Guest post from Kaly Sullivan
It was 2004 and the housing market was hot. Everyone around us was buying. People were making money buying a home and selling it a few years later. The prices kept going up and up. You couldn’t lose. We jumped on the bandwagon and decided to buy before the prices went any higher.
Couple that with the path our parents and grandparents had paved for us. You get a degree, you get a job with a pension, you get married, buy a house, build equity, have kids, trade up into a bigger house, and retire.
Following that blue print, my husband and I removed ourselves from the urban center we had come to love, and traded in our car-less life for a red shingled house with a two-car garage.
We bought on a five-year ARM because that is what everyone was doing. We bought a small fixer upper with potential because you’re supposed to buy the smallest house in a nice neighborhood (for resale value). We started the process of turning it into a home.
The list of tasks that we undertook is now unimaginable.
Over the next nine years we spent thousands of hours and dollars upgrading systems, putting in new features, shopping for the perfect item to complete a room. Our evenings and weekends were filled with tasks, Home Depot shopping lists, and annual attempts to grow lush grass.
Meanwhile our children were born, and we adapted to life as suburban home owners.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved that house. I loved every creak and every brick in the patio we had installed. But it’s quite possible that the little red house is the only house that we will ever own.
My husband took a job in a different city, and we made the decision to relocate. We sold our house fairly easily (we did not make any money, but we did break even).
Because we were unfamiliar our new area, we thought renting would be a good way to get the lay of the land and settle in before buying a new home.
Now that we are well into the second year of our lease, I’m not convinced that I ever want to own a home again. Although it isn’t always as easy as “Call your landlord and they fix it,” we have thoroughly enjoyed this time off from home ownership.
I can’t imagine walking into Home Depot anymore than I can imagine landing on the moon because as renters we have more…
Weekends are used for adventures, naps, downtime, and new experiences not upkeep and chores.
Our rent is more expensive than our previous mortgage but the money we save in home maintenance and purchases has us saving money every month. And we have zero debt!
3. Brain space:
We don’t worry about systems, resale value, and lists of repairs so we have more room in our heads to pursue our true interests.
My husband feels a little differently about the rent vs. own situation. He worries that as renters were not part of our community because we haven’t put our money where our mouth is and invested in a more substantial way. That maybe if we’re not buying, we’re transients that aren’t going to stick around and are not worth getting to know.
I see his point. People ask me, “Are you going to stick around? Have you started looking at houses?” I still challenge my husband to think about it differently.
If you ask yourself, “What am I going to do with my one life?” Does owning a home make the list? Your top ten?
If you think, “What legacy do we want to leave in this world?” Is the answer, “I was a good homeowner” part of your response?
Since we’ve been renting, we’ve put less of our resources into our home. We’ve used our time and money to start a company, travel more, and explore our new city. We spend more time together as a family and our overall stress level has decreased.
As a family, we will continue to consider what home ownership can offer us. But we are definitely looking at our options through a more critical lens and will not be buying just to buy this time.
In the meantime, we’ll keep renting. And enjoying every second of it and the freedom it brings.
When Kaly doesn’t have her nose in a book, she wrangles and referees two elementary age boys and blogs about her often humorous efforts to lead a mindful, connected life. She’s the co-founder of Harlow Park Media and is the author of Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family’s Relocation.