The Allure of Owning a House

So, everyone who reads this blog knows about my obsession with savings, but in the real world, I don’t talk too much about money.  Sure, I’ll sing the praises of the Roth IRA to a coworker, but I don’t talk about my salary or my savings rate or my net worth. 

Knowing this, I guess it’s not surprising that some of my relatives have tried to give me advice about money.  I always kind of want to say, “Don’t you know who I am?” but then I remember that no, they don’t, and I prefer it that way.

My uncle gave me a long pep talk about buying a house, using all of the old lines, “You’re just throwing that money into someone else’s pocket,” “You need a hedge against inflation,” etc.  In my family, owning your own home is Making It.  My own parents traded up their houses for years, and only downsized recently to a still-spacious 3 bedroom house.  Said uncle actually owns 2 houses (or… has a mortgage on two houses, but it means the same thing).  Even the poorer branches of our family are made up of homeowners.

Now, Chad and I are waiting for good reasons.  We could buy at least a townhouse in our current neighborhood, and it might not even cost much more than we pay in rent (except for the giant outlay of cash for a down payment).  But we’re concerned about where we want to live long-term.  If Chad finishes school and the job market still hasn’t improved, we’d probably move.  Renting makes that much easier.  Even if we stay in D.C., we don’t want to limit Chad’s options.

Personally, I waver between really wanting a place of my own (where I can paint the walls and install the walk-in closet of my dreams) and never wanting the responsibility or bloated utility bills that come with owning a house.  Some days, I think I could enjoy renting for decades.


Recent developments have brought all of these issues to the forefront of my mind.  My younger sister, who just got engaged, is talking about buying a house with her fiance this summer. Their situation is a little different from ours – they live & work in small towns, and both are earning healthy salaries as engineers.  I still think Chad and I are making the right choice for us!

Still, when Chad asked if I’d feel bad that my sister bought a house before me,  I said yes.  He said, “Me too.”

We’re not going to run out and buy a house just out of some perceived competition with my baby sister, but isn’t it funny how the smartest choice isn’t always the one that makes you feel the best?


13 Responses

  1. Yes. I agree with everything. I am extremely apathetic about home ownership, and I’m surprised it is still the gold standard for making it after the big fiasco of the housing bubble. But in my extended family, it is.

    T is very interested in real estate, but not the real estate we actually could afford at this point!

    • Ha! That sounds like me – I troll ReMax listings or fun!

  2. I think you are smart – we own, but only after deciding to buy our forever home. After seeing what some people end up with after trying to sell I would never advise someone to buy a home they were not planning on living in for at least 3/4 of the term of the loan they took out.

    • Exactly! We couldn’t afford the kind of house we’d want on just my salary, anyway.

  3. I’m a big proponent for owning property, I really am. After the recent crashes in the economy and pension funds halving in value, the only sure gamble is property. Right now it’s very cheap and there’ll never be another calamitous bubble like the one we’ve just seen. Investment property has become a more conservative investment than anything else and this is good for the long term. I’ll never trust the stock market again. Who would you rather bet against: a set of unknown (possibly ruthless) CEOs or yourself as CEO of your own assets?

    • I don’t think DC ever suffered quite as bad of a crash, and they’ve said the market here is actually rallying! We could comfortably afford a townhouse, but not the kind of place we’d really want!

      • Nobody ever starts off with the house they want. I think you have to wait about 30 years for that! 🙂 Anyway, if the market is rallying I suggest buying before it goes mental. Worst case scenario: it’s an asset you can rent out and have someone else pay the mortgage. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really meaningful work as you’re managing your own assets!
        OK, I’ll stop now… (It’s funny that this subject is current on all the frugal blogs this past week.)

  4. BF and I rent for similar reasons–we’re very unsure if we’re going to stay in the city we currently live in, and I like having the freedom to leave if we need or want to. Plus, not being underwater on a house or going into foreclosure like some of my friends? Priceless.

    • Having seen what my parents went through trying to sell their house, I am so glad I didn’t have o deal with that when we left California!

  5. Clearly I didn’t make it to this post before our meet up today! I totally agree with your reasoning behind renting. I just think you should rent in Arlington 🙂

    • I metro’d downtown to see my friends, and brought Chad back to Clarendon when I got my car and told him I want to live there! Although my savings might drop dramatically if I lived that close to the Loft!

  6. I think it’s smarter to decide not to let other people’s opinions determine the course of YOUR life. They may be acting out of concern (or what they think is concern), but they don’t know every little detail of your situation. Ultimately you must do what’s right for the two of you, rather than act according to some arbitrary timeline (“own a home by age 30, have two children by age 35, retire by 55”).
    But I sympathize: Sibling comparisons are tough. “Your younger sister is doing so well!” can be heard (or even intended) as, “So what’s up with you, loser?”

    • No worries, I have no plans to run out and buy a house just because people think I should!

      My sisters and I have always been very competitive, and while in some cases I think it’s a good thing (we’ve pushed ourselves through grad school just because someone else was doing it), sometimes I think we end up competing over random stuff.

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