Saturday, May 21, 2011

On Home Ownership and Hearths

So, my PEH (platonic Euro husband for those who are new) posted about home ownership and makes a lot of good very valid points. I've been thinking a lot about home ownership as I am a fairly recent homeowner. He's right about being sold a faulty dream for a lot of people, I know people who got in at the wrong time and now are in over their heads by a lot. The fact that we're still aspiring to being a "land owner" hundreds of years later is crazy, we're still holding onto that cache that being a "land owner" (home owner) meant you were upper crust.


Just to play devil's advocate, here's why I'm a home owner:

1. I'm incredibly boring. I've lived in the same area for more than half my life. I like it here, my friends are here, my family is here, good pagan groups are here, you can be a weekender in a subculture without it having to be your life, I'm an hour away from NYC, two from Philly/A.C., there's ocean within reach. As L. pointed out, I can posture all I want but the fact is I am ridiculously stupidly rooted here and unlikely to ever not be, past traveling (I love to travel but I get homesick something fierce) so may as well buy something.

2. Because NJ is so ridiculously wealthy overall, something called The Mount Laurel Project happened which basically said you can't push out working class/middle classes out of a town by only building property that rich people can buy, it's not fair. Thus every new development that's built, a certain amount of rental units, condos, etc need to be set aside so that low income and moderate income people can buy/rent a home in a good area. Jow and I qualified for a "moderate income" condo. You go to your township, show them your income info, get a letter of recommendation from a mortgage company saying they'll likely give you a mortgage and then you're entered into a lottery. You can say no to as many as you want, but it's unknown when your name will come up again. Our first one was so . . .old and run down and craptastic, we didn't even get up the nerve to go in. The second one was in the complex I grew up in (which yes, means I live v. close to my mom but luckily she's like a vampire and doesn't come in unless invited so there's no "surprise visits") which is about fifteen years old, nice neighborhood, pool, tennis courts, garbage dumpster verses trash day (which I prefer) and weirdly lower association fees than the first place which did not have a pool or a tennis court.

3. Since it's a condo, it's not unlike an apartment in the good ways - roof, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, taking care of the outside of our place is Not Our Problem. It's a good size for us, in Paris or NYC it would be considered roomy, in NJ it's considered small but we have our own washer/dryer, the kitchen is decently sized, we each have our own closet and a home office. It's big enough to throw a good party but small enough to discourage long term visitors. It's not overly expensive to heat or air condition. It's small enough that Jow and I can clean it on our sloppiest day in a day if we're being ambitious.

4. It made financial sense for us. At the time, the government was giving an $8K incentive for first time home owners (which was a good chunk of our down payment), it worked out (with the association fees, property tax, etc) to about what we were paying in rent. It is unknown as to if there will be any kind of social security left by the time we need it and neither Jow nor I work for a big enough company to get a really bangin' 401K/retirement option where we'd get pensions or the company matches a substantial amount of money which means we do need to focus on our retirement. A big part of that focus is that we have a roof over our heads so we have money for piddly things like not eating cat food. There's also the matter of since this is part of a county program, while we'll never make a huge sum of money should we ever want to move, we are also *guaranteed* to make a small profit on our place no matter what the economy looks like.

5. Both Jow and I have spent our twenties as most people do, moving around a lot (him more than me!). I have never owned a place to live in that is likely to be mine for at least 5-7 years (like a prison bid as I like to cheerfully say), likely longer. I wanted to know what the energy would be like in terms of creating a hearth. I can only speak to my own experience, but our energy has been building in our home because we treat it like our home, I had never personally been able to do that when renting (and that's on me, others' experiences may be different). We put a lot of energy (in painting, in decorating, in magical work) into making this place feel solid as a hearth, it feels more like a hearth to me but that could also have a lot to do with my particular place in life currently, building a hearth wasn't exactly high on my list of shit to do as a maiden, in the mother stage it's much more important to me. I also spend a lot more time here - working, playing, eating, entertaining, etc than I did in my other places in my twenties which again could definitely be life place attributed. My last apartment was so ridiculously big, we never fully unpacked and that energy definitely carried over. For me, home ownership was also about taking charge of my future post-divorce and making sure I had a place to live when I was old, it was also about starting my new life as a grown up and taking control of my financial life as well. It was a v. definite start into my new life and attempting to ride the tiger instead being ridden by the tiger.


Gordon said...

So... You're in the "I bought a house because I wanted to" camp? There's no need to play devil's advocate, then!

It's all good. As ever, I'm in the minority. :)

Anonymous said...

See, I want to buy a house because I'm tired of "auditioning" for rentals, not being able to paint my walls, disconnect the downspouts, and turn the entire yard into one big vegetable garden. More "urban hippie" than "upper crust" :P

Deborah Castellano said...

@Gordon - honestly in this economy, you're not at all in the minority! :) And I agree, there's something to be said about carefully considering your choice to buy or not to buy and it being *mindful*, really every major life decision. Kids, marriage, etc. And this "American Dream" is burying a lot of people, the moremoremore attitude. I find the best way to exorcise that desire is to watch a lot of hoarders, it will have just about anyone saying less! less! less! ;p

@therioshamanism - I know what you mean, I've never had the energy to paint apartment walls knowing it would have to be repainted on move out anyway. Although I was better able to garden on my old balcony than my postage stamp front yard ;p But yeah, urban homesteading is really awesome. :)

Post a Comment