Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pretty Soon I Won't Own a House Anymore...

The good news--we got an offer on our house today for our full asking price!
The OK news--an offer doesn't mean a sale until I get the signed deed of sale papers in my hot little hands (ie: there are so many things that *could* go wrong and stop a sale that I won't be too excited until the sale is actually final).
The bad news--I have owned a house since I was 19 years old and I was looking at my key chain today and have exactly two keys on it, one to my PO Box and one to hubby's car, which technically means that I don't own ANYTHING (legally I still own a house but probably not for long and my house key is in the lock box for the realtor and my key ring is very, very empty!).

Surprisingly, I feel very light and not at all unhappy about not owning anything, although it just seems an odd circumstance to find myself in.
Some back story: I have been working full time since I was 16 years old. I bought my first car at 16 (with payments of course...nice intro into consumer debt...) and I bought a house (granted it was nearly 100 years old and something was ALWAYS breaking in it) when I was 19 years old because I wanted the type of security that I thought owning a house conveyed (I had previously lived in about a dozen places and I wanted to feel rooted).

Sooo...I have always equated owning a home with being responsible and rooted in the community and that somehow home ownership was a "better" choice than being an apartment dweller or worse, living in a trailer (fyi I grew up in a trailer so I'm not slandering those who do, it's just that in our area owning a house was considered much better than any other living option).
Owning a house is good for a number of reasons. When you have a house full of kids, you don't have to worry about being too noisy for the neighbors and you don't have to worry about the kids messing up the apartment to the tune of losing your security deposit. You can paint the walls, pound all the nails you want into the walls, and put in chartreuse carpet if you like. A house is a place for family to gather, there is nearly a guarantee that you will build equity in your house which can be looked at like a savings account or retirement fund (definitely not the case over the past couple of years), you have a "permanent" address, and you become part of a neighborhood.
But there is also a down side to owning a house which I never really looked at before (or maybe I didn't want to acknowledge before). Houses aren't cheap even if you have a stellar interest rate and low payments. If something goes wrong in the house YOU get to pay for it (we've replaced carpet, linoleum, hot water tanks, appliances, a furnace, siding, a roof, etc). If you own a house for years, it's nearly a guarantee that ALL of those things will break at one time or another...a house is a huge financial responsibility! You can't pick up and travel at the drop of a hat since you need to care for and maintain your home or find someone to do it for you. You can't quickly move away from mean neighbors, harsh climates, natural disaster areas, and other things that you can do easily if you are a renter. You, of course, NEED to work so you can pay your house payment, and a house can also be a psychological burden. I have known quite a few elderly relatives (mostly women because they tend to outlive the men) who held on to their houses way longer than they should have because they felt like it was their duty even if the house was falling down around them and even if they would have actually been much happier in a retirement community in Florida. But no, they struggled with maintaining the house as best they could, maintained the yard as best they could, paid bills to heat, air condition, and decorate houses than once housed large families but which they were now the sole occupant of. Which isn't to say that retirees shouldn't live out their life in their own home, just that is shouldn't be a socially or psychologically imposed requirement.
Now, my views on home ownership are not nearly as rigid as they used to be. I have learned that a "home" is more important than a house and that financially sacrificing yourself for a house which society deems as "necessary" doesn't make much sense at all. In fact, some of the blogs I follow are from people who are technically "homeless" but have truly amazing lives. Like these people, these people, and this lady. I have found more of a feeling of "home" in the run down apartments of illegal immigrants than in grand mansions. I have also seen people much less stressed and enjoying more time with their families and hobbies when they didn't have a huge mortgage hanging over their heads.
I am hoping our foray into joining the ranks of the "homeless" will provide even more lessons on actually living instead of just acquiring. Can I get an amen?


  1. Congrats on the offer on your home. Exciting times ahead for you. Imagine the feeling of lightness. I am aiming to move from a house to a flat this year. Hubby is for it but a little bit apprehensive. I just want the freedom of no mortgage hopefully or a small one. Want to feel free!x

  2. Amen! As we dream about our move south, hubby and I cruise and we can't believe that you can buy a house in Florida for practically the price of a candy bar right now. I keep thinking that, despite those low prices, renting is the way to go because we don't really know the areas well enough to commit to a house purchase and I hear home insurance rates are ridiculous down there. Our problem is we have pets, 3 cats and a dog. Even though we are very clean and the pets well trained, what sensible landlord would want to rent us a house? I can't
    "downsize" them, they are all rescues and part of our family. Any thoughts on pets?

  3. Changing--I know exactly how you feel. Good luck on your move!
    Clamco--We have also been looking at other places to settle and it looks like Las Vegas prices are about the same as Florida prices--really low! But we don't know if we want to get tied down to a mortgage either. Sorry no advice on pets. They are like having children so often, as with children, it makes sense to have a house if you don't plan to move around a lot so that you can have pets without worrying about a landlord.