I bought a house about 4 years ago. People told me that it’s a smart investment. They said I’d get a bigger tax write-off. They told me I’d gain equity. There are days I like being a homeowner. But there are as many days that I hate being a homeowner.
Until October 2013, I’d been a renter. People said I was throwing my money away. Now that I’m a homeowner, I’m not so sure that’s really the case. Homeownership does have its advantages, but there are a lot of problems that come with the territory.
1. Monthly Payment
As a renter, I was always able to spend less per month than I’m currently paying for my mortgage. In fact, my mortgage is about 20% more than any of the rentals I’ve rented. That makes finances tighter than they’ve ever been before. I’ve wound up having to work overtime to keep up with all the expenses.
Another added expense is the water-sewer-garbage bill. When I rented, this bill was always covered. As a homeowner, I pay an extra $60 to $80 per month. That’s money that I could use to pay down credit card debt.
3. Yard Work
I don’t mind work. But sometimes the yard work seems endless. There’s landscaping, mowing, watering, and weeding in the summer. Fall brings the nuts and leaves of the walnut trees. Winter includes shoveling snow and scraping ice. It’s constant. I’ve had to buy hundreds of dollars of yard tools, too.
My house was in fair shape when I bought it. But houses need to be painted every 5-7 years. My house is no exception. I’ll be shelling out several thousand dollars to get the house painted this summer. If I had it to do over, I’d by a brick house with a hip roof.
5. Home Repair
When you’re a homeowner, shit happens. Not including insurance claims, I’ve had to get a new refrigerator, a new dishwasher, a new gas furnace, and a new air-conditioning unit. That’s about $10,000. Granted, I didn’t need a dishwasher, but I figured it would be good for resale. I also didn’t need the furnace, but the old one was from 1956. I decided to update so we wouldn’t wind up freezing in January.
6. Insurance Claims
In February 2016, we had a wind storm. It damaged part of a fence and part of the roof. Then it rained. The rain damaged two rooms in the house. I was promised by both the insurance company and the contractor that I’d only be paying a $1,000 deductible. After eight slow months of repairs, I wound up paying several thousand dollars out of pocket.
7. No Tax Write-Off
“You’ll get a tax write-off,” they told me. Guess what? I didn’t get a tax write-off. Why? Because I bought a modest home. I was excited to see my tax accountant, only to discover that my mortgage payment was so small that I still didn’t reach the standard deduction. I guess you have to buy a McMansion to get a tax write-off.
8. Too Much Space
I know that some people love big houses. I don’t. My home is only 1200 square feet, but I dream of a house half that size, maybe a condo. I have more space than I want. I have more storage than I know what to do with. And although I have minimalist tendencies, it’s still easy to start filling up that extra space. That means too much stuff.
9. Higher Heating Costs
My rentals were always smaller homes or apartments. The heating was always fairly reasonable. It’s still not too bad, but it’s an extra $50-$75 per month. Again, I could use that money for paying down debt or for my daughter’s college fund.
Think about it. My home cost $140,000. My mortgage payment is a little over $1000 per month. I have a 30-year loan. That means I’ll be paying more than $300,000 by the time I pay off the house. I don’t plan on staying that long, but I’ll need to stay 10 years to make a little cash when I sell.
11. Less Freedom
When I rented, I could take a short trip whenever I wanted. As a homeowner, I need to keep up with the house work. If I leave for a few weeks in the summer my lawn will overgrow. Since buying a home, I feel more tied down. Although my daughter and I still take planned vacations, we take way fewer spontaneous weekend trips.
Fortunately, I have pretty good neighbors. However, there’s a halfway house about nine houses down the street. I get some questionable foot traffic passing by my front yard. When I rented, if I didn’t like something a neighbor was doing, I could either complain to the landlord or move away. It’s not so simple as a homeowner.
13. Extra Stress
With all the extra expense and extra responsibilities comes extra stress. I think my stress level has nearly doubled since the days of renting a simple two-bedroom apartment back in 2006/2007. Stress is something I’m trying to decrease, not induce.
Being A Homeowner Isn’t As Great As They Say
Do I regret buying a house? Not really. But I’m not sure I love it either. If all goes well, owning a home will have a payoff. I hope to sell my house when my daughter goes off to college in about eight years. I might have enough equity to buy a small condo in a lower-cost-of-living region. That would make it all worthwhile.
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