Devil's advocate: homeownership and the American dream

Ginger Dean

November 11, 2013

By: Ginger Dean, Home Finance Specialist

In: Finance and Legal

I'm going to be totally honest with you: I am 33 years old and I rent an apartment. I enjoy the carefree lifestyle that comes with renting. As a personal finance blogger, I should be telling you to buy a home because it's a good investment, but the truth is that buying a home is not always a smart financial idea.

A mortgage can interfere with your lifestyle and your goals

There are several advantages to refraining from buying a home and continuing to rent an apartment instead. I like the fact that I have no responsibility to my apartment and I can leave at any time. I also like the fact that if I have a routine maintenance issue, within a few hours the maintenance team will be in my apartment, toolbox in hand.

I prefer to use my money to travel to places I've never been, eat out with friends, and take weekend road trips whenever I feel like I need an escape. Don't get me wrong; I am not careless with my money. I do save for emergencies and for retirement, I'm just not saving for the down payment on a home.

Renting an apartment is also a lot easier for my budget because on the 1st of each month I only have one payment to make - my rent. I don't need to send additional monthly payments to the water and electric company. I like it that way because it lets me focus on my other personal and financial goals. Renting is convenient, and for me, it's worth the price.

Buying at the right time

Buying a home is generally considered to be a very good investment because over time the value should increase. But what happens when the market crashes and you want to move?

Other than the huge financial commitment, the uncertainty of the housing market is another major disadvantage of owning a home. The chance of not being able to sell your home when you need to is just too risky.

If the economy is booming and housing prices are increasing or interest rates are low then it's the right time to sell your house because people want to buy. But the opposite is also true. If the market is not doing so great and home values are stagnant or interest rates are too high, people may not be able to afford to buy a home. If this is the case, you will be forced to stay in your home until the market gets better and that can be a major inconvenience if you want to relocate.

If you are planning to stay in the same place for many years then buying a home is definitely a good investment. If you set a strict budget you can be living mortgage-free before you retire; then you can just enjoy your home without the stress that comes with having a mortgage.

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