Growing up, I remember my parents moving our family from a small, cramped two-bedroom apartment in an area that was quickly turning into the “hood,” to a 3-bedroom home in a quiet suburban neighborhood. We had a basement, a big backyard to play in, and a driveway where my stepdad would put up a goal for the family to shoot basketball on the weekends. My parents still live in that house until this day, and that house has always been a symbol of stability in my mind.
As an adult, I have been encouraged by friends and family to purchase a home. Their reasoning is that it just makes more sense to own property, rather than making payments on something that I will never own. I must admit that the thought of homeownership can be enticing. I’ve had my random moments of browsing on Zillow, and the pictures of big, beautiful houses make my one-bedroom apartment look pitiful. Seeing that the mortgage payments on these big, beautiful homes are cheaper than how much I pay for rent, has me ready to call up my nearest mortgage lender to get the buying process started.
After taking a few sips of the #homeownership Kool-Aid, I actually did contact a real estate agent about taking the first steps. My excitement fizzled as she began to mention all the little “tricks” that would be needed for a mortgage loan approval. At the time, I had a car loan that we were planning to pay off, as well as a credit card with a small balance. She advised me to “hold off” on paying off the car and credit card, because the lenders would want to see that I was in good standing on those accounts. What standing could be better than an auto loan and credit card that are completely paid off? Apparently, it looks better to be making payments on an account rather than paying it off altogether. Ummmm…..okay. After I had spent months looking forward to the day that I would officially be car note free, it would be an understatement to say that the thought of continuing to make payments for another year was a major buzz kill.
Then I began to look at all the factors that people don’t tell you about when they’re advocating homeownership. There’s homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, tree/lawn maintenance, and the cost of household repairs. While it’s true that the mortgage payment may be less than what you pay in rent, the other costs of owning a home can come out to be about the same, if not more, than renting.
While I think home ownership is an admirable goal that can be used as a tool to build generational wealth, I also think it is one of many major financial decisions that people are not educated on until it’s too late. Too often we are pressured into taking on a major financial responsibility because of what the world says we should have and within a certain timeframe. I’ve lost count of the social media posts I’ve seen with statements such as “I’m only 25 and I already own a house” or “I want to buy a home before I turn 30.” It’s hard to break away from this mindset, as I still have days when I kick myself for being 30 years old and not having all the “things” society says I should to prove that I have it all together.
I’d love to own a home one day, and I don’t believe it will be impossible to accomplish. What I won’t do is cave in to peer pressure and take on a huge obligation because of what other people say is the better option. I want a home that I can enjoy, and if a repair needs to be made, I want to get the repair done without choosing between that or having enough groceries to last for the month. Homeownership may be the American dream, but I won’t be taking the leap just yet.