If you're someone who rents your home, you're in good company. As of 2019, 36% of U.S. households consisted of people who rent, according to Pew Research Center data.
But I'm not part of that statistic. I happen to own my home, and I've been in that boat for well over a decade now.
If it were up to me, however, I'd much prefer to rent a home. But there's a big reason why I can't.
Owning a home can be a real drag
I spent my first few years of young adulthood renting a home, and it worked out great. Sure, there were times when I wished my landlord would've addressed repairs more quickly (like the time my shower wouldn't drain at all and I was forced to spend a week bathing at the gym). But for the most part, I liked being able to write out a single check each month and call it a day.
These days, my housing costs are far less predictable even though I have a fixed mortgage. While my mortgage lender isn't going to start demanding more money from me every month, my property taxes have consistently gone up since I moved to my home more than a decade ago. And my homeowners insurance costs have risen, too.
Now to be fair, rent can increase from one year to the next as well. But what really gets me about homeownership is the maintenance and repairs.
You could have a sudden $5,000 repair bill on your hands that leaves you scrambling, and in many cases, there's nothing you can do to prevent it. And even maintenance costs can rise based on different factors — such as if you pay for a gutter-cleaning service because the work is dangerous and all of the companies in your town decide to jack up their rates at once.
Also, I have to admit that home maintenance generally isn't in my wheelhouse. I'm not particularly handy and I'd prefer to spend my time working, taking care of my kids, cooking, or pursuing hobbies rather than helping to sand a deck. But because I own my home, that work is on me — I either have to do it or pay for it to get done.
When the home you need just doesn't exist where you need it
At this point, you may be thinking, “So why on earth doesn't this woman just rent?” And the reason is that it's impossible to find the type of home I want in rental form.
I have three kids and a dog, and I work remotely (this is a pre-pandemic thing), which means we need space. I need to have the ability for my family to spread out, have enough bedrooms for everyone, and have a yard where my children and dog can run around. And also, we need storage. Kids come with a lot of stuff, and even when you try to minimize it, that only goes so far.
But there are no rentals available in my neighborhood, or surrounding ones, that give us the space and layout I feel we need to live comfortably. I was fine with living in an apartment when it was just me. But an apartment won't work for my family. Neither will a townhouse, frankly, since we're a loud bunch, and I'd pity the neighbor who gets stuck sharing a wall with my crew.
Now to be clear, my neighborhood isn't special. It's your typical suburb in the NYC metro area. But most of the towns around here don't offer detached homes for rent. And the ones that are available to rent tend to be smaller, which won't work for us.
Many people will argue the merits of renting a home versus owning one. But one overlooked aspect of that debate is that sometimes, you have to buy because your area doesn't have a rental that suits your needs. Such is the case for me, which is why I own a home even though I really don't like doing so.
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