Does It Actually Make Sense to Buy a House?

Chalk House Pixabay CC0It’s conventional wisdom I’ve bought into my entire life: “If you’re renting, you’re just throwing money away.”  I never questioned the theory until M brought it up during what was otherwise a pleasant and uneventful walk.

“What if I just took the money we saved for a downpayment and invested it?”

I dismissed the idea immediately.  Buying a house is an investment!  And much less risky than putting all your money into stocks… I assumed.  But as we talked around and around the idea, I felt a pit of dread growing in my stomach.  What if it didn’t make sense to buy a house?  What if we ended up renting forever?  Would pragmatism make up for giving up a goal that’s been so important to me for so long?

It became clear that the only way to resolve the dispute was to look at some actual numbers.  M made a spreadsheet and calculated the return on investment over time (adjusted for inflation).  We added a row for house value over time, and savings from not paying rent.  We adjusted for increases in rent over time.  We adjusted for inevitable house repairs.  We did a whole lot of guesswork with limited information–and then we found this: an official “rent vs. buy” calculator put together by someone who knows a whole lot more about this stuff than we did!

To be fair, there are a lot of unknowns involved in buying a house or renting an apartment in a certain city.  Every house is different, and every city changes over time.  There is no way to know the exact best choice.  Our case was even more ambiguous–the numbers came out almost even, with renting slightly edging out buying if the price of the house was too high.

I didn’t realize how important owning a house was to me until I was confronted with the idea that I might not be able to.  The idea of never having my own yard, never being able to renovate, and worse, having the threat of eviction always hanging over your my head… it seems worth buying just to achieve the secure lifestyle I’ve always dreamed of.  However… there’s the flip side: living (at least temporarily) without a cash emergency fund, being locked into a huge debt in an unpredictable economy, being fully responsible for expensive repairs, and fact that the home losing value for any number of reasons… buying a house isn’t as safe an investment as I had always assumed.

I’ve felt a little unsettled since making this discovery.  It’s worse knowing that M and I aren’t entirely on the same page about such a major life decision.  The only silver lining here is that we’re happy renting for now, able to save money and live a lifestyle we enjoy in a city we like.  Renting is a much less permanent decision, and we’re able to keep our options open… for now…

Art Source: Pixabay, CC0 License

 

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5 thoughts on “Does It Actually Make Sense to Buy a House?

    1. Yeah, I floated that idea with my husband, but he wasn’t a huge fan. So I suggested we *both* find someone rich to marry and reconvene in a few years… but all the name changing and planning weddings and all that seems like a lot of work 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s great that you’re taking time to think about your future. Being an old man I’m allowed to offer unsolicited advice so I will. I moved out of my house 2 years ago when I had to relocate for health reasons – too many steps. I was there for 29 years. I wouldn’t have lived anywhere else and at the same time can’t imagine how I lived there so long. No decision you make will be perfect. No number of reviews and calculations will add up to an answer. Ultimately no choice will be rational. Regardless of what realtors will want to tell you, home ownership is not an investment. It is an illogical state of being and what you want will hit you just as sure as it did when you knew this is the right person to spend a lifetime with. I wish you luck in whatever you do, promise that you will have fun figuring it out, and want to hear about it here as you make the trek.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your advice–it’s so true that when there are no “right” answers, the only thing you can do is go with your gut! It’s also good to acknowledge that no decision can possibly be perfect… that’s how life is, and no matter how much pressure we put on ourselves to analyze and weigh each decision, there are still so many unknowables. I appreciate your vote of confidence, and will keep you updated on our journey! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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