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I Thought I ‘Had to’ Own a House, but Moving Cities Changed My Mind

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  • I thought I had to own a home before I moved to New York.
  • This change in location brought about a change in how I viewed homeownership from “necessary” to “not right now.”
  • Before purchasing a home, ask yourself if you are ready and can handle the ups and down of homeownership.

It’s pretty hard to separate the idea of owning a home from achieving the American Dream. Buying a home is viewed as the ultimate symbol of success and financial prosperity.

So far, I have owned two homes, a condominium, and a single family home and each time, I definitely felt that swell of pride and societal approval. At the time, I was living in Washington, D.C. and there, the focus was definitely on buying a home. Finished grad school? Buy a home. Getting married? Buy a home. Approaching 30? Buy a home. Having a baby? Buy a bigger home! 

So I did, and I enjoyed it. But there were definitely cons to homeownership that I did not enjoy, like yard work, plumbing issues, and replacing doors and windows. While I smartly handled the upkeep, maintenance, and renovation on my home, it was a continuous task.

Understand this: Homeownership is a lifestyle unto itself. It can be all-consuming. When I went out of town, I thought about the mail piling up, trash removal, or even worse — when I was having issues with the roof, I would actually check the weather for the dates I would be out of town hoping that it wouldn’t rain while I was gone and I’d come back home to a leaking roof.

To be clear, I was a committed homeowner for seven years and went through one complete renovation. It was a proud moment for me, and I sold it in 2018 to move back to Charleston to help my parents after my father had hip surgery — and then the pandemic hit. Once the dust settled, I received a too-good-to-pass-up opportunity to grow my career in New York.  

Now, I am renting a luxury apartment in New York City and the only property I am thinking about right now is an investment property. What changed? My location

The difference is night and day. In New York everyone says they have an “apartment,” whether they own it or not. There isn’t a marked preference for homeownership. Not having to do any kind of maintenance is at the top of the list of wants, second only to an in-unit washer/dryer. This has truly been an aha moment for me and changed how I view homeownership.

4 questions I would ask myself before buying a home again

1. Why am I buying this home?

Homeownership is a serious undertaking, not just the purchase, but everything that comes after that. Homeownership should not be tied to age milestones, or visions of what financial prosperity looks like. The only reason to buy a home is that you can truly afford it, are ready for the responsibility that comes with it, and see it as a long-term investment. 

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2. What do I want to get out of this? 

The last time I bought a home, it was just because that is what you were supposed to do at the time. And while I enjoyed where I lived and the self-satisfaction of owning a home, there were parts that I did not enjoy. 

I would think about what I want to achieve with my next home purchase. Am I ready to put down roots? Am I buying a new home this time, or one that will require a lot of work? Will this benefit my financial future? Asking these questions will inform the decision on where and what kind of home to purchase.

3. Am I ready for the maintenance and upkeep?

This is an aspect of homeownership that is not discussed enough. Moving into an apartment in New York where I don’t have to lift a finger has changed my perspective on that part of owning a home. I would now prefer to buy a home as close to new as I could afford to cut down as much as possible on any work that needs to be done. 

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4. Will homeownership positively affect my lifestyle? 

As I stated earlier, homeownership is a lifestyle and a real-time commitment. Am I settled enough in my life to own a home? Do I want to remain in that area for at least the next three to five years — or even longer? Will owning a home put more work on my plate? 

Changing my location totally changed my perspective on homeownership. I learned that I do not have to do it before I am really ready and that there are major aspects of homeownership to take into consideration. I feel better prepared for next time and when I do buy again — and I will — I know I’ll be ready.

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