Homeownership is, for many people, the epitome of the American dream. For me, it's largely a hassle.
Don't get me wrong -- there are certain benefits to owning a place of my own as opposed to renting. For one thing, I don't have to play by a landlord's rules. I can paint my walls whatever color I want, have as many pets as I'd like, and stay in my home for as long as I continue paying my mortgage. I also get the option to build equity in my home, and if its value increases over time, I may be able to make some money by selling it.
But here's why I really don't like owning a home: It's a largely unpredictable expense.
Although my 30-year fixed mortgage ensures that my monthly home loan payments hold steady, I've already seen my property tax bill climb more than $7,000 since I bought my home 10 years ago (yes, you read that correctly -- I pay $7,000 more now than when I started out). Not only that, but despite the fact that I bought a new-construction home, I've had my fair share of unplanned repairs throughout the years -- repairs that have, in some cases, cost thousands of dollars.
Had I been renting all this time, I would've been privy to predictable costs on a monthly basis. And I'm convinced that the money I've spent on things like maintenance and repairs is money I could've invested in stocks for some pretty decent returns -- returns that could very well outpace the potential gains I stand to collect if I manage to sell my home at a higher price than I paid for it.
And also, frankly, I'm a busy person who has limited patience for things like repainting the deck every spring or shoveling snow in the winter. And while I can, and do, outsource much of my home maintenance, I can only pay so many contractors before it eats into my budget in an uncomfortable way.
It's for these reasons that I really don't like owning a home, and would actually prefer to rent one. But there's one very big reason why I continue to own: It's actually more affordable.
Sometimes owning is virtually your only option
When you live in a city, there's generally plenty of inventory on the rental front. When you live in the suburbs and want a spacious standalone property, not so much.
Where I live, it's a) pretty much impossible to find a home this size (well over 3,000 square feet if you include the finished basement, and close to 3,000 square feet without it) on the rental market, and b) prohibitively expensive to rent a home this size in the rare instances that one becomes available. And that's the trap of wanting ample space and a suburban lifestyle -- you're often effectively forced to own a home because there's no affordable or available rental option that suits your needs.
Of course, this doesn't necessarily hold true for all suburbs -- but it's true for a lot of them. And it definitely applies where I live.
That said, while I don't love the fact that renting is virtually off the table for me, I do acknowledge that owning has allowed me to capitalize on a number of key tax breaks throughout the years. Those high property taxes I complained about earlier? They're tax-deductible, to a certain extent. I can also claim a very helpful deduction for the interest I pay on my mortgage as well as my home office.
While part of me would much prefer to rent for the mental peace of mind that comes with avoiding unknown expenses, I can admit that, financially speaking, there are plenty of good reasons to have my name on that deed.
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