In my office’s pantry, there is a table where people bring in their old magazines that others can flip through and enjoy while, say, microwaving their hot water to make tea 15 times a day (I take a lot of bathroom breaks, too … please don’t judge). Anyway, I spotted a great article in TIME Magazine regarding homeownership.
Remember my annoying coworker? We run into each other a lot in this pantry. It’s made me seriously consider bringing an electric teakettle into the office so I don’t have to see her 15 times a day and have to dodge her many suggestions about What Makes a Good Marriage. Or whatever. One day – right around the time I browsed this article, possibly even the same day – she got harping on the fact that I live in “the city,” and have no space (we’re fine, really) and it’s “dangerous” (it’s not, really). Trying to put her off, “Oh, we can’t afford to buy in the neighborhood we want to live in, so we’re in no hurry.”
“You should buy a trailer!” she exclaimed.
Now, let me preface this. There is NOTHING WRONG with buying/living in a trailer. It’s just not for me. I just finished telling her that where we live is more important to us than whether or not we own, and she tells me the solution is to … buy something that forces us to live somewhere that we don’t want to live. Because, you know, we would own it. Only KIDS rent. We’re ADULTS now, seeing as we’re married and all, and by golly you’d better start thinking about your OWN babies and you simply can’t live in that urban school district!
At least, that’s the presumption.
Yet, TIME says this:
Yet by idealizing the act of buying a home, we have ignored the downsides. In the bubble years, lending standards slipped dramatically, allowing many Americans to put far too much of their income into paying for their housing. And we ignored longer-term phenomena too. Homeownership contributed to the hollowing out of cities and kept renters out of the best neighborhoods. It fed America’s overuse of energy and oil. It made it more difficult for those who had lost a job to find another. Perhaps worst of all, it helped us become casually self-deceiving: by telling ourselves that homeownership was a pathway to wealth and stable communities and better test scores, we avoided dealing with these formidable issues head-on.
Whoa. Yes, exactly this. Seconding the hollowing out of cities part. I live in a vibrant, artsy, fun neighborhood filled with young professionals; a great selection of bars, shops, bakeries, and restaurants within walking distance; and a gorgeous Olmstead park that is very dog friendly. (Finnegan LOVES his park, by the way – he does not feel deprived in an apartment with that park … and, really, what dog would? Parks are WAY better than backyards!) C and I have talked about buying when we can realistically afford it in a neighborhood close by, that is a bit sleepier, but is filled with tree-lined streets; different (though also wonderful) bars, restaurants, shops, and bakeries; and close enough to our current ‘hood that we could regularly visit.
We like to call it the “grownup” version of our neighborhood. See, even we can’t completely shake ourselves of this myth.
Friends of ours bought a house last year, in time for the tax credit. They bought in a nice enough neighborhood, though it wasn’t exactly where they wanted to live (they compromised because of the price tag), and initially they bragged that their “mortgage payment was less than their rent!” Until, that is, they got their first utility bill. And then their tax bill. Oh, and let’s not forget, water and garbage, as those are no longer covered.
And on, and on, and on.
I don’t think they’re sorry they bought a house; but I do think they were sold a bill of goods that wasn’t delivered the way they expected.
C and I have made a conscious decision to abstain from homeownership until we can buy somewhere that we will want to stay in for 30 years. A house is NOT a good investment by itself; making it your home makes it a good investment. And, yeah, I would like more space. C and I would like a workout room. C also wants room to stash a kayak. A patio with a grill would be nice. I would like a backyard, so we could get a second dog. I would also love a dining room and a china cabinet to entertain with. But, does not having these things make me less of an adult? I certainly hope not.
And, if it does, maybe I just don’t want to grow up yet. Besides, I suppose, that means I’d have to pack it in to the ‘burbs, since adults who make good decisions don’t live in cities, either. But I won’t open that can of worms in this post …