So, you have started checking off the boxes of adulthood and have come to what is probably the largest financial decision you will make.
Is homeownership right for me?
As you were growing up you were no doubt told by countless family members, TV shows, and movies that buying a home is a good investment and the foundation for a fulfilled life. By the time you hit your twenties, the FOMO begins to set in as your collogues swap stories of white picket projects that have swollen to consume their weekends.
If you have found yourself scrolling through listings or ogling at the “first homes” on HGTV while thinking that this suburban lifestyle is excessively out of reach, you’re not alone. I don’t have to tell you that the hobbyist buying the million-dollar home is just doing it for the scene and if not…is spreading themselves far too thin.
Back in reality, homeownership among millennials is almost 10% lower than their parent’s generation at their age. From a purely economic point of view, this can not be simply an ideology shift. The household sale price in the United States was 4.2 times higher than the average household income in 2017 and historically speaking, this means that the only time in the last 40 years when houses were less affordable was directly preceding the financial crash of 2008. When you consider housing-income cost compounded with the crushing amount of student debt carried by millennials then the only surprising thing is that so many of them have decided to buy a home.
The primary factor contributing to the unaffordability of housing for the average American is the footprint of homes on the market. The amount of living space per person in new construction American homes has almost doubled in the last forty years. That’s twice as many more rooms to clean, repairs to make and lawns to mow than your parents. So, the next time you start to feel bad about yourself for renting or for still living at home…cut yourself a break for your mental sanity.
It may very well be the case that owning a home is not the right move for you right now and there are many cases when it is a better financial move to rent anyways. It is extremely important to challenge the social myths we perpetuate, including, “Homeownership is a good investment.” In reality, there are a lot of things to consider aside from the emotional aspects of buying a home that will determine whether or not it is a good move financially including where you live, how long you plan to stay there, taxes, upkeep costs, appreciation and a multitude of other factors. It is not as straight forward as investing in your employer-sponsored retirement account and I encourage you to do a ton of research before deciding to buy. The responsibility is not only in the price of the mortgage, returns are not only in appreciation and the cost is not only to your wallet but the planet as well. Be selfish, but don’t misconstrue your housing as an impulse splurge because it can very quickly become a home shaped tether.
The planet can not carry the weight of the sprawled suburban life-style. If you are interested in learning how many planets we would need to support your life style if everyone lived like you, check out the quiz here.
Presuming that you have decided to buy, how can you afford your dream home before you retire?
In the interest of sustainability, many have been turning to the tiny house trend as an answer to the drastically unaffordable housing market. Some people are downsizing from classic suburban and others drawn to tiny homes as an attractive first home. This is appealing to a niche group of people, however, I will not be moving into a glorified trailer and reducing my belonging to 12 items nor do I think the majority of prospective homeowners will hop on board.
My solution: trim the fat.
How much of your house do you think you use every week? How much is filler space? Can you live in abundance on less?
If you are anything like me then the auxiliary rooms in your house seldom get used and they require more upkeep than the occasional dinner party or guest they host. I want to live in a home where every space has a purpose in my day-day life but can also accommodate special events.
How often where you told that you needed to buy the latest gadget, a new piece of clothing for a special event or a kitchen tool for a singular purpose? How many times have you been told that you need to raise a family in a home with a yard, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a kitchen island, a formal dining room, and a playroom for the kids? Impulse buying can have a detrimental effect on our financial future but the decision scale of buying a home far outweighs any guilt you may feel from having purchased a soufflé pan that hasn’t been used in five years. In short, don’t buy into a home just because you think it would be nice to have or have been conditioned to think that it is a prerequisite to adulthood.
At the moment I am living with my family to save money as I am on the search for my first home. I am primarily looking at apartments in my city. I need to be close work, family and choose a small space where I can curate little luxuries. I envision a 1-2 bedroom apartment with a kitchen area, bathroom and living room. I am on the lookout for furniture that can serve two purposes and create multifunctional efficient spaces. I challenge you to look smaller on your hunt for a new home and will keep you updated along my journey.
Interested in learning about the origins of the suburban ideal and where the housing market is moving? Check out this great book I just finished! Be on the lookout for my full review to come.