Buying vs Renting

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One of the benchmarks of becoming a grown-up is getting your own place. Typically you live with your parents until you graduate high school and by the time you become a teenager you just can’t wait until it’s time for college and you get to move out. College arrives and if you’re lucky you get to live in a dorm and get that first taste of freedom, even if it does mean you’re crammed into a small room with a complete stranger and find yourself sharing a bathroom with multiple people and that meal plan at the university dining hall is not near as great as it seemed those first few weeks. And the food certainly doesn’t taste like mom’s home cooking, which if we’re going to be totally honest, in my kid’s case, might be a blessing. My first college roommate at my small Catholic college was a wild child. She borrowed (stole) my car while I was asleep one night to make a Taco Bell run. One day I came back to our dorm after class to find that the highway sign that announced our college was the next exit, was prominently showcased across one of our walls. I told my roommateI was going to the library to study and the sign better be gone from our room when I returned since I was sure that having it in our room was some type of felony offense. I wasn’t exactly Catholic so I didn’t think I’d go to Hell for the offense since I wasn’t involved but I was sure my parents would kill me anyway if I was suspended from college for it. Luckily (for me, not her) that roommate got pregnant and had to leave school but regardless, dorm life was not a great experience for me.

My husband and I started our marriage out with a really ghetto apartment that had a wall with at least 5 layers of wallpaper that we thought we could strip and replace as a nice home improvement project. We quickly learned that we should not do home improvement projects together. It was a true test to our newlywed bliss and I’m pretty sure I looked up the requirements for an annulment at least once during that project. We survived though and moved onto nicer and newer apartments and had even rented a cute little house right before he died.

After Rick died, the boys and I moved back to Louisville and in with my parents. It was supposed to be a short-term solution until I regrouped emotionally and financially but it ended up lasting 5 years while I finished my college degree. God bless my parents. It was not easy going from an empty nest to having your grief-stricken adult daughter and her infant and toddler sons move in with you. It was very convenient staying with them while I was working full-time and going to school since the boys could be watched at home instead of being carted off to grandma and grandpa’s house or having them come to our place but eventually I bought us our own house and the grandparents could go back to being grandparents again instead of surrogate parents.

Home ownership was not really my thing though. For one thing the house I chose was a little more expensive then I should have bought since I assumed my income would quickly rise once I got my accounting degree (it didn’t), and the house was a little further out of the way then it should have been in relation to our life (school, work, etc.), and thirdly, I HATE YARDWORK!!

Sooo….I sold the house and bought a condo. Perfect, right? Home ownership without the yard work. It was in an ideal location, 3 bedrooms and 3 baths, great set-up. Let me stop right here and just explain something to those of you who don’t know me well. My life has been a series of unfortunate events and that’s partly due to just plain bad luck and partly due to me being an idiot. Because I’m about to try to sell this place I won’t go any further into that right now but this decision fell into both those categories. This place is just not going to be affordable for me in another year so I want to be smart and sell now before it becomes a necessity.

So now what?? Part of me just wants to rent an apartment once I sell my place. I’m done with bad luck and if there’s bad luck to happen then I want someone else to be responsible for fixing it. The problem is that in my area it’s actually cheaper to buy then to rent. I’ve lost a huge chunk of income with Michael’s Social Security stopped and Nick’s money stopping in another year so it will be easier to qualify for a rental then a purchase though so I’m feeling rather stuck. Plus, it’s difficult trying to downsize in cost and size since one boy is currently in a dorm and the other probably will be in another year but I still have to have space for them both at least on school and summer breaks.

So in the end, like most things involving personal finance, I don’t think there’s one correct answer in the decision to rent or buy. I understand not wanting to pay someone else’s mortgage but at the same time, my living situation is so fluid now. Money is tight, the space I need now isn’t necessarily the space I’ll need in a year or two, and who knows what the future holds. Will I need to move again if one of the boys decided to move home for a bit after college or if one or both of my parents needs to come live with me? So stay tuned to see what I decide.

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