3 Homeowners Explain Why They Became Renters Again

published Sep 14, 2021
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Brownstone Rowhouse Residences in Brooklyn
Credit: Joselito Briones

As you paint over yet another landlord offwhite wall and wonder whether that one stubborn nail hole will cost you the security deposit, you might think, “Is it finally time I look into buying my own place?” 

You peruse the first-time buyer resources, save more than a few homes on Zillow, and discover the exhilarating fantasy that is spending a Sunday bouncing from open house to open house. Eventually you make an offer, negotiate back and forth, and sign on the dotted line. You’re a homeowner! Congratulations!

For some people, this sets off a lifelong exercise in perfecting their forever home. But others may realize that homeownership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some homeowners, for instance, are giving up mortgages and home maintenance to go back to living on a lease. I talked to three homeowners who’ve just done just that to learn why they became renters again. 

“I thought owning a home was what responsible adults did.”

Graduate from college, get a job, save up for a house. That’s how it goes, right? For many, including Alexandra Gibson of Charlottesville, Virginia, this is billed as the traditional path to success. “I always thought that owning a home was what you did when you were a responsible adult,” Gibson says. “Renting was throwing your money away.” 

She succeeded at becoming a so-called responsible adult, buying her first condo at 22.

However, this plan can be best for those ready to “settle down,” so to speak. For Gibson, it hit a snag when her career took her to a new city — one where buying a home cost exponentially more than her condo. “I moved to a much more expensive area and I found that the decision to own or rent wasn’t so binary,” she says. “In addition to the maintenance cost, I wasn’t willing to have all of my ‘wealth’ tied up in one asset.”

Gibson continued to rent over the years while making moves in her career and life — moves that were made easier since there wasn’t a real estate asset tying her down. “I also liked the idea of being free to move as my needs and life changed,” she says. “I spent 10 years renting and just recently bought again once we moved back to a more reasonably priced area.”

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“I was tired of responsibilities and maintenance costs.”

Other homeowners realize that the renovation projects and hidden maintenance costs add up quickly. Weekends are spent tending to the yard or updating peeling paint rather than taking an impromptu trip to a brewery. These DIY projects can be fun — or they can grow daunting over the years. 

Diane Moseley of Annapolis, Maryland, spent decades owning before making the decision to set herself free of ever needing to replace another HVAC again. 

“Both my husband and I are in our 60s and decided to make the decision to rent about a year ago,” Moseley says. “We’ve owned homes since our 20s and were tired of the responsibilities and maintenance costs that come with homeownership.”

She has no regrets and dove headfirst into renter-friendly decor. “We feel such a sense of freedom and are embracing our new lifestyle. Even though we rent, I am still having a great time painting the walls, changing light fixtures, and decorating the spaces, as I always did in the homes we owned.”

“I was going to rent my condo out, but it was a seller’s market.”

Brittany, who lives in the D.C. Metro area, bought her condo seven years ago as a first-time homebuyer. During that time, she loved making her home her own, but in 2021, she and her boyfriend made the decision to move in together — and the condo didn’t provide quite enough space. They know they want to buy together someday, but are willing to wait for now.

“Before making the decision to sell, I was pretty sure that I was going to rent my condo out. That had always been the plan. However, I had no idea the market was going to be such a seller’s market, and I knew this was the optimal time,” she says.

Missy Jerfita, of the Jerfita Team at Compass, has seen others make the same decision as Brittany, selling their homes for a profit at the top of the market and renting while waiting for a market cooldown. 

“Many of my sellers want to take advantage of the hot market and get top dollar for their home, but they are unsure of next steps,” she says. “Because there is so much uncertainty, renting is a great option for them.”

While Brittany misses being able to change and customize whatever she wants, whenever she wants, she says she plans to buy again one day.