I had just graduated from college, and was debating where I was going to live after moving out of my parents’ house. Researching Seattle rent was a tough pill to swallow — a studio apartment was going for at least $1,500 — and I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a house in the city.
My well-intentioned parents were the first ones to tell me that “renting is throwing away money,” which we’ll talk about later, and made me feel guilty about not buying a house.
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So I started looking at properties, and after about a month, I found a condo that was in my budget. The day before we closed, I backed out.
I shock people when I say that I’m a personal finance expert who rents an apartment. Buying a house may be the right move for certain individuals at points in time, but it just wasn’t a good option for me, and here’s why.
1. It didn’t fit my lifestyle
In order to afford a house, I was buying an hour outside of Seattle, in Puyallup, Wash. With traffic, that was almost a two-hour drive one way. I was in my early 20s , who wanted to explore the city, meet friends after work for drinks and go to concerts. A 4-hour commute every day wasn’t conducive to the life I wanted (and it was also pretty miserable being in a car or on a train for a good chunk of my day). It left me with no time to exercise, cook, see friends, volunteer or do anything besides collapse on the couch when I got home.
And the “renting is throwing away money” advice? That’s just not true.
You are paying to live somewhere. You’re paying for a place to stay, cook, work, and keep your stuff. And for many of us in high cost of living HCOL areas (I’m in Seattle, where the average home price is $750,000), buying a home just isn’t feasible.
I also didn’t want to be locked into a 15 or 30-year mortgage. At the time, I was working a corporate job at a global company. I wasn’t sure if they’d eventually want me to relocate, and I was traveling quite a bit for work already. Being locked into one place as a recent college grad made me nervous.
When you’re deciding to purchase a home, it needs to fit your lifestyle. Make sure it makes sense with your goals, career and interests.
2. The HOA was mismanaged
In my home search, I determined that buying a condo would be in my budget. However, a day before I closed on the property, I discovered that the HOA was a nightmare. Fees of $350 per month were supposedly used to cover landscaping, gutter cleaning and more — but they weren’t keeping up the property. The head of the HOA was disorganized, and didn’t have control over the funds. It was the nail in the coffin that made me back out of the purchase.
If you’re buying a condo, don’t make my same mistake. Have conversations with the homeowner’s association board (and your potential neighbors) early in the process, and ask good questions about what the funds cover.
3. I wasn’t emotionally ready to be a homeowner
There’s a ton of responsibility that comes with being a homeowner. You can’t call your landlord when a pipe bursts or when something breaks. You alone are responsible for taking care of any issues. As a new college grad, I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.
Although my parents had my best interests at heart, they pressured me into buying a home because like many, they thought renting was “throwing money away.” At 21 years old, I didn’t feel confident enough to be a homeowner. I was focused on my career and building a life in a new city, and didn’t have the time or the energy to be doing house repairs, intensive cleaning and upkeep of the home.
4. My realtor didn’t have my best interests at heart
This was the cherry on top of the “not a good decision to buy a house” cake, but it’s worth mentioning. The realtor I worked with was shocked when I wanted to counter and didn’t ask me what kind of property I was looking for. When you don’t have a realtor who is there to listen and advocate for you and your needs, it sours the entire process.
If I buy property in the future, I’ll be more discerning in who I choose to work with.
Ultimately, home owning isn’t for everyone. Don’t let the pressure of feeling like you *must own property* keep you from making the right decision for you, and stop you from saving smartly and investing for your retirement.
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