Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Did We Buy a House?

We do indeed need a new water heater. We may also need a new pipes throughout the house, or maybe the plumber service guy just has a sales quota to meet. Since Chad and I are not licensed plumbers, we will not be attempting to install our own water heater. It's one thing to fix the toilet (only to have a different part of the toilet break months later), but an entirely different thing to deal with gas lines and water lines running into the same thingy-ma-bob that could go kaboom!

In light of the very necessary new water heater and possibly necessary total re-pipe job on the 1952 house, there will be no kitchen remodel. There will be no automatic dishwasher. I hope for the sake of our budget that there won't be any new kitchen appliances anytime soon. There will also likely be no fall vacation.

Prepare yourself for dizzying logic (and lack thereof) as I try to figure out what we were thinking when we bought a house.

Anyone who tells you that owning a home is cheaper than renting is a real estate agent and/or sorely misinformed. When I add the interest we pay on our mortgage, and how much larger our monthly mortgage payment is than any of our previous rent rates (two to three times more, seriously, and in one case for less square footage), and our ever-rising property taxes, and the amount of money and time we spend maintaining the house inside and outside, and the fact that now we pay all our own utility and cable bills (whereas rental properties usually covered some or all of those bills), my head hurts.

Chad feels renting is an unsettled and unsure way to live, because your rent rate can go up at the end of your lease, or the property owner can decide not to renew your lease. I never agreed with him until we were bribed out of our two-year lease at the posh condo after only thirteen months by a new owner. The location of the posh rental condo proved a deal-breaker when we had the opportunity to buy it - nestled on a freakishly steep hillside of one of Austin's most notoriously dangerous and busy roads. We also gained a bit too much insight into the condo mismanagement when the condo's property management company (allegedly) embezzled the entire reserves fund from the condo association and then declared bankruptcy. Phew! Dodged a bullet there!

As mortgage-payers (I can't honestly say homeowners for another twenty-some years), we can decorate, upgrade and paint knowing that we keep the fruits of our labor, for better or worse. (When I say worse, I'm thinking of the radioactive green paint in our kitchen. Its days are numbered.)

We get federal tax breaks which are pretty much wiped out or usurped by the property taxes. Of course, property taxes pay for local services, but most of those local services are also enjoyed by renters. So I guess that logic makes for some moot financials. Especially when I admit that mortgage payments and home maintenance costs are much higher than rent rates.

We can have more fur-children in our own home than if we were renting or living in a condo.

We have more room for parties. We should throw another party soon...

We have a washer and dryer here that only we use. No more trips down to an overcrowded laundry room or to the dodgy laundromat. Although the washer and dryer are in the carport and get dirty out there. Also, I have to put on clothes to go out there. No streaking to the laundry room for a fresh towel right out of the dryer.

We have a big yard that falls into both the pro and con list.

We're paying a premium for a few freedoms and benefits.

If there's any wisdom I can impart here, it's this: don't buy a house or condo until you are ready. Don't let anyone pressure you into buying a home with the argument that it's cheaper in the long run than renting, because it isn't. Have lots and lots more money saved than you think you'll need. And as my dearly departed dad liked to quip, "you can live in a car, but you can't drive a house."