At least once a week, someone will ask me when I'm going to buy a home. It started in residency, and it has increased in frequency with every year that I continue to "throw my money away" on rent. In residency, it was easy to justify not buying a home, because I had over $200,000 in debt and I had no time for home maintenance. People could understand those reasons. But as soon as I became an attending, paid off a lot of my debt, and stopped doing 28 hour-plus call shifts, those reasons disappeared. And suddenly, my renting instead of owning became some sort of personal affront to people who own their homes.
These zealous home owners seem to have made it their personal mission to get me to buy a home too. They will send me listings in my favourite areas, along with messages about how perfect the living room would be for a games night or how much I would love the granite counter tops. Any time an article is published that extols the virtues of home ownership, I can expect at least two or three of these people to send it to me. And if I dare say anything even remotely critical of my apartment, I am immediately subjected to a tirade about how much better owning is and how ridiculous it is that I'm still renting.
But you know what? I like renting. For a lot of reasons.
I am not throwing away my money: I have used various calculators to compare the cost of renting and owning in my situation, and based on the home I would likely buy, renting comes out a few hundred dollars a month ahead of owning. So contrary to popular belief, I am actually saving money by renting. People immediately respond by saying "Well...paying a mortgage is forced savings. No one actually has the discipline to invest the money they save by renting." To which I just laugh.
I like putting almost zero effort into my home: This summer, while we were out for dinner with friends, I got a phone call that my kitchen sink had overflowed and was flooding the apartment below it. My (now ex-) partner had to run home to shop vac up the mess, but otherwise the building took care of everything, including paying a plumber premium rates to come out on a Friday evening. The cost to us was zero, and the time involved to deal with it was minimal. As has been the case for anything else that has gone wrong with the apartment. The only maintenance I'm responsible for is replacing the light bulbs! There is no snow to shovel, no leaves to rake, no grass to mow. And I love it.
I love my location: The ex and I started looking at homes earlier this year, and when we talked about where we wanted to live, we both decided that we were already living in the perfect neighbourhood. It generally takes me 15 minutes or less to drive to and from work, which gives me so much more free time than the crazy people who drive 45 minutes or more to the suburbs. My apartment is in mature area with old houses and lots of trees, so it's a beautiful place to walk when the weather is nice. I'm within walking distance of two major restaurant areas, so I can have a drink or two without worrying about driving home. I can even walk to the library! Because it's a very desirable and popular neighbourhood, the housing prices here are high. So I'd be paying even more than a few hundred dollars a month extra to have a nice house or condo in the area where I'm already happily living*.
My apartment is nearly perfect: In addition to location, there are a lot of things I love about my apartment. I have huge balconies (plural) to sit on; there are two washing machines and two dryers just down the hall; there is an exercise room that I use on occasion; there's an indoor hot tub; and I have heated indoor parking. The size of my apartment is pretty perfect for a single person with minimalist tendencies. My building is also filled with dogs who love to visit, which means I get the pleasure of enjoying other people's dogs without ever having to pick up their poop.
I hate the idea of taking on more debt: Although all the other reasons are valid, this is probably at the heart of why I am not looking to buy a home right now. I still have a six-figure debt, and on my current repayment schedule I'm four years away from paying it off. The idea of adding a six-figure mortgage to that makes me want to vomit. "But it's good debt," people say. Gaaaaahhhhh. No. It's still debt. It's still money that I would owe to someone else, which would limit my choices and almost guarantee that I would have to stay at my current job until the debt is gone.
I may buy a home someday. Once the debt is gone and I've saved a bigger nest egg for retirement, I can see myself being interested in buying a place. Something with a bigger kitchen and more space to entertain and hardwood floors, because carpets are gross when you have cats. But at the current moment, renting works for me.
Which ties into one of the most important (and cliché) things I've learned about personal finances: it's personal. Everyone has their own unique circumstances, preferences, and neuroses, so there is no one perfect formula for life happiness and financial success. Lots of people want to buy a home, and it makes sense to them, so great! Buy a home.
Just stop telling me that I should too.
*I looked at an apartment condo a few buildings down from where I'm living, and the condo was over half a million dollars with condo fees that were only slightly less than my rent. It was a really nice condo, but OMG talk about throwing money away.