Owning a home...

Americans- and probably people other places tremendously value home ownership. But with the economy and the housing crisis that set off tremendous economic downturn I can't help but ponder why home ownership might not be a great idea- at least for people like Sean and I.

Permanence: In part I am intimidated by the permanence of home ownership. After all, I don't know if I want to stay in this neighborhood, city, job, income level for the next 30 years. But purchasing a home means all of that. If we commit to a mortgage of a certain amount our opportunities to move lower in our income bracket (like if one of us stayed at home with our little turtle) are limited by our 30 year commitment. And though we like this neighborhood a lot and can imagine ourselves here we are also intimidated by the amount of change we will face in the next year and can't help but wonder how that might change our feelings about where we might want to be.

Repairs: Now our landlord is not exactly a beacon of light when it comes to home repairs. But the fact of the matter is when the dishwasher breaks, when the gutters fall off, when much goes wrong- Sean and I don't have to worry about it to much. It's our property that falls into disrepair. We have renters insurance- so our tails are covered for a lot of things. And handing off some responsibility isn't always a bad thing.

"Throwing away money": Wow, do people who support and advocate home ownership like to use this phrase- that if you a rent you "throw away money." Maybe that is true- but what about things like "cost of living." If you decide to be a renter- which millions of people do (or are but don't have a choice) you just say, "this is part of my cost of living." Rather than seeing it as throwing away money- it is just like your health care (oh I didn't use my heath insurance this month is that throwing away money?)

Solidarity with the poor: home ownership is a privilege that starts with civil rights (how many centuries did women, people of color, homosexuals, and people with disabilities lack opportunity for property ownership of any kind) and it is a privilege offered to people who have money (at least a little bit) and people who have resources like family (many people are supported by families for down payments), access to education (knowing about the process of realty, loans, banks etc) People who are poor- are renters who live under the whims of their landlords and who often don't know their rights under their landlord. Certainly Sean and I enjoy relative privilege even as renters but being in solidarity with the poor is a real part of our spirituality and part of what connects us to many of our underprivileged neighbors.

Amidst all of this reality is the truth that I own some small section of land in Southern Illinois. I have a "homeland" of sorts. I think some of that American ideal of owning a piece of the world (which is problematic as is) is not something I strive for necessarily in Seattle.

Now, to be sure I am not cutting out the possibility of being homeowners. I am trying to just sort through some of the dynamics I think about and feel. Because if and when Sean and I should decide to buy a house (or be able to) it comes with a whole bag of goods and bads. Thus- the sorting process.


  1. As a recent homeowner, I can say that your comments are right on. Now, I'm glad that we have this house, and think that we bought it close enough to the "bottom" that we'll come out okay, but we spend way more than we thought we would on repairs, are only paying a teensy weensy bit of money on our principal each year (so we're "throwing away" just as much as a renter), and could potentially have some serious financial risk associated with the home in the future if the property values continue to plunge. My conclusion so far: home ownership is overrated, especially if you're comparing it against a rental with a stable, reliable landlord that takes care of the property and won't make you move.


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