for rent

More so than in New York, people in the Toronto area own their own homes or condos. People I meet assume everyone should own a home, and assume we want to, as well. On hearing that we rent a house, people immediately ask, Can you buy it?

This must be in part because - believe it or not - housing is very affordable in the Greater Toronto Area than in New York. Most working stiffs in New York can't afford to own. Some people move far, far out of the metro region in order to buy a home, and many other New Yorkers own tiny condos, which is way more expensive than renting. In the Toronto area - and elsewhere in Canada, I assume? - people earning salaries similar to ours expect to own homes. That's not the case in New York.

The fact is, Allan and I have no interest in buying a home, and that's not likely to change. The common wisdom about home ownership just doesn't work for me. I know all the usual complaints against renting. Supposedly, I'm throwing my money away on rent, I need equity, it's better for tax purposes, you can make a lot of money in real estate. And then, simply, owning is good. Many people like the fact of property ownership for its own sake.

I see it differently. I don't pay property tax. I don't owe money on a mortgage. When something breaks, I call the landlord. I'll never need to replace a roof, or a furnace, or buy a washing machine.

Although it's possible we could finance a home with a mortgage equal to what we now pay in rent, I doubt it - certainly not in any location we'd want to live. Then there's property tax, and a downpayment. That's money better spent seeing the world. If we did find a home we could afford, we'd have to maintain it, which costs money and time. Time we'd rather spend doing other things.

It's true that many people turn a profit by selling their homes. But many people don't. In any case, in the US, profit made through real estate must be reinvested in real estate until you reach retirement age, or you lose most of it to taxes. So selling one home, no matter how profitable, doesn't lead to a big pile of cash: it leads to buying another home. [Update: I've been informed that this is no longer the case in the US. (See comments.) I'm sure someone will tell us about Canadian law soon.]

Many years back, good friends of ours were once told by a therapist that their lack of interest in home ownership was really a fear of commitment! One of them has since died. The survivor looks back on their time together, and feels grateful and appreciative that they didn't waste it shopping for a house, buying it, maintaining it, and selling it. Instead, they paid rent and left the work to the landlord.

I'm not saying all you homeowners out there aren't doing the right thing for your own lives. There are clearly advantages for some people. But there are drawbacks, too - drawbacks that no one seems to acknowledge. Renting is frowned on as foolish, and buying is both wise and preferred. And I just don't see the point, for myself.

The only home I want to own is on wheels.

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