Monday, April 20, 2009

American Dream?...or Nightmare?

That's right, this is a comment about home ownership. You know, the institution that has been subsidized by the US government for some 50 years with the mortgage interest deduction and the property tax deduction. Powerful forces have bribed and brainwashed all of us to pursue this "dream".

I know that home ownership has a very clear track record of being a good financial investment. My home has been, and remains so even in the soft housing market of today, the best financial investment of my life. Nonetheless, there is more to home ownership than a financial return.

Owning a home means maintaining a home which can rapidly undermine the quality of your life. If you have a family and you consider the time you need to spend working at your job, caring for your children, and sleeping, your calculations will most likely reveal a stark reality. You might conclude that you have about three or four hours per week to do everything else you either need or wish to do.

Now throw a home into this equation. And just for fun, throw in a home that was built in the last twenty years in the rapidly expanding sunbelt regions of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The majority of these homes were hastily built with shoddy materials and have become contraptions of constant maintenance. Sure, they have appreciated and increased the wealth of the owners. But what good is that wealth if you spend your few free hours per week interrogating contractors who want to fix your air conditioner in the most expensive possible way?

Imagine you are a renter. Imagine you come home and the roof is leaking. Imagine calling the landlord and saying "the roof is leaking, we're going out for pizza". Doesn't that seem pretty tempting compared to the drama of calling your home insurance company, negotiating coverage, finding a contractor, and solving the roof problem yourself during your 3 free hours per week? I'm just saying.


  1. Anonymous4/20/2009

    I would also dare say that people grossly underestimate the yearly expense of home maintenance. They look for a monthly mortgage payment that fits their budget without thinking about the thousands of dollars a year for upkeep.

  2. Spot on. I am getting advice left and right on why this is THE time to buy a house because of the "incentives" offered to new home buyers. But these incentives are no different than the incentives offered by the same people who bring you the 63 piece knife set for three easy payments of $39.99 - and a second set for free if you call within the next 20 minutes! Before you know it you are purchasing something you not only didn't need, but never really even wanted in the first place simply because of the “great deal” you were getting.

    This may be the time to buy for investment purposes, but I am not ready for the responsibility nor the commitment of owning a home. I can barely commit to cereal; 25 minutes of my grocery shopping experience is spent staring at the seemingly endless row of cereal thinking "decisions, decisions...." and I am suppose to commit to buying a house! It is for this reason I will most likely rent apartments and lease cars for the rest of my life. I recently blogged about this same exact issue of home ownership – glad I’m not alone on this issue.

  3. Don't underestimate your responsibilities when committing to your blog open to the public? If you post your address here, at least half of my imaginary readers would likely swamp your site and take down the server.