This past summer, my husband and I checked off that most elusive goal on our "someday" list: We bought our first home together—a perfect open loft space, one of seven carved out of a small former factory building in intown Atlanta. I say that laying claim to our humble loft was "elusive," only because I honestly didn't think we'd ever be able to make it happen.
Buying a home requires a serendipitous set of circumstances to all fall into place. A perfect storm where preparation meets opportunity. Where your wherewithal (a not-insignificant lump of saved-up cash, combined with having a decent salary and good credit) allows you to jump at the good fortune of having a home come on the market in a place you'd like to live for a price you're prepared to pay. Each one of those puzzle pieces by itself is not impossible to put into place, but it's certainly difficult, especially when you compound them —and doubly so in some areas of the country where home prices are far outpacing the cost of living.
If you have your sights set on homeownership—no matter how distant a goal it might seem right now—I'm here to tell you, from the other side, that's it's totally and completely worthwhile. Despite the crazy (and very, very expensive) first month we had in our new loft, buying a home has been the best thing I've ever done.
Nobody is ever going to raise the rent on us ever again.
Depending on your budget and your area, you might be able to get a mortgage payment that's lower than what you're currently playing in rent—and potentially pay less for a larger, better space. But that wasn't true for my husband and I—our loft's mortgage payment, including taxes, insurance and HOA fees, is about 50 percent higher than the rent we were paying for our two-bedroom apartment on the other side of Atlanta. Bad move? Not at all. Rents are likely to keep creeping up and up as time goes on, but our fixed-rate mortgage payment? That'll stay the same for as long as we're living here.
We've saved money in unexpected ways.
Homeownership is expensive, no doubt about that. It's been five months in our new place, and yes, we're still in the red compared to our former budget—when you factor in our higher mortgage and an unexpectedly spendy first month. But there are small moments where you have a chance to save as a homeowner, too. We were able to make small improvements to our space, like installing a Nest thermostat and low-flow shower heads, which have led to lower utility bills. And the new homeowner glow means we're spending fewer nights out and more evenings in, cooking and enjoying our home both with friends and on our own.
We can make long-term plans, and feel good about them.
I realize this might be a very personal affliction, but as a renter, I was always worried about buying furniture or decor that felt too permanent for my temporary space (nevermind that we'd lived in our apartment for six years when we'd moved out). Curtains? Shelves? A sofa that fit just so in that living room nook? It all felt like a mistake, since I knew we had our sights on a place of our own one day. Yes I know that's ridiculous and I should have lived the Apartment Therapy mission of making our rental a home, but for better or worse, doubts like those are behind me. A basket that tucks perfectly into our built-ins? I'll take three. Splurging on a show-stopping rug? I know it's got a long life ahead of it in this room. My shopper's mind is clearer, and my space is better for it.
We're accomplishing something.
There's a trope that new homeowners spend their weekends at Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond. Totally true, by the way—it's just never as dull as those dry jokes would have you believe. If you're a dedicated HGTV viewer, you'll love sinking your teeth into home projects. Those weekend hours aren't lost time, they're valuable lessons (it's amazing how watching one YouTube video will make you feel like a pro). And in some cases, time is money: Your weekend projects can build on each other and add serious value to your investment. Instead of feeling like your weekends are creeping away from you, you'll be looking forward to tackling home projects—and learning handy new skills—with your free time.
At the end of the day, there's nothing quite like being the master of your own domain (at least—if you have a great and hands-off Homeowner's Association, like we do). If I want to rescue a Great Dane, I can do it. I could rip out the carpets by tomorrow. Paint the walls black? Nobody's going to stop me. Yes, if something breaks, like our washer did in week two of living here, we have to shell out to get a new one— but, I got to pick a new, top-of-the-line washer to replace it. While owning a home can feel like a money pit sometimes, it is nice to know that what you're doing is actually making your space better, and more and more yours each time.
Homeowners, what's your favorite thing about buying a home?