Monday, February 28, 2011

On the House

I got a not-so-subtle email from my dad yesterday. In it, he basically suggested I start seriously considering buying a house. As in, a whole house. I think it’s because he is of the mindset that any adult my age should have something to call their own - besides some awesome Kate Spade bags, I guess. But I laughed out loud to myself when I read his email, and murmured, “Oh Dad…” 'Cause that is pretty much the last thing on the planet I could imagine purchasing right now. Plus, I’m almost positive I’m a lousy candidate for home ownership. Until I lived in my current place, I moved every single year since I was a freshman in college. And after being in my current house for the past 3 years, I’m more than ready to move on – pun INtended. How am I supposed to explain to my dad that I have no interest in buying a house because I am totally flaky when it comes to a permanent residence?

See, now this is exactly the same reason I lease my cars. You know what happens every 3 years? BRAND NEW CAR. I haven’t had to go get a new engine, or new brakes, or new anything on a car in like 5 years. Then by the time I get sick of a car, it’s time to trade it in anyways. So instead of buying some used car with 100,000 miles on it and keeping it until I run it into the ground, I start fresh with an upgrade every few years. Onward and upward. The same concept goes for a house. I would NEVER be able to buy a house in the perfect, safe, quiet, fancy schmancy neighborhood I live in now. Never. If I actually BOUGHT a house, I guarantee you I’d be way too far from the big city to continue having an active social life. If I bought a house now, I may as well also buy 100 cats to live in it with me.

Plus, when you buy a house, you also buy all the problems it has. I have a very dependent relationship on our handyman guy who comes and fixes everything from a clogged sink to our furnace. For free. He comes in, fixes the problem, and leaves. Sometimes, he comes over when I’m at work, which, at that point, makes him like a magical little house fairy who I can’t see, but I know he’s been hard at work when I walk in and we have new bathroom fixtures. Voila!

A few of my friends are home owners. Congratulations, dudes! How was shoveling your OWN driveway this winter? Suckers. They’re all like “nesting” and “settling down” and I guess that concept only works if you’re ready to settle down for longer than a year at time. I have NO clue where I’ll be in a year from now. None. One thing’s for certain, though: I’ll probably be ready to move again.

But this all comes on the heels of my dad’s latest hare-brained scheme. He wants to buy himself a nice, little teeny 2nd house with a two-car garage. Why? So he has a place to store his boat in the winter, and he thinks the high prices that storage places charge are absurd. That’s like buying a private jet because baggage fees get you down. I gotta hand it to him, though. The man definitely thinks outside the box. But whenever he gets into a new obsession, he likes to bring one of us kids in there with him. Since I'm the only "renter" in my family, I guess I'm the lucky one?

I haven’t responded to my dad's email yet. I don’t want to burst his bubble. He’s so earnest, and he was very encouraging in his email, too, saying things like how I might enjoy “ rehabbing old properties, bringing things up to code, whatever”. And he gives me a lot of credit (too much, probably) when it comes to home repair and maintenance. Sure I CAN get my hands dirty and solve a problem when I have to, I just don’t really WANT to. Then, as if to really drive his point home, he took a little jab at my current home city: “I will say, too, driving around Mpls was a bit eye-opening yesterday. Don't you people plow your streets? There is a LOT to be said for living in the suburbs!!!”

Schplurg. I don’t know. Maybe the antsiness I've been feeling as of late isn’t really cabin fever, but more, like, “nomadic living fever”. Maybe I’d be all calm and adulty if I wrote my name down on a mortgage and bought a lawn mower. I see the positives of home ownership, I do. I just can’t let go of the negatives. But I do know one thing: telling my dad that I don’t want to buy a house because I really don’t like mowing the lawn or snaking my own drains won’t exactly win me any points. I should probably just blame it on the market because I’m pretty sure you can’t argue with the “market”. Whatever that means...or is.


JessiferSeabs said...

I haven't read this whole post yet because I have to run ot work but wanted to comment before I forget -- I pretty much had the same reaction when my dad first suggested (at 25), that I buy a house. I was too busy being irresponsible-slash-fabulous, bouncing checks, and staying out too late. It made me extremely nervous for a million reasons that I'd be happy to talk to you about sometime if you want. Anyway, then MARC bought a condo. RIght out of college! Responsible little brat didn't even RENT for a year like most 20-something jerks. So then I felt like maybe it was time... and after many conversations with somebody that I Trusted a lot at the time, I came around -- I closed on my first house right before Memorial Day almost 7 years ago! I was 26! It has been the best choice I ever made for SO many differnet reasons, the biggest one being the big fat tax return I get every year for my mortgage interest -- hello, forced savings account! Anyway, Pharon, don't sell yourself short -- you can totally do this, and the pride of single female home ownership is something i can't describe in a quick comment. Let's talk!

AND, when things break, you have two brothers, a dad, a boyfriend and many other people who can help you for free -- And Angie's List and a credit card if that doesn't work.

Think about it... Hey, wait, wanna buy my house?! I'm tentatively thinking about selling it. ;-)

sarahabt said...

BUY A HOUSE...WAIT..HAVE your dad buy one, rent it..and he can make all the repairs...

Anonymous said...

Interesting - my son just sent me a photo listing of a house and said - "Hey buy this for me!" Of course he was kidding. At least I think he was kidding!
It is a great time to buy a house - don't be so quick to poo poo (or is it Pooh Pooh?) the idea. Think of it like your first real investment. Oh wait do you consider Kate Spade handbags and shoes an investment?

SARAHABT said...

hmmmmm I wonder who ANONYMOUS IS???

Pi Champion said...

I think you've tapped into a very important paradigm shift that's going on for our generation. The last 50 years or so, home ownership + marriage by the time you're 30 means you've succeeded, anything else means you are a dead-beat. This is just not true anymore. The conventional wisdom community forgets to measure the value of time, flexibility, career mobility, disposable income, the list goes on.

Same goes for the car. The conventional wisdom community will BERATE you for leasing a car. You'll see all over the internet, "You need to haggle your way into a 5-year old used car, and then drive it until it explodes." Guess what? For someone who knows nothing about car repair, hates getting their oil changed because the guy is going to tell me that I need to replace some certain thing for an extra $300 or I'm going to go off the road, the peace of mind that comes from being the only owner of a brand new car is WORTH something. And knowing I'm not going to have a car on life support during the twilight of it's life has a certain VALUE.

Same thing with a house. Conventional wisdom is not all it's cracked up to be. Insightful post.

Pi Champion said...

I think you have touched on a very important paradigm shift that is going on with our generation. For the past century or so, buying a home + getting married + a kid or two = you have made it. Anything else means you are a deadbeat. It's hard to shake that prototype, but it's just not true for us anymore. The conventional wisdom crowd never is able to place a value on things like career mobility, time affluence, living close to city, disposable income, etc. All things that home ownership tends to preclude.

Not knocking people who buy houses, but some people are simply not into being a DIYer, and having all the responsibility and liability that comes with a house.

Same goes for the car leasing. If you do some searching online, the conventional wisdom community will BERATE you for leasing cars. And ok, yes, if you sit down with a calculator and do the math, you will spend more dollars over the course of your life if you always lease. But again, people fail to realize that there is some serious value to some people (like me) to KNOWING you're the only owner of a car, and that since it's brand new, you don't have to worry about it breaking down, or worry about nursing it through the last couple years of its life.

Very insightful post. Different things are important to different people and you shouldn't get caught up in what conventional wisdom says should be important to you. You know better than others what is important to you and no one should be pressured into locking themselves into a lifestyle that is not for them, just becuase it's a great time to buy.

Pharon said...

Pi Champion: I couldn't agree more. "Conventional Wisdom" does tell me that, over the past several years, I've spent more on renting/leasing with "nothing to show for it". But I also thing it's very important to note that I don't want to buy something just because it's what I can afford NOW. I plan on making millions of dollars someday, and I don't want to be stuck living in a shanty 3 hours outside of the city driving a 1988 Corolla just because that's the home I could afford NOW. Plus, I'm nothing if not unconventional.