Why Not Rent?

Does the seven year itch apply to home ownership? Because seven years in, renting is sounding pretty good. I’m very grateful for my home. It serves our family well. We love having a yard, storage space, and a garage. We also enjoy having space to share with others. There are advantages to home ownership, but there are also real drawbacks.

Let’s look at some common reasons for wanting to purchase a home.

My own space.

The dream: Before you buy a place, you scheme about what colors you’ll paint the walls, the sleek interior decorating you’ll do, and the spare room where you’ll finally have space for your hobbies, or guests.

The reality: Houses are huge boxes made of things that break and wear out, full of items that break and wear out. And fixing and replacing all this stuff isn’t easy, or cheap.

Lots of stuff has been breaking, wearing out, or needing to be upgraded around here. That’s just routine. And then there’s the time ants ate the studs of our house two years ago. You really can’t quite appreciate what “maintenance and repairs” will involve until you’re several years into home ownership. It’s not merely cosmetic. Homes have to be maintained, sooner or later, and we’d rather keep up with it along the way than wait until it falls into real disrepair.

I’d love to have a yard.

The dream: I’ll read out on the back deck while drinking coffee every morning. The kids will play out back while I clean the house. We’ll host fabulous neighborhood barbeques and everyone will like us. I’ll also raise a vegetable garden and can the fruits of my labor.

The reality: The yard you’re longing for? Has to be mowed. The garden you want to keep? Is a ton of work. The flower beds you dream of? Good freaking luck. Maybe I’ll plant flowers when my kids go to college.

That said, we love our .3 acre (.1 acre “farmable”) burbstead. Right now we have chickens, bees, a garden, a woodpile, and a years’ worth of sap from our maple trees.

I want a garage.

The dream: I will never have to scrape a windshield before work again. I’ll have a place to put my bike and tools. I’m going to do projects and make awesomeness out there.

The reality: I don’t miss scraping my car windshield in the winter. But you know what I do miss? Not having to be responsible to fix every single thing that breaks. So next time you’re scraping your windshield, think about all the time and trouble you’re saving by not having to fix stuff.

If you really want a garage, rent a place with a garage. Then you get to not spend all your money fixing your house, and you don’t have to scrape your car, either. Best of both worlds!

I want more space.

The dream: You’ll have room to move, host, do hobbies, store stuff out of sight, and have kids.

The reality: Having more space is nice, and there are some perks to that especially once you have kids or for people who want to host big groups. More space also means more to clean and maintain, and it makes it easy to accumulate excess stuff.

I would ask: could you get some of that space in a rental? We had some decent-sized parties in our one-bedroom apartment. We fit about 10 girls for a youth ministry sleepover once. And our Bible study used to meet weekly in the basement “party room” of an apartment complex.

I want to gain equity.

The dream: I will sell my house for way more money on day, making it a great investment.

The reality: That “equity” is often purchased with your interest payments and the cost of maintenance. Why do you think it’s called a mortgage–French for death pledge? Read a breakdown in Millennial Revolution’s “Why Renting Will Make You Rich.”

Why let someone else build the equity by renting? Because we don’t have to do the work. We don’t have the risk—of what will break, and when, and what the market will yield if/when we ever want to sell. Plus taking a mortgage is a lot like renting from the bank.

The Takeaway

If we could go back we might buy a duplex, live in one half, and rent the other. We could save the money we made for a down payment in the future. Then, when needed more space and were ready to move, we could potentially cover most of both mortgages by renting out the two apartments in the duplex. In this scenario, there would be more to maintain, but at least it would be for an actual investment (here’s why I don’t think most residences are investments).

I don’t mean to discourage prospective home buyers, but to say: enjoy renting as long as you do. If there’s no rush to get a place, take your time. Because a few years later, you just might find yourself missing the old apartment.



Renters–what are you longing for in a home? Home owners–do you ever miss renting?

28 Responses to “Why Not Rent?”

  1. Ms. Montana says :

    We are 5 years in and I kinda feel you. I would absolutely rent again for a few reasons. Just the maintaining, cleaning, and updates have made us seriously reconsider buying a larger home in the future. I was sealing the grout on my kitchen backspace last week, and even though it only needs to be done every few years, still wasn’t thrilled that was how I got to spend that time. Everything takes maintenance time, and it all adds up. So we are sticking with 1650 sf for now.

    • Kalie says :

      It’s amazing how things add up even though any one thing only has to be dealt occasionally. You’re wise to take that into consideration before buying a bigger place.

  2. Tonya says :

    There was one blogger I follow who wanted SO BADLY to buy as if it were the be all end all. Now all they do is talk about the stuff they have to repair, upgraded, maintain, etc. There was a time in my life where I thought I had to buy..thankfully that time has passed. I WOULD like an extra bedroom for guests or an office, but I love having the flexibility to move wherever I like and also not pay for repairs. And the bonus where I live is I do have a garden and a garage, and I rent my garage each month.

    • Kalie says :

      There are perks to both, but I think the idea that it’s a “must” is going by the wayside, for good reason. I’m glad you’re happy renting, and can have a garden and garage. That really is the best of both worlds!

  3. Kathryn says :

    I never really wanted to leave apartment living, and now, four houses later and close to empty-nester status, I’d love to get back into one. The only problem? I’m eight years away from owning this sucker! Quite the conundrum.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, I understand the conundrum. Living rent- and mortgage-free would be awesome, but I guess there’s still the taxes and maintenance. Maybe run some calcs on if you sold, investing, and withdrew a bit to cover rent?

  4. Hannah says :

    As Rob approaches the end of his PhD program, we’ve started talking about “what’s next” for real estate. We’ll probably end up selling both properties here in Raleigh, and buy a 4-5 unit property in our new state (change of plans from buying a third property here).

    This plan also means we hope to rent our personal residence until we’re ready to build a house of our design.

    All this to say, I like significant exposure to residential real estate, but I’m excited about the prospect of renting for a while.

    • Kalie says :

      Sounds like a great plan, Hannah! I like that you’ve approached things a bit non-traditionally. Sounds like you have a plan to get your “dream home” in the end while establish an income stream.

  5. Brian says :

    Taking care of some yard work this weekend I looked across the street at my 80 year old neighbor who, you guessed it was doing yard work too. Owning a home it great but the maintenance of it never ends. 🙂

  6. Amanda says :

    I would consider renting again – mostly for the time and money it would free up. Maintaining a house costs a ton of time and money. That said, I am pretty attached to my outdoor space. If I could find a rental that had a ton of outdoor space and I had free reign over it, I’d strongly consider it.

    • Kalie says :

      I agree–I’m most attached to the yard and the freedom to do “crazy” stuff out there like raise chickens, bees, and a vegetable garden.

  7. Josh says :

    I would like to rent again for the maintenance, but, we like being able to have 2 acres of our own land for privacy that we couldn’t find in any nearby rental properties. Many of our idyllic dreams faded away after we moved in to & started making repairs, mowing the lawn, & weeding the garden/flower beds.

    Plus, it will be nice to not have a monthly payment (unlike rent) when we pay our mortgage off. By paying ours off early we are on track to save about $10,000 in interest. We aren’t so concerned about the equity right now as we hope to eventually keep it in the family, but, it’s nice to have a possession of value even if there is continual maintenance.

    • Kalie says :

      Two acres sounds lovely, though I’m sure it is a lot of work. And being mortgage free will feel great!

  8. Linda Sand says :

    After years of owning we are back to renting and loving the freedom of being able to fix anything with just a call to the owners. Becoming minimalists along the way made this doable as we no longer need so much space. This place was well built so we don’t have neighbor noise and the view out our windows is a nature center with ponds and walking paths that we don’t have to maintain! Love it!

    • Kalie says :

      Sounds perfect, Linda! I agree that paring down possessions would make it much easier to go back to renting if that reduces the amount of space you need.

  9. DC YAM says :

    Oh yes this is so true! I like this statement: “You really can’t quite appreciation what “maintenance and repairs” will involve until you’re several years into home ownership.” Our basement flooded seven months after we purchased and we’ve had all sorts of maintenance problems that people simply wouldn’t think about (a collapsed sewer drain out anyone?). At the end of the day I still like owning a home, but I also want to rent our current house out down the road so I see it as a long-term play. It takes the sting out of some of those maintenance and repair costs, though they are definitely never-ending!

    • Kalie says :

      Flooded basements are such a hassle, and a very common problem. I think have a bilevel has helped spare us from that (fingers crossed!). I agree that overall it’s been worth the extra work, though. And yes–having the plan to turn your place into a rental could make it all feel more worthwhile as it’s a long-term plan.

  10. Julie says :

    One of the reasons that pushed us into buying vs renting was that we had a couple of experiences of landlords from Hell. We wanted to get away from that. We were tired of not having things fixed or being blamed for damage that we didn’t cause and wasn’t our fault. But now as we are getting older, we are thinking about selling and renting again because of the cost and time of upkeep.

    • Kalie says :

      Thank you for the reminder about the downsides of renting. There are many not-so-good landlords out there!

  11. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    My eldest daughter would agree with you completely. She believes it’s possible that she will never buy a home. I see the logic in it, but I still think that once people have kids, there’s a nesting instinct that makes home ownership very desirable? Is that a common sentiment? Or is that just my cultural DNA talking? (And I’m very jealous about the years’ worth of maple syrup you have!)

    • Kalie says :

      Ruth, we are home owners, not renters, so we get that “instinct” you’re talking about. I think setting up a home is an instinct, and in our culture that has traditionally meant purchasing a home. So I think it’s both. But I know what you mean–having the freedom to do what you want with the space, having more room for kids, and having a yard were all things we desired for our family. I think it can work either way and depends on lots of factors like cost of living in your area, how handy you are, income, savings, etc.

  12. Carrie says :

    I really have no desire to go back to renting but I admit I thought it sounded really nice when a friend moved to a condo and no longer had to be worried about outside maintenance.
    We do not have a mortgage payment anymore, but if we rented, there would always be a rent payment.

    • Kalie says :

      I’m glad to hear you’re happy with home ownership, and don’t have to worry about a mortgage or rent. That’s awesome!

  13. David says :

    I love owning my house and surrounding acreage. If I want to remove some birch and poplar trees so I can plant fruit trees in their place nobody can stop me. My land supplies me with a lifetime of home heating fuel, enough vegetables to feed my family plus a few hundred pounds to give away. All the maintenance and other work is my relief from the work I do to make money. This place gives me the privacy and freedom to do so much that I couldn’t do if I was renting.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, we also love the freedom to plant trees, build garden beds, keep chickens, etc. That’s great to hear you are enjoying your home and land and putting it to great use!

  14. Anele says :

    We rent now and are very frustrated with the increasing cost. This year we will be paying $1,000 per month! I just hate it. We want to live in a home were our “death pledge” payment is less and actually adds up to something. We hope to get a duplex but finding one is very difficult in the area we live in.
    The grass is always greener I guess!

    • Kalie says :

      Increasing cost was the catalyst for us buying a home, too. I get it! Though now that repairs are adding up but there are perks too. You’re right, the grass is always greener. I hope you can find a good duplex or home soon!

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