Once upon a time, many years ago, when I lived in Alabama, I bought a house. It was a very cute little house. It was yellow, had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, cathedral ceilings in the living room, a fenced-in back yard that bordered a cow pasture, and a garage. The whole back wall of the living room was made up of floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors. The design never would have made it through a Philadelphia winter where I live now, but it was just right for Alabama. I loved living in that cute little house. I hated owning it.
For some reason, the American Dream is synonymous with home-ownership. Where I work everyone is either buying a house or renovating the one they have. I have learned a lot about home-improvements in the last year or so. Buying that house, fixing it up, seems to be the height of achievement for so many people. And yeah, I can see how that would come out of our cultural roots of land-ownership as a form of security and a status symbol, but we’re in the 21st century now.
I did not enjoy owning a house. They’re too much work. WAY too much work. I despise yard work, for one. Nothing kills my spirit more than having worked a full Monday to Friday work week only to have to spend my weekend mowing, weeding, raking, or pruning. My house had a lovely back yard and two very pretty crepe myrtles in the front, but it also had a tree come down in a storm. I had to figure out how to have that removed and then I had to pay for it. There were several garden patches with nothing growing in them. When I first bought the house I figured I should plant something in them. So I got a few plants … which all died. It was not my idea of a good time.
I’m not crazy about home improvements either. I had to buy a new dishwasher and a new washer & dryer while I lived there, but I wasn’t about to completely redesign the kitchen while I was at it. Even though that lovely new dishwasher didn’t match the décor of the kitchen. My brother is much more decorate-y than me. His apartment is beautiful and he has huge planter boxes on his porch. I just threw all my stuff in the house without regard for aesthetic. I couldn’t afford aesthetic. I had to go with the furniture I already had, matching or not. I did a tiny little bit of painting, but really it was too much trouble.
So no, home-ownership is not for me.
I love my apartment! I love apartment living. I never have to mow, rake, shovel, weed, or prune. If something breaks I call the office and they come fix it and I don’t pay anyone anything extra. I called to complain that my toilet was running one day and when I came home from work the toilet fairies had delivered and installed a whole new toilet! I love toilet fairies! My apartment comes with its own parking lot, so if I have friends over they don’t have to worry about parking on the street or finding someplace to park. It’s right there. My apartment is on the second floor and I have a lovely balcony that looks out over a patch of woods. It’s quiet and away from the road. The cats love it. Here’s proof:
Of course there are some things I miss about my house. I’m sure my cats miss the huge yard and pasture to run around in. They used to bring me “presents” all the time and now the only critters they can catch are whatever bugs are unfortunate enough to land on the balcony. I miss having my own washer & dryer and lament the loss of quarters each week from doing laundry in the building’s laundry room. And okay, I’ll admit I’m lucky because no one is currently living in the apartment downstairs from me so it’s quiet. Once there was a guys who love to play shoot-em-up video games all the time so it sounded like a war downstairs. Another time a couple lived downstairs that fought now and then. Another neighbor was Indian, but I didn’t really mind the smell of Indian food wafting into my space. Yum! Best of all, I know my neighbors and I know if anything were to ever go wrong help would not only be feet away, I could probably scream and they would hear me through the walls.
Ah, but what about that thing that everyone says, that it’s crucial financially to own a home? I can’t tell you how many times people have said I NEED to own a home for the equity or as an investment. Yes, that is standard thinking. However, and I’ve read up on this a lot, for some people, at this particular point in history, it is actually better NOT to own a home. Yeah, you heard me right. I am single. I don’t make a ton of money. I don’t have a lot in savings. With the economy still so volatile and mortgages partially to blame for that, it is actually better for someone like me to rent. What people don’t remember when they own a home is that it’s more than just the mortgage payment. There are taxes. It costs money to heat and cool a house. You have to pay for water and garbage removal in some places. If you’re single and don’t want to do all the labor yourself you have to pay for people to do it for you. If something breaks you have to pay a repairman to come out and fix it. Houses have all sorts of hidden costs and labor that I just can’t afford.
So I’ll stick with my apartment for the time being. Maybe someday if I ever acquire a husband I’ll consider a house again. But only if he mows the yard.
The only pic I have of (a tiny sliver of) my apartment is from Snowmageddon last year: