Sorry, But I’m Not Ever Going to “Save for a House”
While my peers are well into their mortgages and dealing with very adult things, like figuring out how to repair crumbling fences and leaky roofs (especially after recent hurricanes), I’m thrilled to lean on my landlords. As an overeducated elder millennial, I don’t see how I could repay my six-figure student loans and also purchase a six-figure home anywhere I’d want to live (which is stubbornly in Los Angeles). I’m not just accepting my fate as a non-homeowner — I’m embracing it.
For folks like me who don’t have generational wealth or inheritance, or who didn’t buy stock in something early, I’m left to the grind of a job — or, in my case, several gigs. The money I do work for, I want to spend on things like travel, books, and overpriced lattes. I’m fine to not save wildly year after year to try to buy property — especially when the market outpaces my ability to save. So, lifelong renting it is. Here’s how I stopped giving in to the pressure to save for a house.
Skyrocketing prices will never be in my budget.
In my neighborhood, the selling price of houses has gone up exponentially over the past two years alone. Real estate agents leave flyers on my doorstep bragging about their sold properties, many $10,000 to $80,000 above asking price. And let me tell you, these once-modest three-bedroom starter homes are running close to one million dollars. But when you picture a million-dollar house, you wouldn’t picture these. Back in my day — cue the walking to school barefoot in snow uphill both ways voice — a million-dollar-home meant luxury. It meant that you made it and were fancy. Now it means endless renovations and finding a trustworthy, affordable, reliable handyperson.
Having a mortgage is no longer cheaper than rent.
To pay for renovations on top of a down payment is out of the question, never mind that a monthly mortgage is much more expensive than what my current rent costs. In Los Angeles and surrounding counties, the average cost to purchase a home hovers just below one million dollars. The average mortgage is at least $3,500 per month, and paying it off at an interest rate of about 8 percent is scandalous (never mind that my bank accounts and investments yield no more than 1 to 2 percent returns). Meanwhile, the average rent is about half that. More affordable neighborhoods go for around $1,500 or less per month if you rent a room or have roommates.
The cost of living in general has gone up, too. A tank of gas inches closer to $100; even a basic tank top costs practically $30. Economists warn the U.S. is on the verge of a “cost of living crisis,” per the World Economic Forum. Yet on the whole, salaries remain unchanged. You’d think any of my prestigious alma maters would hook it up with lucrative careers. But their job boards are posting hourly gigs that pay what I made 20 years ago. At 16 years old, $18 an hour was a big deal. But at 38, it’s hardly a living wage, and certainly not the kind of money that paves the path to homeownership. How could anyone get ahead?
I don’t need all that space — or that stress.
Renting allows me so much flexibility. It means I don’t have to furnish an entire home; I have all the living space I need in my apartment. Author Kevin Kelly discussed the trend of renting on the whole in his book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. He reasons most people no longer buy CDs or even pay to purchase an MP3 of a song. We subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music. Some people don’t own cars and instead opt for the ease of calling a Lyft or using public transit. We don’t amass DVDs; we Netflix and chill. His point is that without all of our stuff, we don’t need much space, and I agree.
Plus, I’ve witnessed the stress of homeownership firsthand. A couple I know bought their dream home, only to find out it was infested with mold. They’ve since become experts on all things spores and HEPA filters. Another purchased a townhome that he loves, but has a job he hates. He’s too afraid to quit because he has this major monthly expense: a mortgage. Now locked into HOA fees and home insurance on top of that mortgage, he has to decide between abandoning it all with a one-way ticket to the Greek isles or, well, keeping up with all of these very intimidating bills.
Not feeling the pressure to save allows me to live.
For me, renting gave me the mobility to move across the country, and then abroad, as well as travel on breaks. If I had saved up for a down payment on a home (which, to be competitive, would easily be $100,000 or more), I wouldn’t have been able to hold a hedgehog (although I now regret my animal tourism, but damn, they are so cute), watch the sun come up over Angkor Wat, chill in an infinity pool in Bali, or see the Itsukushima Shrine at sunset, the famous “floating” torii gate named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Homeownership has been the gold standard for as long as I can remember, yet feeling unburdened by these types of expenses is just fine with me. My new dream is enjoying my life to the fullest, and living without the pressure to save is the only way I can do that.