Ahhh, the question that will be on everyone’s mind for at least the next decade. I bought my first house in the late 1980’s. I sold it about a year and a half later and had to pay at the closing table. My interest rate was about 8% on that loan. The first month I moved in, the AC condenser line clogged up and I came home after a 12 hour shift to find the carpet saturated down the hall. But I loved the yard. It was lush, had a huge deck, and I had countless parties with friends and the memories still make me smile. My dog ran a raccoon up the tree in that yard. The oak tree in the front yard destroyed my septic drain field and that cost me a couple of thousand dollars to fix. I loved that house. I remember inviting my parents over for dinner and they didn’t get lost. This was the first time they didn’t have to try to find a “unit number” in a huge apartment complex. They simply pulled up in my drive way. I loved that house.
Then I moved to Texas in 1992. Beautiful newly constructed home on about 5 acres. I remember when my parents came for Christmas, my Dad told me “Hon, you’ve really made it.” My parents believe owning a home is a sign of success in your life. It was a responsibility that took hard work and many weekends of my time. Can you imagine weed-whacking about a mile of ditch in Texas summer sun? Uh-huh. Responsibility. I loved that house. My dogs could run all around until they wore out. Chasing rabbits, squirrels, and other neighborhood dogs.
When I went to sell that house, I found out that I had about $10,000 of subterranean termite damage. I also learned that you can’t remove a basketball hoop once it has been cemented into the ground. The buyer’s asked for it back, with concrete, upright. I also realized that negotiating moving packages was part of every job interview from that point on. With only 18 months in the home, I barely made enough to pay the movers.
I was thrilled to be in California and could not wait to find my “dream home” in the place I believed I would stay forever. I spent two weeks and looked at about 40 homes. This was 1994. Interest rates were about 8.5%. After coming from a “mansion” on 5 acres, I now looked at condos with less than 1000 square feet and pet restrictions for twice the amount I paid for my home in Texas. I looked at foreclosures (because that is where the “deals” were. NOT.). I remember seeing a house that did not have any toilets (yep-just holes where they were meant to be) and smelled so bad I could not even decide what needed to be fixed.
Of course, I finally found a home. A small, cheaply constructed, 2 bedroom, 1 bath, zero-lot line home to buy. I couldn’t really afford it. But somehow I did. I loved that house. It became my comfy spot after long hikes in the Santa Cruz mountains. It became my base for long bike rides along McKean Road. It had a great little patio. The dogs were happy and I painted the walls the color I had always wanted.
I later sold that house and moved into a bigger home in a better neighborhood. I made twice as much as I paid for that little house. That house allows me to live in the house I do today. I love this house. In Willow Glen, my all- time favorite little downtown and neighborhood. Great yard. Great neighbors. I owe more than the house is worth. But I don’t plan on moving anytime soon. (Although, we are thinking about a ranch somewhere in Almaden Valley…)
For too long, houses have been treated as everything but what they are really meant to be for people. For practicality, houses are meant to be shelter. Emotionally, they are meant to be homes. Whether you rent or buy the decision ultimately comes down to what do you want or need in a home. That decision has little to do with market. That decision has little to do with profit. That decision has little to do with the bank, or the bail out, or the tax exemption, or potential, or value. It has to do with you. It is time to stop treating real estate like a simple stock. It is time to stop believing that owning a home is the American “dream”. In fact, many can now document that “dream” can be a very real nightmare.
Why buy a house? Because, you want to. Because, you can afford to. Because, you like weird paint colors. Because, you________( fill in the blank). With every decision in life, it is personal and it doesn’t work for everyone. No big cha. Probably the only saying that is true about houses has nothing to do with whether or not your rent or own. Home is where the heart is.