If you read articles about making smart financial choices, you may already be sick to death of the debate over whether it’s better to rent or buy a home. The most obvious problem with the debate is that there isn’t one right answer for everyone on Earth, or even everyone in middle class USA. There are a number of factors that determine which solution would best suit you.
For me, owning a house would definitely be the better long-term solution, but I’m stuck renting because the cost of houses is still so far out of line with the income available to many of us. Loads of people are in the same boat as I am – a whole economic class of US people who make relatively good money but still don’t have the option of buying a home. And every once in a while, when I say so, some home owner pipes up: “Oh, NO, gosh, you have it so easy! We have to pay for repairs! Taxes! Insurance! If anything goes wrong, you just call the landlord and it’s fixed instantly!”
Well, that last bit is a load of bullshit – most landlords in L.A. chose their profession because the rental market was always so hot, they could completely ignore their legal responsibilities and get away with it. The rest is bullshit, too: if you think most renters aren’t indirectly paying for everything the owner has to pay for, you must really believe shops are committing acts of charity when they say “buy one, get one free!” And then there’s the issue that all the money I’m forking over for rent doesn’t do me any future good, while everything the home owner invests is becoming equity. (Home owners are very dissatisfied these days because their houses aren’t “worth” what they were “worth” in 2007. No one even considers the unfashionable possibility of, say, paying off their houses and living without a housing payment of any sort these days, which is incredibly short-sighted. You can often make a house “worth” more than the market value to you if you look at your finances holistically.)
But that’s just the bullshit. Let’s get to the privilege: you can only really “choose” between renting or owning if both “choices” are feasible for you. If renting is your only option – or your only sensible option, for those of us who said “No, thanks” when the banks offered us bizarrely structured mortgages fifteen times the size of our annual income and, as a result, are not currently in foreclosure – then it’s not a “choice” between owning or renting. Duh.