Owning a house as a primary residence has never, ever been part of my plans.
I’ve been perfectly fine with the idea of renting ever since I moved out of my parent’s house.
However, my boyfriend owns a house (he purchased it before we were dating), and I moved in with him after I left Texas since it made the most sense all-around.
A number of months have passed, so I figured now would be a good time to sum up the pros and cons of “owning” a house…from the perspective of someone who would rather be renting.
(So no, I don’t technically own the house, but I do pay rent, and I have purchased/split the cost of furniture and whatnot. My boyfriend insists it’s “our” house, so there you go.)
I find that a lot of people make it their “plan” to become a homeowner after settling down because it’s part of the classic American dream. It’s what we’ve been told and taught to do after graduating and getting full-time jobs.
However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to do something “just because” it’s what everyone else has been doing for years. I always challenge the status quo – especially when it comes to huge purchases – because I want to stick to my values, not society’s values.
My thoughts? I firmly believe a house isn’t an investment, unless, of course, you buy it with the goal of making it a rental property.
A house is also likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. Why go into that purchase blindly?
Here are some of my unconventional thoughts on the subject (in slight rant form) to hopefully shed some light on homeownership for those who are thinking about it.
The Downsides of Owning a Home
I’m going to kick things off by focusing on the cons, because even though living in a house has its upsides, the single biggest downside to me – the entire reason I don’t want to own a house – is that it gives you no flexibility.
Typically, houses are long-term purchases. You should probably plan on living in a house for at least 5 years before selling it, and 5 years is way too long for me to want to stay in one place.
Sure, in some cases, you could buy a house and then sell it after a few years. You might be forced to relocate for a job, or something else unexpected might happen. There are exceptions to this.
But, for the most part, plopping down a hefty amount of cash for a down payment and then being “locked” into a mortgage isn’t my idea of a fun time.
I love renting because, in some cases, you can choose how long you want to lease a place. At the very least, one year is much shorter than five. And I don’t have a mortgage hanging over my head.
Again, my views are slightly unconventional. I’ve never wanted to “settle down” in the traditional sense. I want to travel and experience living in different places. I also wouldn’t be opposed to living overseas for a short time.
Basically, I’m all about exploring different areas, and putting down roots doesn’t appeal to me. I have no real reason to buy a home to live in all the time. I’d much rather rent and be free to move around.
Again, there are some solutions. You might be able to sell your house for a profit after a short time. You might be able to turn it into a rental (if you’re okay with being a landlord). You might be able to turn it into a vacation home or short-term rental if you want to do a few travel stints.
Given the choice, I’d rather not have to deal with that.
Our Neighbors Suck
Another point for no flexibility: you might get stuck with some really shitty neighbors if you don’t do your due diligence when buying a home.
Or, your neighbors might be nice until one day, they’re not. Or new people move in.
This is an inevitable part of owning a home.
The interesting part is that I always thought renting was worse for this. Apartment walls can be thin, and there were times I was kept up by parties happening underneath or to the side of my apartment.
Unfortunately, our current neighbors have some issues. They really enjoy staying up until 5am arguing extremely loudly about who knows what. The police have been over there around three times to no avail. We even found an empty beer bottle in our yard, courtesy of them.
Oh, did I mention that upon seeing our dog, one of the people who lives there felt compelled to tell us about the time he had to shoot one of his dogs because it attacked his other dog?
The worst part is they leave their kitchen window open, and that’s their exclusive “F YOU GET OUT!” room. That window is directly across from our bedroom window (with 2 feet in-between).
There have been a few times we haven’t been able to sleep because they’re busy telling each other to f off and get the f out of the house. Why can’t they do just that?!
Solicitors Are Annoying
I didn’t even know solicitors were still a thing until the first time the doorbell rang and someone asked to speak with the homeowner.
After treating me like I was 9 and completely incapable of being old enough to be home alone, they revealed the reason for being there: could we interest you in a different internet package?
Ugh. And I thought pop-ups on websites were annoying.
This never happened at my apartment complexes. Most places where I lived had a NO SOLICITORS sign at the entrance, and most of the time, it was followed. I would sometimes come home to magnets or menus from new restaurants, but at least they never knocked on the door to bother me.
Simple solution would be to get a door with a peephole, but that’s a rather expensive solution. I could not answer the door, but what if it’s important?
I think prefer living on the third floor of an apartment where even delivery people didn’t bother coming to the door!
Our Neighborhood Isn’t the Best
Okay, I’ll admit – our neighbors are mostly a reflection on the neighborhood as a whole. We don’t live in the best area, which is probably why my boyfriend was able to get a decent deal on the house.
Sadly, this area was hit quite hard with Hurricane Sandy. As a result, some houses were abandoned, others were foreclosed on, and it’s not uncommon to see houses in ruin with notes taped to the door.
It’s been bouncing back slowly, but the surrounding blocks aren’t the best. I don’t always feel safe walking around at night.
I didn’t really have a say, though, considering the house was purchased pre-relationship. My point is, again, due diligence is important when selecting a house.
You Have More Responsibility
Overall, homeownership means having more responsibility. If something breaks, you need to fix it. You have to find the contractor, coordinate with them, and pay for it, or figure it out yourself.
I can argue that it’s much easier to submit a maintenance request or call your landlord to have an issue dealt with.
However… sometimes, maintenance isn’t reliable. I’ve never really had a good experience with them. Issues took three or four visits to resolve; employees weren’t always pleasant; sometimes they never showed up.
So this one is a double-edged sword. If you have the skills and connections, fixing things isn’t always horrible. You also don’t have to worry about getting charged extra at move-out for something you didn’t do, or something you accidentally damaged. But you do need to worry about sprucing your home up if you want to sell it.
The Upsides of Owning a Home
While I value flexibility much more than stability, it’s hard to argue that homeownership isn’t more stable than renting.
Yes, your mortgage may get sold and passed around like a hot potato, but at least you don’t need to worry about the rent going up, or the management company changing (and then proceeding to suck).
Rising rent is a huge issue, too. At the end of our last lease, our rent was going to increase by a few hundred dollars. And unfortunately, if we wanted to go month-to-month in the meantime (to find a place), we’d have to pay several hundred dollars more. Even a 3-month lease didn’t make financial sense.
It was a bad situation to be in, and since moving can be a giant hassle, the stability of owning is a nice reprieve.
No Pet Restrictions
Well, I shouldn’t say none, but there are fewer pet restrictions when you own, and no pet fees to worry about!
Many apartments don’t allow pets, and if they do, you need to fork over a non-refundable deposit, along with a one-time fee (or pay a monthly fee).
That being said, if you live in a place with an HOA, there may be breed or weight restrictions. Additionally, your homeowner’s insurance may spike if you adopt a breed that’s considered “high risk.”
You Can Change What You Don’t Like
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I wished I could combine different aspects of two or three apartments that I really liked. Each had great things, but weren’t perfect on their own.
With a house, you can change whatever you don’t like (besides the neighbors). You can build new things and rip others out. You can customize anything you want.
So while homeownership may not have flexibility in the sense that I would like it to, you do have more options for the actual living space you occupy.
Case in point: the house didn’t come with a dishwasher. We got one for free, bought the necessary installation parts, and my boyfriend and his brother re-arranged the cabinets and installed it. As a bonus, my boyfriend bought a butcher block to go over the cabinets that were moved.
If an apartment doesn’t come with a dishwasher, you’re out of luck.
When I rented, I also wished I could hang something up, or change the paint, and I couldn’t (or I’d have to pay a fee).
It can be difficult to make an apartment feel like home with those restrictions. I’m not really one for decorating, but it’s nice to have small touches here and there.
You Don’t Have to be as Considerate
Now, I’m totally not advocating that people should be like our neighbors, because their way of handling everything is disrespectful and annoying.
I’m more or less talking about when I lived on the third floor. I had to tip-toe everywhere, and I felt awful when I accidentally dropped something. I also couldn’t run the dishwasher or washing machine at 1 in the morning (when I usually remembered to do it).
I can hop all over this damn house without having to worry about disturbing the people underneath us. (Which is good for impromptu dance parties and racing around with the dog, in case you were wondering why I’m hopping around.)
I can run whatever appliances I want whenever I want!
If you have enough space between houses, you can probably play your music a little louder (so you can sing horribly, also louder than usual).
And you don’t have to worry about setting off the fire alarm at odd hours because you suck at cooking.
(These are all classy reasons for being inconsiderate, by the way.)
I know not all houses have this luxury, but it’s interesting to have a backyard again.
I’m not really one for using it (it’s also very small), but it’s nice to have the option of entertaining outside if we wanted.
The biggest pro is being able to have a BBQ; most apartment complexes don’t allow this since it’s a fire hazard. Though I’ve seen several balconies with BBQs on them – who cares about safety, food is more important!
You can choose to have a pool, a shed, a tennis court – whatever you want.
It’s also much easier to have a backyard with a dog since you don’t need to take them for a walk every time they need to go to the bathroom.
However, I will point out that many apartment complexes offer great amenities that you can access without having to worry about maintaining them. Pools, gyms, dog parks, free coffee bars, business centers, etc. all come to mind.
Of course, there might be select jerks that don’t abide by the rules who get these amenities taken away (ahem, people who kept bringing glass bottles to the pool area, breaking them, and then forcing the pool to close for clean-up…).
Which Wins? Buying or Renting?
Personally, I can’t wait to rent again. I’d also like to point out that it’s totally possible to rent a house and not have to deal with all the potential downsides of renting within an apartment complex.
I’ve had fairly bad experiences with both management companies I’ve dealt with, and I think dealing with one (or two) landlords is much easier. After all, management companies are all about sales. Some lie or embellish things.
Renting from someone that owns the place tends to be more personal, but you still need to vet them to ensure they’re not crazy and won’t be checking up on the apartment every single month to make sure you haven’t burnt it down. (Also, if you rent a basement apartment like I did, you might still deal with noisy, inconsiderate people who live above you.)
Overall, I like the privacy of houses. I like not being right next to my neighbors. I like the fact that I get deliveries straight to my door; I don’t need to check-in with the office and wonder if they misplaced anything.
Moving into a house is also much easier than moving into an apartment that isn’t on the first floor. (Not having to deal with flights of stairs also makes grocery shopping better.) You also don’t typically need to worry about securing a good parking spot, something that is ridiculous to be concerned with every time you go out after most people are home from work.
But right now, I don’t want to be tied down. I also don’t want a mortgage hanging over me. After I pay off my student loans, I want to enjoy being debt-free for a while.
Thankfully, the house we live in would make for a good rental, and it’s in an area where many houses are rented out. My boyfriend isn’t opposed to renting it out should we find ourselves wanting to move sooner than later.
The only situation where I’d be okay with a mortgage is buying a duplex or triplex, living in one of the units, and renting the other(s) out.
What About the Financial Implications?
You might have noticed that I didn’t mention one of the biggest issues that people love to debate over: which is better financially?
A lot of people think renting is a waste because you don’t own an asset and you’re giving money to someone else when you could be building equity.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I don’t view primary residences as an investment, so I’m not sold on this line of thinking.
However, the implications are too complicated for me to get into, and I’m not well-versed in the subject enough to cover them.
All I’ll say is that owning a house doesn’t fit my lifestyle, so I don’t give the financial implications a lot of weight. That being said, we live in an expensive state, and the mortgage on this house is much cheaper than renting nearby. One-bedroom apartments in decent areas are around $1,200-$1,400, if not more, and our mortgage is $800.
As with most things, I believe it comes down to your values. Some people want the stability of homeownership, while others want the flexibility of renting. Neither is inherently right or wrong, and you should consider which matches your lifestyle first. Just because everyone around you seems to be buying a house doesn’t mean you have to join the club! Do what’s best for you.
What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of renting or homeownership? Which have you found to be more enjoyable? If you’re a renter, are you looking forward to owning someday?