It's time to buy a home! That's what I hear several times a week from friends, co-workers and commercials. I've heard the same prediction since I graduated four years ago and signed a lease on an apartment to share with my new wife. We've been living in the apartment ever since, and despite its small size, it has served us well. Even though I want to get a house, and I assure everyone concerned with my living arrangements of this desire, lest I be cast as a financial fool or someone who doesn't buy into the American dream of home ownership, it doesn't stop.
When I graduated I was still swept up in the dream of owning a house, but for lack of money, settled for an apartment, despite the fact that it seemed like we could afford one of the zero down variable rate mortgages at the time. It didn't take too long, six months, before we realized just how much the last four years of education was going to cost us, and put our dreams of home ownership on hold. That's right; we made the responsible decision to hold off on buying a house we couldn't afford; even when banks would have gladly given us money, showing restraint that even more informed individuals, like an economics reporter for the NY Times, failed to exercise.
What's it gotten us? Well to start, Spanish Inquisition-style questioning from individuals who don't know the burden of today's student loans. Well-intentioned individuals consistently ask us why we don't have a house and choose to rent when it's a great time to buy. Surprisingly we hear, "When are you going to buy a house?" more often than "So when are you going to have some kids?", which is almost enough to make me break my promise never to write to Ann Landers, or whoever her latest incarnation is.
Aside from telling me how to spend my money, these homeowners, several of whom haven't taken a look at the housing market in our area except for seeing a great fixer-upper that was recently foreclosed on, don't take into account the glut of homes that don't appeal to us for numerous reasons. Despite my DIY nature when it comes to many things; a contractor I am not. While I could spend additional money that I don't have hiring the work out or begging my family for assistance, I'd rather wait to find the right house for us. After all, a $100,000 home that would require an additional $40,000 in renovations and upgrades is hardly a bargain when you're borrowing.
If that means waiting another 12 months until we have a sufficient down payment and it's clear that our jobs aren't at risk of disappearing, so be it. And if that means I have to spend an extra $5,000 because home prices have begun to rise, I can live with that, because I'll be living in my own house, not begging my in-laws to let us live in my wife's old room since we were foreclosed on.
Another reason I'm content with renting for now: if our situation changes; we need to move for work, we get horrible neighbors, we get hit with a huge expense, etc., 60 days and $250 breaks our lease and all obligations regarding this shelter. This provides us incredible flexibility to deal with life's circumstances and adapt to whatever comes our way without the need to sell a house.
The moral of this story is that we all have our own reasons for making financial decisions, and despite the fact that the time might be right for you or somebody else to buy a house doesn't mean it's the right time for me. I'm not oblivious to the fact that interest rates are at record lows and many homes have sat on the market for a year now; but what these helpful voices seem to forget is that I pay more in student loans every month then they spend on their mortgage, work for a non-profit and haven't gotten a raise that even resembles a traditional cost of living increase since I started working. Plus we have an insanely low rent for our area.
Do me a favor and stop applying peer pressure to buy a house. Unless you want to fund my down payment, we'll do it when we have the financial resources to do it right, something more of my fellow Americans should have done. While you're at it, take a crash course in the lost art of personal responsibility.
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