensive as SF, but still, good for you! California isn’t cheap!
Yeah for now I need the flexibility to bounce when I want. Not that I just move around willy-nilly. 🙂
Linda Manns LinnemanJuly 6, 2015
For me, owning a home is a must. I feel it is a great investment. It helps at tax time. Most importantly, my house payment is less than what it would cost me to rent. I wish you the best. Thank you for sharing
The Girl Next Door is BlackJuly 9, 2015
I can definitely understand that. If a mortgage payment costs less than rent, then owning a home makes more sense!
DianaJuly 1, 2015
Everyone’s different, but we wanted to buy a home ASAP because then you are actually putting money into something you’ll own. Renting costs you more money in the long run. We also wanted a home before having kids, so it just seemed like a good investment. So finance wise, I’d recommend buying a house if you can afford it, but comfort wise, do what you feel is best for you 🙂
The Girl Next Door is BlackJuly 3, 2015
I don’t necessarily want to own my own home right now. However, I am not anti-investing in real estate! Commerical real estate investing in the right conditions can be quite lucrative. I’m thinking long game. 🙂
Congrats on your home! I do still think it’s an achievement of which to be proud. Buying and maintaining a home is no small feat!
Starla BJune 27, 2015
I think like other things in life- these things are based purely on your own person. I agree with you and am in no rush and have no plans to purchase yet or anytime in the near future. I am content right where I am. That’s what matters.. with a side of happiness and wine! 🙂 xo
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 29, 2015
I like that attitude! 🙂
Kristin KJune 27, 2015
I agree with you. I am not interested in being a homeowner either. I prefer to rent an apartment, having someone else do the repairs, and yard work. I don’t need the hassle of cleaning an entire house for just spending my time in one room all the time!
Alina ConnJune 26, 2015
I agree, you’d have to sell organs to afford a home in San Francisco. My good friend just finished moving there and my jaw dropped when he told me how much he was paying in rent. Owning a home takes a lot of money to maintain and if I were to do it again, I’d rent.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJuly 6, 2015
The median rent in San Francisco for a studio or 1-bedroom is more than some people pay for a mortgage in many places!
Melissa SJune 25, 2015
I think that if I weren’t married with children I wouldn’t have felt the urge to buy as opposed to renting. I really wish we had a landlord to call when the big stuff breaks.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJuly 1, 2015
I think children definitely change the game and understandably so.
It is nice calling someone when things break though!
Mai TranJune 25, 2015
I do want to own an apartment for myself since renting is throwing money away for me. And yes, for everyone, buying a house seems like a great success of life. But for me, buying a house means I have room for my family member to be in privacy on their will.
playfulpaws75June 24, 2015
I am 40, and never want to buy a house. I don’t think anyone “needs” a house! I consider them a money-pit!!! I prefer to rent. Where I don’t have to worry about making repairs and cutting the grass!! I would rather sit back and have others do it, where I don’t have to pay for it!
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 24, 2015
Ugh, cutting the grass. I’m with you on that, nooooo thank you!
JoyJune 16, 2015
When I was with my ex, we constantly went around househunting because everyone especially his family told us that is what we “should” be doing. We would watch House Hunters, the whole bit…but…in reality, I don’t think we ever had a proper amount of money to be buying anything in Southern California (where we live). The only places we could afford we wouldn’t want to live and vice versa. I wasn’t very broken up about it as even these days, with a child, I’d still rather spend my money on something else. I feel like there are so many hidden costs in homeowning that in the end it doesn’t work out to be as cost-saving as everyone would like to think it is. But then, no homeowners usually admit to that! I think you gotta just do what feels right to you…no one wants to be house poor.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 17, 2015
SoCal real estate is pretty expensive compared to most parts of the country. I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a condo when I lived there and I didn’t see anything affordable in the areas where I considered living. For what was available the idea of taking on such a huge amount of debt did not appeal either!
Julie S.June 15, 2015
Home ownership isn’t for everyone. San Francisco is definitely one of those places where you’ll have to sell off some organs, and if you’re not even sure you’re going to live there for a long time, then you’re making the right call. I used to live in the Bay Area (in fact my Mom is a real estate broker in the east bay) and the prices are just out of this world. Things are so much more affordable where I live now, the Houston area, but you’re also familiar with that. I don’t think I would have been able to get a house if we hadn’t moved when we got married. Renting can definitely be the right choice and be an easier out if you have to go somewhere else.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 16, 2015
Every time I go back to Texas for a visit and see how affordable property is, for a brief moment question my decision to stay in California. I remember a few years ago seeing a respectably-sized 3-bedroom home in a decent neighborhood in Houston for less than $125k! That’s unheard of here!
Megan PremoJune 14, 2015
I love my house, but there have been many, many times that I’ve thought “Why did I do this to myself? I should have just rented a condominium and saved myself all of this work.” Owning a house is a huge commitment (of time and money), especially for someone who is single. This time of year, I have to spend several hours a weekend doing yard work, and that’s just to keep the weeds down and the grass cut. If I was single, childless and still at a point where I might relocate for my career, there’s no way I’d take on homeownership. I think you’re smart to avoid it.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 16, 2015
I hate yard work. I used to have to mow the lawn and pick weeds in the hot sun of Houston as a teen. I vowed then that I will not do either of those things if I own a house.
Your blog cracks me up, BTW. I like your sense of humor.
Sanaa BrooksJune 14, 2015
I love this! I honestly NEVER wanted a house, until I had my daughter. Lol I was fixed on getting a really really nice apartment and that would be fine, but now ever since I’ve had her, I feel the need to have a house. I have no clue why either. But I’m always being reminded of the great responsibility it is having a house so I don’t know yet. But later on down the road, I think I will end up getting one. Would be nice to have something to call my own. 🙂
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 15, 2015
I think it’s fairly common to want to have a more permanent residence when you have a child; it’s more stable. Probably some parental instincts behind it. 😉
JanetJune 12, 2015
I liked your article about home buying. I used to be obsessed with watching HGTV and particularly with the dream of home buying in a foreign country. That is not something I could ever do, as it requires good health, courage, and chutzpa. I have none of those things.
I bought a home the first time, because I was imitating the behavior of my friends. One of them said they were buying a house, because they did not want to ‘throw away’ their money on rent. So I copied them and bought a house. I came from a family with little money and would never have thought of buying a house on my own. I ignored all the location rules and picked a neighborhood in Pomona, which was considered dangerous (it had a black population), but I loved it. It was very old with unique, one of a kind houses–craftsman, Victorian, Spanish–surrounding a round park at the center. I could ride my bike on its flat streets and get to work at my teaching job in 5 minutes. Houses were cheap when I bought mine for all of $21,500! Seven years later I sold it for $60,000 and married J-, leaving my teaching career behind. We bought a four plex, a converted old craftsman house in a terrible neighborhood in North Hollywood (before WeHo was developed). The buses shook the house as they rumbled down Lankershim. I did not know it, but hookers plied the street, thus as I walked to a store, cars slowed to see if they could pick me up!!! We had an ‘In and Out’ next door, which unleashed oodles of visitors parking in front of our shady house and depositing their trash on our lawn. I caught a woman in a Cadillac doing that as I gardened. I picked it up and dumped it back in her lap. She started swearing a blue streak at me, but her husband wisely gunned the motor and drove away. Never buy a house adjacent to commercial property I learned the hard way. If I had known when we sold our lovingly restored old craftsman house that they would tear it down to put up a parking lot for the Honda dealer, I would have tried to move it to a new site to save it, but it is splinters and all its gorgeously unique, peach and emerald green tile was dumped, along with its redwood wainscotting from thousand year old redwood trees. Its stained glass windows were stolen.
Our second home followed the real estate rule–location, location, location. It was an old 1909 house, but remuddled into 80’s modernity without permits. We moved from smoggy skies to clear air and within 5 minutes of the ocean. We were lucky, as we could afford Topanga in 1985. It followed a four year housing price slump and no one thought of Topanga as a place to live. It was a hippie land off the radar. We looked at Venice and saw iron bars on all the windows, just as we had in North Hollywood. No more bad neighborhoods for me. I grew up in rural Lancaster and I love stars and mountains and hiking and all things green and wild. Topanga is my dream. Lucky for me it was available, as my timing as a first year baby boomer is that I was part of the trend setting instead of following it. There are NO affordable houses today. The prices are ridiculous given today’s salaries. I am ashamed of what baby boomers became in the 80’s. Rather than the environmentalists I surrounded myself with, the majority of my generation became the ‘greed is good’ obsessed with only, me, me, me, and screw everyone else. I am ashamed of the selection of Ronald Reagan, who dumped solar panels off the white house roof, ignored climate change, and created deficits with trickle down ideas. It trickled up and now we have no middle class. We are as unequal as we were in the 1900’s during the robber baron times. Home ownership is impossible for far too many people.
The other trend that I find ridiculous is the giant house phenomenon. Why on earth does anyone need a 50,000 square foot house? My dad built our house. We had three 12 by 12 bedrooms, a small L-shaped kitchen and a living/dining room combined. Our living area was probably 800 square feet with one bathroom and we were all fine. We sat on the porch and felt the evening breezes in hot Lancaster and feasted our eyes on stars in a city with only 20,000 people to pollute the night sky with their lights. I was so lucky to have that rural childhood. We had a view of the San Bernardino mountains iced with snow like conical cupcakes. The air smelled of the alfalfa the farmers grew on land around us.
I think we need to rethink how much space we really need to have a home and downsize our home sizes. Closer quarters means closer families, interacting with each other. Why not create studios for the homeless? It is inexcusable that people are on the streets because housing is so expensive. Our sense of how much space one person needs is quite distorted. Pioneers lived with whole families in log cabins of 144 square feet. We need to rethink space and possessions in our very crowded earth ship soaring through the vault of space.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 15, 2015
I don’t understand the giant house phenomenon either, like those giant houses in Malibu on top of the mountains blocking the view of the canyons. When I was a kid I used to daydream about buying a huge beautiful home and housing people without homes. Of course, I didn’t consider all the logistics.
You are such a great storyteller, Janet! You have lived >some life! We need to get you set up with your own blog! 🙂
Mrs. AOKJune 12, 2015
My husband and I have owned two homes. The first home we owned and sold was a success. Our second home not so much. Sure, that home brought us tons of memories, but it was a pain. We missed an opportunity to move to WA, because we could not rid ourselves of that house. In the end we needed to get out of that house, which cost us. 🙁
Annnd now we’re here in sunny SOUTH Carolina, we have lived here for over a year. We knew we wanted to keep our options open, so we have not and do not have plans to purchase here.
I think it’s smart to keep your options open. Sometimes our houses can be anchors keeping us from what we want, where we want. If you’re nomadic or that place isn’t your future, why invest?
Also, BOO!- I heard about House Hunter’s being staged, which was such a disappointment. Well, not much of a disappointment considering me and the kids all snuggled in my bed watching HH yesterday morning, 😀
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 15, 2015
I bet you can find all kinds of great houses for rent in South Carolina with tons of space. I wouldn’t mind renting a house. One thing I do miss about living in the city is not having a yard. Parks are great, but not the same.
I never thought of myself as nomadic, but I’ve moved enough in the past 15 years to know that it’s not the time to buy a home.
I know it’s a bummer about House Hunters, but I just go along with the charade when I watch now. Though sometimes for fun I look for telltale signs that it’s staged. 😉
Ally | A Home Called ShalomJune 11, 2015
We just bought a house. And 21 acres of land, along with it. We live in Iowa. It’s a big commitment, to be sure- but it was a good investment for us, and we plan to stay here.
I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with waiting, especially if you’re not sure where you’ll end up!
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 11, 2015
Wow, that sound amazing! 21 acres! As much as I am a city girl, I often fantasize about owning a large ranch where I’d have lots of land and animals and space, OMG, spaaaaace.
Enjoy! It sounds wonderful.
Jarret RuminskiJune 11, 2015
I live in Toronto. To get a house here, you need to offer your first-born as a blood-sacrifice to the mysterious, hooded high priests who communicate with the income gods. Should your sacrifice be accepted, your income may rise to the point where you pull in about 30 million a year, thus making you eligible to take out a 4,000 year mortgage and become that most awesome of human mutations: a homeowner in Toronto. Needless to say, the latter process is quite stressful, therefore, I don’t really think about houses much.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 11, 2015
That’s quite the picture you paint, lol. I didn’t realize Toronto was *that* expensive. Is Toronto like London where only rich people can afford to buy homes? San Francisco is nearly there.
Jarret RuminskiJune 12, 2015
Well, if you want a house close within the (very large) Toronto city core, then yep, it’s basically a rich folk only home-owner enviornment. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) suburbs are still sorta affordable to the middle class, but even those prices are rising fast. It may not quite be at San Francisco levels yet, but it’ll get there soon.
The Girl Next Door is BlackJune 15, 2015
Sounds like a similar situation. You can live in other parts of the Bay Area more affordably than SF, but it’s still not inexpensive.