With 10 months left on a 2-year lease, my husband and I are tripping over ourselves in the rent vs. buy dance.
Buying seems like the next most logical life step for two gainfully employed recently wed 30-somethings. With a mortgage we’d pay less for more space and have something to call our own. We’d finally feel settled, build up equity and do typical HGTV things like renovate bathrooms over and over again.
But at what cost?
For us, buying would most likely mean moving further outside the city, adding an undesirable commute and a tax on our most valuable asset: time. It would mean dropping hefty sums of money on unexpected expenses for things I’ve always taken for granted in my rentals like roofs and air conditioners and carpet. It would mean tying ourselves to a multi-hundred-thousand dollar anchor.
Most people will try to talk you out of renting with a logical financial argument in favor of buying. They’re not wrong. It just makes mathematical sense that in most major American metros, buying is cheaper than renting in the long run.
And then there’s the social pressure. Once I was trying to convince a friend to sell her place, move closer to the city and rent an apartment like mine since the commute was wearing on her. Her response was that she didn’t want to “go backwards” in life. It had never occurred to me that I was behind because I didn’t own a house.
For me, financing a suburban American dream I don’t want to live doesn’t make sense. Where most look at homeownership as a step in the right direction towards personal and financial success, I see it as a big expensive burden that moves me deeper into debt (albeit a strategic investment) and further away from my desired urban, unrooted, minimalist lifestyle. That’s hard to maintain as a first-time homebuyer.
So we decided we’re not in a rush to buy. It won’t last forever. Charlotte’s rental rates are on a continued rise and before long we’ll get priced out of the amount of space we need in the neighborhoods we want.
I’m sure home buying will be for us eventually, but for now we’re content to save up some more cash and relish the often overlooked finer things of the renter’s life.
Renters don’t have to fix even the simplest things that break — Our door lock busted the other day. I called our landlord and he had a locksmith there to fix it (on his dime) pronto. Could I change out a lock? Yes. Would I rather someone else do it? Yes.
The biggest renovation decision a renter has to make is what color paint to use — I’ve actually never painted a rental but this seems to be the one standard expression of individuality granted in most leases. So when your HGTV-induced delusions of renovation grandeur get the best of you and you’re ready to go full on Chip Gaines on your place, you are in most cases legally bound to not take a sledgehammer to the drywall. Save yourself from yourself. Just paint the walls.
Renters don’t have to buy or replace expensive basic life necessities — I’d be content to go my entire life never ever paying money for a toilet.
The bank doesn’t have your life by the throat for 30 years — Home buying is smart debt if you do it right but debt makes me queasy regardless. I save up and pay cash for my big purchases. I worked three jobs in grad school to avoid taking out loans. And if I could rummage it up, I’d pay cash for a house. (Might have to be a tiny house though.)
Renters don’t cut the grass — This, of course, depends on your housing situation, but if you’re in an apartment without a lawn or a house rental with built-in HOA maintenance, you’re lawn mower free, my friend.
You can pick up and leave whenever you want — This is the big one for me. If I land in a place I don’t love, I like knowing I’m out at the end of the lease. I also like knowing I could leave the city all together. I’ve been in Charlotte for 6 years. My family is here. My business is here. I should have bought a house a long time ago. I’m not going anywhere. But I like knowing I could go anywhere if I really wanted to. That freedom, I think, is the best part of being a renter.