I’ve been a renter for most of my adult life, save for the two years when I lived in the house I shouldn’t have bought. As a 20-something, I wasn’t at all qualified or prepared to be a homeowner, and after I finally got out from under that house by convincing my lender to short-sell it, I vowed to never buy again. But here I am eating crow, because I’ve spent the last year and change thinking a lot about becoming a homeowner, alongside paying off debt and getting my finances into better shape than they’ve ever been in.
While I am currently in a better position to own a home, I’m definitely thinking hard about the costs I’ll be facing. Research from The Ascent notes that in 2019, homeowners paid an average of $8,609 more annually than renters did. Owning a home means shelling out money not just for a mortgage payment, but also for homeowners insurance, maintenance/repairs, and property taxes.
As a homeowner, I might pay more for utilities than I do now, and it seems likely that in the first year of owning, I’ll have to pay for some unpleasant surprise or other. I have friends who have faced multiple expensive repairs to their homes, and it convinced me of the importance of building a home maintenance emergency fund.
Despite all these considerations (not to mention the difficulties inherent in finding the right home at the right price and qualifying for a mortgage as a freelancer), I’m still dreaming about the day I can wake up in a house I own. Here’s why.
I’m tired of moving so often
I’ve moved houses a truly ridiculous number of times: 35 at last count. That involved everything from moves in the same neighborhood all the way up to cross-country moves. The longest I’ve gone without moving is four years (and that was when I was a teenager). I’ve had rental homes sold out from under me, forcing me to move, and I’ve had to move of my own accord due to changing jobs or getting stuck with a terrible rental. In short: I am aching for a stable living situation.
Now I’m a fully remote freelance worker, meaning I manage my own employment situation and am not tied to any one area for work. I hope I never have to work at an in-person job ever again, thereby enabling me to buy a home and not worry that I’ll have to move for work and sell it. Buying will mean I get to settle in for at least five years or more (it generally takes at least this long for a home to appreciate enough that you won’t lose money by selling). And that sounds pretty wonderful at this point.
I want to build equity
While I don’t believe that renting is “throwing money away,” I do think it will be great to make payments on my own mortgage and build equity in a property for myself, rather than for a landlord. When you buy a home and make payments, you’re building equity in an asset that is likely to appreciate. If you need money at any point while you own the house, you may be able to take out a home equity loan or open a HELOC. And when you sell, if your home has appreciated, you can walk away with some extra money in your bank account.
I want the freedom
It feels a bit weird to think about owning a home as a form of freedom, especially as I’ll be committing to making payments for a long time, likely 30 years. But it will be freedom to do whatever I want with a property. If I hate the 1970s-era bathroom or want new energy-efficient windows, I get to make those changes. If I want to build a world-class catio for my spoiled cats, I can. And if something breaks and needs to be fixed or replaced, that’ll be on me, too. I’ll have to cover the costs, of course, but I’m actually looking forward to being the person making those decisions about a property.
If you’re hoping to save money on your housing costs, renting is often a better move than owning a home, especially if you live in a cheap area like I do. Despite how little I currently pay for rent and related expenses (like renters insurance), I’m hoping to trade these low costs for higher ones by buying a home.
If you’re wondering whether to buy or keep renting, I’d encourage you to have an honest conversation with yourself (as well as anyone you’d be buying a home with) to figure out what’s important to you.