The False Dream of Homeownership

In my coaching service helping people find balance in their lives I run across lots of problems. My clients seldom come to me before they have problems, although their life could be so much easier if they would. One of the main problems is usually in the area of finances. One of the primary reasons people cannot balance their lives is because they’re often ruled by finances. It’s hard to not work all the time or get your mind off of work if you owe too much for things you don’t have the time or energy to enjoy.

I recently read an interesting article in Builder magazine by Editor Boyce Thompson about the dream of homeownership titled “The Dream Revisited.” He wondered if the dream of homeownership was promoted a little too much. I think it was.

From my own dealings with real people in dire financial situations I know and understand that not everyone is ready and able to own a home, even though they are made to feel as if they should be, as if owning a home is the pinnacle of success. As Thompson said, “We created owners out of people who couldn’t afford a home…many people who lost their homes to the bank should have remained renters.” The past few years in the mortgage and housing industries made it way too easy for people to buy, so they did.

There are plenty of reasons why renting is often the smarter decision. There is often no realization of the hidden cost of homeownership, like maintenance, taxes, and insurance. They’re not ready to spend the time necessary to take care of a home, mowing the yard and cleaning the gutters. The down payment cleans out the savings and there’s no money left at all for emergencies. The current season in their life is not stable enough for a home. Then there are the unnecessary extras that are supposedly needed to make the house livable…cable television, new furniture, pretty dishes, flowers for the yard, you name it.

The problem usually boils down to a patience issue. People callously disregard their financial situation and buy a home because they want it now. Simply renting a place would allow time to save money until the time for homeownership is right.

In the old days of hot real estate and easy home buying a person could buy a home and sell it quick for a profit if it turned out to be a mistake or life changed along the way. Not these days. Home ownership is a huge decision that should not be taken lightly and, in my opinion, should not be taken until a person has taken the transitional step of renting a home or apartment first.

Like many things in life, home ownership is one that truly is a dream if it is done right, if it is done as part of a plan for a balanced life.

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