Right now as I write this post, I am also engaging in an almost nightly ritual, watching HGTV over a cup of coffee. (Don’t worry. The coffee will have no effect whatsoever on my ability to fall asleep tonight.) Two of my favorite shows are “House Hunters” and its younger sister, “House Hunters International,” which follow people searching for new homes to buy or rent. Another favorite is “Love It or List It,” in which disenchanted homeowners present their lists of “must-haves” (you know, like stainless-steel kitchen appliances and ensuite master baths) to a designer/Realtor duo. The designer renovates the home with the intention of persuading the homeowners to love it again, while the Realtor searches for a new dream home so that they will ditch, or list their current residence. I do realize that these shows are staged and maybe a teeny bit fake ;). And yet I find programs about home shopping and renovating so entertaining! Back in its heyday, I was so crazy about the show “Trading Spaces” that I stood in line with a toddler for over an hour at the House and Garden Show to meet my favorite designer from that show. Talk about commitment!
At one point, I had become so obsessed with all things home that I had to take a break from these TV shows. It was the mid 2000s and everyone was buying a house. If you didn’t own a home, you were a loser, or at least that was how I felt in our apartment. I had become so very focused on this “one thing” I didn’t have–a home of my own–that after a while, I could not sit through an episode of “Flip This House” or “Flip That House” (real names of real shows!!) without experiencing major pangs of house-lust. (I realize now that all was not as it seemed with those shows either, and many of the renovated houses did not sell for several weeks or months, and not always at the price estimated on TV.) Even though it was one of our most difficult times financially, and we had no business buying a house, it didn’t matter. I wanted a house! So after I learned of some new (and very tiny) townhomes being built in our area, I listened eagerly as the agent assured me on the phone, very confidently, of the safety of getting an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). In her words, since we lived in the DC metro area, we had nothing to worry about! Our home value was sure to go only UP!! We would be FIIIIINE!!! Not that I needed any convincing. She had me at hardwood floors.
My husband, on the other hand, was not so convinced of the wisdom of this purchase. Ultimately, to my disappointment, we did not go through with it. My house-lust burned on. Until a very serious health scare helped me realize how blessed we truly were, and how ungrateful I had been. Though our home was small compared to some friends’ and acquaintances’, I realized that 1,300 square feet for 4 (and later, 5) people was nothing at all to complain about. In fact, if you consider what a human being actually needs, instead of what some of us might be used to, it’s practically palatial.
~~And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:8)~~
All that time, I had so much more than food and clothing–not only materially, but spiritually, physically, and in my relationships. But I had not been content because my eyes were fixed on this “one thing,” that we not only did not need, but was in fact very wrong for us. Because did I mention that this non-house purchase took place around 2005? In case you are unaware, the US housing market imploded not too long after. So, what was once disappointment eventually turned to relief that our still growing family did not end up stuck in a house that was barely bigger than our apartment, mortgage payments that would increase in a few years, and a dropping value that would not rebound for years more. (Of course, God could have rescued us from that situation, as He has from many others. But I’m grateful that we were spared from it even happening.)
And you know what? Renting isn’t always so bad! Depending on how much you have in savings, or your plans to stay in a particular area long-term, renting can make sense financially. While the benefits of home ownership have been advertised for decades, there are many factors that determine whether and when home ownership is best for a particular family. These include:
- Stability of your family’s income
- Willingness and ability to maintain and repair a home
- Ability to afford other costs of home ownership like homeowner’s association (HOA) fees and property taxes
- Preparedness to become a landlord, pay for two homes, or take a loss on a sale if you have to move
And renting doesn’t always mean living in an apartment. In some housing markets around the country, you can rent a townhome or single family home, giving you the comfort and privacy of a house, with the flexibility of being able to move within a few years if you need to.
These days, I can enjoy HGTV in peace and freedom :). I can watch shows about homes that are bigger and fancier than mine without angst. Admittedly, it helps that we are not in an apartment anymore. But I know that buying a home does not guarantee financial security, and renting does not make you a loser. I have a beautiful, healthy family, and even more: the promise of an eternal home with Jesus. And there is no real estate in any market that’s worth more than that.
Thanks for stopping by,