For all the reasons that home ownership among young people is declining (declining marriage numbers, shortening work and location tenures), there is a lot of coverage challenging it being an American virtue.
Like any major investment, home ownership isn’t for everyone, but, with the bias of being a proud homeowner myself, I was moved to add more perspective to Slate’s recent piece showing that if only because of increasing rent prices, buying a home makes perfect sense now.
- Home ownership is a cost saver — Though that big down-payment makes it hard to believe, even beyond the mortgage interest write-off on your taxes, by paying into an asset, rather than rent, you’re building equity. Additionally, moving comes with new costs. You can travel and even, in the end, rent out (responsibly!) your home, but always have a meaningful asset.
- Home ownership can be a safety net — Like my friend Jen Miller told Marketplace, I didn’t overreach. I bought a small Philadelphia rowhome in a modest neighborhood, refinanced twice to a 3.5 percent, 15-year mortgage and now rent out the back bedroom to a friend (I am determined to get out debt and never saw home ownership as something to avoid because of it). With relatively low property taxes, no matter what hard times I fall on, I could have a place to live for the rest of my life. Though it’s far off, I do sometimes think of the value of having a mortgage-less home when I am struggling, out of work or retired on a fixed-income.
- Home ownership is a learning experience — There are other ways to dive deeply into maintenance, mortgages, loans, taxes, refinances and more, but I’m not sure of many more effective or challenges ways to do that. Though I was a few years into my professional career, the home ownership process has made me better understand the world, or at least a small slice of it.
- Connect with a community — Personally, I value deep ties with the place I live. By putting money where your heart is, there are few more effective ways to show your neighbors that you’re in it for the long haul and are betting that this is a place worth living. Specific to my neighborhood and my city (with a long history of home ownership), I believe in its upward trajectory, so it was the right decision. Also, as a side effect, it feels good to be a small part of building and bettering that place you live. It has transformed my view of where I live.
- Home ownership doesn’t determine where you live for the rest of your life — There is an understandable fear that making such a large purchase will mean you can never leave ever again. It is true that home ownership is better for those who understand where and who they want to be in the future, and it is true that the past few years have left people in trouble with fat mortgages they can’t pay off with their home’s declining value, but the mistakes of the past can make us smarter today. With low interest rates, now is the time to buy smartly and, if the time comes for you to move on, it can perhaps be an investment property or something to sell. Even a small loss can come with lessons and the realization that thinking about the cost of rent, perhaps you didn’t make out so badly.
Art by Brit Miller here.