Pursuing The American Dream With $0 Down

Your American Dream

When I was, oh, 15 or so, I made a list of characteristics I wanted — no, required — in the guy I married someday. Most of it was really important stuff like “good hair,” “doesn’t look like his mom dressed him,” and “doesn’t have a pet tarantula.” Something that wasn’t on the list but that should have been was “someone I can have a good discussion with.” I know, so romantic. But it’s something that’s really important to me. Luckily, I found Johnny who happens to love a good discussion as much as anyone. And so on our drive home from Five Guys last weekend as we snuck a few fries from the bag, I posed the question, “Why is it that everyone has to own a home? Why is that part of The American Dream?” And Johnny’s response was something along the lines of, “It’s funny you should mention that because I was just thinking about this yesterday.” And thus launched a 20-minute discussion on the topic. Bah da bing bah da boom.

What sparked my question to Johnny was seeing a Facebook status that said, “I can’t explain how happy it makes me to own a house!” Johnny and I aren’t homeowners yet, and I think I’ll be happy when we own a home someday, too. But why is that? I would say it’s because we’d actually own our own space. But would we? If you have a mortgage, do you really own your home?

When Johnny and I buy our first home, we’d love to own it outright, but the reality is that unless Johnny ever hears back from a Nigerian Prince, it ain’t happening. I don’t even think we’ll own 50% of our first home outright. So how will it differ from renting, aside from paying a bank each month instead of a landlord? Right now you’re thinking, “Umm… DUH, you’ll finally be able to paint your walls whatever color you want!!!!” You’re not thinking that? Guess that’s just me. I guess the main difference in renting and owning is having skin in the game and (hopefully) getting money back when you choose to sell your home someday.

Which brings me to my next question: Why is actually owning a home, like for real owning it without loans, so expensive and impossible? Why is The American Dream so difficult to accomplish? And our country’s solution to people not being able to afford homes is to make loans easier to get. It’s interesting that we’re always taught that we should live within our means and not buy things that we don’t have the money for. And while I do understand some of the reasons why, it’s still kind of weird to me that mortgages seem to be asterisked and excluded from that philosophy. In today’s day and age, our government views home ownership as a basic human right, something that everyone should have access to. We recently read this article, which says the government is once again pushing to make home loans easier to obtain for people with weak credit. And I just wonder why all this is. Why is owning a home a right of passage, a way to happiness?

So while Johnny and I are still excited to own a home someday, our discussion of The American Dream while we ate the most American meal of burgers and fries has us taking a step back and reevaluating why we want to own a home. Yes, we want our own four walls so neighbors don’t thump their bass. Yes, we want to paint the walls in our bedroom a light gray (we is relative here). And of course we want land and a garden and the like. But even without all that, we can still live our American dream. We’re preparing to become financially free and independent. We’re not creating the facade of a dream because that can shift to a nightmare in the blink of an eye. The American Dream shouldn’t be determined by reaching certain materialistic milestones. It should be a state of being free and having all we need to be happy. Real happiness, not the kind that can be bought. Here’s to living the dream and doing it before we’re homeowners.

What’s The American Dream to you? Do you think owning a home brings happiness? Why do you think it has become so ingrained in the The American Dream?

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  • Reply Alysia @ Slim Sanity April 15, 2013 at 7:53 am

    I think that’s a really good question! We were just recently trying to buy a home, and it was so difficult. Everything right now is going for way over asking price, at least in Dallas area. We finally decided to rent for another year or so, and use our down payment to pay off debts we already had, and we’re totally ok with it.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:14 am

      Yep, it certainly doesn’t help that the market is flooded with buyers right now. If a few more years of renting means you/we can accomplish other financial goals, waiting is just fine.

  • Reply Executioner April 15, 2013 at 8:42 am

    If you rent, it will be very difficult (if not impossible) to do the sorts of things you have the freedom to do as a property owner: Remodel and renovate, build a shed, tear down a wall, install solar panels, cultivate the land, harvest timber, raise livestock, plant trees and watch them grow for years and years.

    Renting also comes with landlords included. Landlords do annoying things like raise the rent with little notice, and announce that they are getting out of the landlording business, requiring you to move in 90 days (whether you want to or not).

    My wife and I took out a mortgage when we bought our home, but after a couple of years of living there, we decided to pay off the mortgage as quickly as we could. It took us a little over three years of consistent effort. Now that it’s gone, our cash flow is significantly improved. I imagine we are in a much better position to become “financially free and independent” now than we would be if we had to cut a rent check every month.

    If I had it all to do over, I would probably have decided to work hard for three years and save up BEFORE buying the house than doing it the way we did (mortgage first, then aggressive debt reduction). But on the other hand, we did get the benefit of living in our house (without shared walls) for those three+ years, so having the mortgage wasn’t a total loss.

    • Reply Meghan April 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Executioner, your post is spot on! I’m back to renting after selling my house and those are the reasons I’d like to purchase again as soon as I can. When I bought house #1, I put $500 down. Now, a 5% down is the minimum if you don’t want FHA’s sky high mortgage insurance rates, and that’s $10,000. I am trying to weigh paying the car off vs. building up the savings account to have that down payment. At the moment, since the interest on the car is low, I’m putting everything in savings. At the end of this lease in 11 months, I’ll see how much I have in the account and will make a decision (well before then because if I’m going to find a house, that takes time).

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:18 am

      You sold me at “harvest timber.” That just oozes testosterone. I think we’re in total agreement with your points. But clearly, you were in a position to own your home outright far far faster than most. And owning a home (especially with an underwater mortgage) does not a happy person make.

      • Reply Executioner April 18, 2013 at 11:15 am

        When we purchased our home, it was near the height of the housing market in our area. Currently our home’s market value is probably 20-25% below what it was back then. But because we paid off the mortgage, the term “underwater” no longer applies.

        I could argue about your assertion that we were in a position to own our home far faster than most. It all comes down to choices: choices to live in an inexpensive area, choices about how to budget (cutting spending), choices about how much to save ahead of purchasing a house. My wife and I made significant changes to our lifestyle when we decided to aggressively pay down our mortgage. Most people we’ve talked to aren’t willing to make these sorts of changes. So I guess this is what makes us different from “most” — not our means, but our willingness to make an aggressive plan and then commit to sticking with it.

  • Reply Tushar @ Everything Finance April 15, 2013 at 9:15 am

    There’s something great about coming home to a space that is yours; something secure that you know you aren’t getting evicted from, that you can set down roots with. It’s more than just the wall color. It’s definitely out of reach to own a home by paying for it outright, which is why mortgages were created. It’s easy for a lot of people to get caught up in the dream instead of being realistic about what (and whether) they can afford.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:23 am

      I don’t think it’s completely out of reach to buy a home outright. For most Americans, it’s probably not a reality. But it’d be interesting to see if more people would think twice about spending/saving habits if mortgages required 25%-50% down. When mortgages are so readily available, it seems to propel our country’s obsession with borrowing. And I understand that mortgages are quite a bit different than credit card debt, but it’s still the act of prolonging payment.

      I might disagree with everything I just said tomorrow, but at least it’s food for thought.

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl April 15, 2013 at 9:16 am

    after the financial crisis, the banks in Norway made it more difficult for people to get mortgage loans, so these days it`s really difficult, because it`s nearly impossible to get into the owner`s market, and in response to this, landlords are increasing rent because they know people have to live somewhere. I really want to buy a house one day, but it`ll be several years until we`re there.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:26 am

      Been there, done that. We’ve been on the verge of having rent raised every year the last few, but we always end up moving before it hits. We’re definitely not huge fans of renting either, but it’ll do for now.

  • Reply K. Nicole April 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

    This is such an awesome post because if I knew then what I know now, I would have not bought a home. Like you said, first of all most people don’t own their home outright until 30 years later, but not only that once you’re done paying for it you’ve usually paid out at least double what that sale price was. And if it’s not your “forever home” it’s really easy to take a loss on it like we are on the home we bought in 2005 when the housing market was bananas! We had to move for my job and we now rent a much bigger townhouse than the one that we own(ed) and for less than our mortgage was in our bigger and more expensive city. Right now, I know that unless it’s my forever home or I become the next Stephanie Meyer, I’m not buying. I believe the American Dream of owning a home is really just a con, now.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:30 am

      If you become the next Stephanie Meyer, I’m pretty sure Joanna would be your best friend. And not for the money, but the free books. 🙂

      Thanks for your take. We know quite a few friends and family that are in a similar boat right now. Own a not “forever home” somewhere, forced to rent elsewhere. Besides wanting to put down a hefty downpayment, the fact that we don’t know where to plant roots is the biggest reason for our aversion to it all right now.

  • Reply Sarah April 15, 2013 at 9:59 am

    I guess I can understand how good it would feel to actually own your home, but right now my husband and I are just doing the renting thing. We really are fortunate because we have free reign to do whatever we want: re-paint, plant a garden, fence in the yard….as long as we let her know first she doesn’t care. So to me, even though we may spend some money doing updates like that and not “see the return” it’s worth it when we don’t have to pay for the leaky roof to get fixed and to know that we don’t own a zillion dollars on a mortgage. I’m still really cautious about going that far into debt just to buy a house when we’ve worked so hard (and have almost succeeded) to be 100% debt free!

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Congrats on being so close! We’re definitely in a similar boat. After having worked so hard for so long to kill the Debt Monster, our battle wounds are still fresh. So it’s hard coming to grips with doing it all over again.

      • Reply Sarah April 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

        Exactly! And mortgage debt would be sooooo much more than our original “Debt Monster” which makes the idea of it even more stressful. So I think I’ll just keep my rented house for now. 🙂

  • Reply Karie April 15, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I think owning your own home is great in that you set your own school district, sense of community and you can do as you please regarding decorating or having pets or adding a pool, etc.
    There was a time when housing was very affordable. We bought our first house for $130,000 in 1997 in our early to mid twenties, that same house has been torn down and a newer, bigger house is being built there that will probably sell for around $700,000 16 years later.
    Now, it doesn’t really make sense for young people to buy. There are so many costs that will really add up and you can’t just move because the next door neighbour is playing their bass too loud. Moving will cost many many thousands in real estate fees, lawyer, land transfer tax and moving fees. Be happy that you are renting and can move easily at the end of a lease :). We’ve been in this house for 9 years and in a few years we’ll be paying for a new roof, furnace, updating, etc. That could all go to investments or vacation money or whatever!
    There’s something emotionally satisfying about buying your own house but it really is a very costly thing to do overall! Hopefully we’ll mortgage free in 7 years but with all the maintenance I mentioned, etc, there will still be many bills to pay!

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:37 am

      Now that is some crazy inflation/renovating! You bring up a good point about all the other expenses. And the fact that long after the mortgage is gone, things will still eat up your cash.

      We’re not forever-renters, for a lot of the reasons you listed in the first paragraph. But we’ll probably wait until we have a heftier down payment and then find that neighborhood and school district that feel like home.

  • Reply Kasey April 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

    There is so many pros and cons to buying vs renting. For me I want kids one day and want them to have their own backyard to play in and if my baby is crying at 3 am I won’t have any neighbors complaining. I had too many bad experiences in apartments where I could hear my neighbors. This included babies crying, people have sex (no joke!), loud music, dogs barking, etc. digging-my-way-out

    • Reply K. Nicole April 15, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Kasey, you can have a backyard while renting, we do! In fact, the home we bought was a “back to back TH” don’t ask, it’s crazy, we were in the DC area. And it had no backyard and a postage stamp size front yard. We now rent a TH with a nice size backyard for our two young boys to play in. 🙂 Also, like Sarah we can paint and do whatever we want within reason as long as we ask/tell our landlord.

      • Reply Kasey April 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

        Yeah you’re right you can have a backyard while renting. I guess renting a house would be ok but I would never rent a townhouse again because I don’t want to share any walls with another family. My sister lived in a townhouse and her neighbors were awful. I also don’t like having to ask the landlord for permission. That is probably my number one reason to own vs rent. I can do what I want when I want.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:39 am

      We’ve had our fair share of nightmares you listed above. And don’t get me started on wanting to have a yard. I long for the day I can mow a lawn. BUT, we’re still not sold on the six-figure price tag… yet.

  • Reply Chris April 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Nice timely post. The problem the US faces today is that owning a home is a basic right – it’s not it’s a choice. I don’t see anything wrong with renting especially if one’s financial goals aren’t necessarily home ownership.

    The American Dream has changed. I don’t think it should be owning a home; it should be financial security. That’ll look different to everyone. I think more folks need to sell the idea of a new American dream, but I don’t think it’s one where everyone gets rich – more likely debt free.


    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:42 am

      “I think more folks need to sell the idea of a new American dream, but I don’t think it’s one where everyone gets rich – more likely debt free.”

      That’s a great sentiment that I agree with wholeheartedly. Thanks.

  • Reply Elvin Peria April 15, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Hi Joanna, I believe that having a house depends on the goals and aspirations of the couple/household. We tried to purchase our dream home twice however we failed to continue it because it’s hard for us to settle in one location. Looking at it now, I think it was a great decision because it gives us the flexibility to choose a location every where we want.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:43 am

      Having moved 6 or 7 times in the last 5 years, we know a thing or two about flexibility in choosing a new location. 🙂

  • Reply Rob April 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Home ownership – yes or no? A very interesting question that you pose to us today! 🙂
    My response: it all depends.

    A lot of peeps look forward to having their own home because that was the lifestyle that they were raised in. Their parents owned a home. And maybe also their grandparents. That said, however, I would wager that those folks whose parents instead had rented their home may not as much lust to go out to purchase their own home in many cases.

    Like I say, it all depends – on many things. Stuff like: how secure is your job at the moment, how is the real estate market doing in your area of the country, how disciplined are you in managing long-term debt, how eager are you to maintain a home, etc. etc.

    Let’s use an example – moi! 🙂

    Back in the day, when first married, I was first starting out in my IT career and the economy was humming along. The real estate market back then was also doing well. Many of our friends then were saving up for a home and so were we. So we “took the plunge”, as they say, and took out a mortgage on our first home. As mentioned here previously in this blog, no regrets at all over the years.

    That was then, this is today. Here in Canada, the real estate market in many of the major city centers is dropping in value. Annual home sales volumes are decreasing. New homes (especially condos) are in over supply. Cheap mortgages abound. People are making the same mistake and over bidding in price wars on houses, making offers that are over the asking prices, not projecting ahead to determine whether they can still afford to carry their high mortgages should mortgage interest rates decide to double (or triple) in future.

    So with all that said and if I were starting out here today where we live, I’d most probably rent for a few more years and invest my savings while waiting for things to settle down. It wouldn’t make sense to buy a house that might decrease in value from the price that I paid for it.

    I know this might not be the message that many young people today might want to hear which is why I say “it depends” – If you have steady jobs, if you are looking to own a house and are not dangerously overextending yourself to afford it, if you figure on being able on managing your mortgage long term, if the deal that you get is a good one (like a fixer upper and you are handy with tools), or if you’ve saved a reasonably big down payment and are buying in an area that is not in economic decline, then I would say “go for it”. And remember, the real estate #1 rule: location, location, location.

    Nothing in life is guaranteed. To get ahead, risks must be made. Just plan carefully when to make that big move then go and do it with no regrets.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:49 am

      Both of our parents have owned homes for as long as we’ve been alive. So we definitely looked to them as examples of what we wanted. But as we wisened up (only minimally), we realized there were a lot of sacrifices made on their parts to do that. And while we anticipate needing to make sacrifices at some point for our mortgage, we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure the conditions are as optimal as possible when we throw our money down. Once again, I think we see eye-to-eye with ya, Rob.

      • Reply Rob April 16, 2013 at 7:05 am

        I too think we agree, Johnny. Just to add to my previous comment and put things in a clear perspective, when I was discussing current real estate conditions I was referring to our Canadian market. From what I read your U.S. real estate market is making a good comeback after the 2008 downturn so if I were living in the states right now I might be thinking entirely different, depending on one’s local conditions. So continue to keep a good eye on future possibilities that might come along for you.

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup April 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    We bought a home when we were 23. It wasn’t really the dream of owning a home, but it was the dream of having the flexibility to do what we wanted with the home. I wanted the ability to customize my garage, something you cannot do when renting. I don’t think owning a home should be the American Dream. The dream should being able to be financially secure. We plan on purchasing another home after we sell this one. I don’t have to worry about rent increases, unless taxes go up, and I don’t have to worry about other tenants screwing the living experience up for me. My home is what I control. Though I don’t “own” it, I can customize it.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:55 am

      I’d love to customize my garage. It pains me to see such good wall space go to waste. But that’s the price we’re paying in exchange for more time to save and plan a move that’s right for us.

  • Reply Brian April 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Where else would I be able to stockpile my doomsday prepper supplies? Most rental agreements ban firearms and your land lord probably wouldn’t appreciate you hoarding drums of water.

    In all seriousness. the reason I like owning my home is not having to answer to someone else and getting my “rent” raised every year since I don’t like in a rent controlled area.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 2:59 am

      I have been meaning to ask my landlord about building a fallout shelter in the backyard. I actually do hate knowing that she’s the boss of “our” home. And while it’s nice to just give her a ring when something needs repair, it’s on her timetable. No bueno.

  • Reply Holly April 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Not to be a Debby Downer, but even as homeowners you’re never free of property taxes, insurance, HOA fees and maintenance. My hubs and I own our residence (and rental properties) free and clear but still have to pay all that monthly junk. On our residence, it’s $600+/month, not counting maintenance. So, ain’t nuttin free and eviction proof (the govment will evict for non-payment of property taxes). But, we do like not having a landlord and being able to do our own thing with our place. It’s also a nice hedge against inflation.

    BTW, I’ve loved reading your blog and think you two are cuter than a pair of speckled pups! Great job with your finances too!

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 3:05 am

      Thanks, Holly! We appreciate it.

      Less Debby Downer and more Pragmatic Peggy (?). Which as of 3 seconds ago is now a thing. Those extra fees/taxes are easy to overlook. We always end up losing a few of those extra budgetary considerations out when we look over total home costs. Thanks for the helpful reminders.

  • Reply Meghan April 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    My mortgage was $1106.83. My rent now for half the space and 3 fewer bedrooms is $1420 plus I have to pay a pro-rated share of everyone’s water / sewer and my own utilities. Honestly, I can’t WAIT to mortgage myself again. I think the person above me may be nailing something in to the wall right now – not sure?

    I’m in the housing business and while we would all love to be able to buy in cash, it’s out of reach for 98% of Americans (I made that percentage up but it has to be close). Just buy smart. For instance, I’m worried that the rates are going to go up in a year and that interest change could be significant. FHA raised mortgage insurance to 1.35% of the outstanding loan balance per year (so take that amount and divide by 12 for the monthly charge). More significant though in my mind is that FHA is reverting back to a pre-2001 policy which will require mortgage insurance for the entire term of the loan. I feel that the government is hurting the American Dream by instituting that policy but they really want the private market to take on a larger share of the loan pool and pricing people out is a way to drive people to the private market, assuming the public is smart enough to realize that FHA may not be their best option. It kind of sucks because FHA loans are assumable and having a 3.25% rate five years from now that you could pass on to a buyer could be a huge selling point. If you are in a situation where you can’t put 20% down, go conventional and pay private MI. The rate for good credit is more like .6% of the balance a year and while dropping the insurance once you have paid the mortgage down to 78% is a pain, at least it’s possible. The minimum down for conventional is 5%, which is only 1.5% more than FHA. I’d rather get the good rate and pay minimum mortgage insurance while I pay the mortgage down as fast as I can.

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 3:11 am

      No that’s probably just our cat knocking things off our tables and dressers and landing on our floor/your ceiling. 🙂

      That’s some solid information right there. And all stuff that we definitely need to take into consideration. We’re definitely looking/hoping to put down 20%+ to avoid PMI (and to have more skin in the game upfront). But a lot of it depends on where the interest rate lands by the time we finally get around to pulling the trigger. Thanks for all the info, Meghan!

  • Reply Beth Sheridan April 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I agree with you and just about every other comment too 🙂 There is good and bad to both situations (as there is with most situations) and I think you just have to evaluate what is important to you and what is not, and then strive to make that happen. That would make it “your own” American Dream 🙂

    • Reply Johnny April 16, 2013 at 3:15 am

      We’re mostly agreeable folks, too, and everyone made very valid, good points in their comments. And we definitely want to buy a house at some point, so we’re basically straddling the fence anyway. So until we jump off and take a side, we’ll try to make the most of our American Dream just hanging out on this fence. 🙂

  • Reply JW_Umbrella Treasury April 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I’ve actually been wondering the same thing about the relationship between home ownership and the American Dream. In a lot of cases today, I think home ownership isn’t the best option. People move much more frequently now than they did 50-70 years ago.. When I was growing up, we moved to a completely new city every four years. My parents bought a home every time, and I imagine they must have lost a fortune.

    This may sound like a stretch, but I think the tie between the American Dream and home ownership goes back to Manifest Destiny. That there was something quintessentially American about staking claim to land and property and calling it your own. That there was a link between home/land ownership and your identity as an individual and perhaps even as a citizen.

    Could be way off base! #NotAHistoryMajor

    • Reply Joanna April 16, 2013 at 3:17 am

      That’s a really interesting theory! Something worth thinking about for sure. I do think there’s a part of the American spirit that wants something to call our own. It’s a way of expressing our freedom. It’s MY house and MY land and I’m free to do with it what I will. While that mindset worked in the 19th century before people had mortgages and debt and problems with overspending, it has ended up being problematic at times in our modern day and age.

  • Reply Laurie @thefrugalfarmer April 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Great question, guys, and great comments too. The other thing about homeownership that makes it not all that great is eminent domain. The govt. really can come and take your house anytime they want if they deem it necessary; another downside to home ownership. We used to be hard and fast believers in owning instead of renting, but these days, I’m not so sure…..

    • Reply Joanna April 16, 2013 at 3:08 am

      Yeah, I’ve heard a few instances of that happening, and it just seems super messed up. Luckily, I don’t think most people have to worry about that happening to their homes. Everyone has their own pros and cons of buying and renting, and you just gotta do whatever’s best for you!

  • Reply Chris April 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Haven’t you heard? The new American Dream is “just getting by.” Pessimistic, I know. I’ll have a down payment in November, but I am still on the fence whether I want to buy or not. We will see how the economy is by Q3 and what the outlook is.

    I think that home ownership has been glorified too much. It’s not the endgame anymore.

    • Reply Joanna April 16, 2013 at 3:04 am

      It’s a Monday, so I’ll let your pessimism slide just this once. The main thing holding Johnny and me back from owning a home is not having quite the down payment we want and then not knowing whether we’re going to be in one place for a long period of time. If both of those ducks are in a row for you, though, it might just be the right move! But even still, it’s a ginormous decision, so good luck with deciding.

  • Reply My Financial Independence Journey April 15, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    I think that the American Dream is simply doing better than your parents did. To that end, I am living the dream I suppose.

    As for home ownership.. I don’t know. My parents owned their home. Never ending pit of maintenance. All of which turned into DIY projects. My coworkers own their homes. Never ending pits of maintenance which means that everyone has various contractors and construction workers at their home all the time. I really don’t see what’s very dreamy about all that freaking maintenance. And let’s not forget the unbounded joy and pleasure of yard work and snow shoveling if you’re unlucky enough to live in the North.

    Dreamy is calling the office and saying “fix my sink” and when you come home from work, your sink is fixed.

    • Reply Joanna April 16, 2013 at 3:00 am

      I can see how doing better than your parents is The American Dream in a sense. I think most parents want that for their kids and make sacrifices for it to happen.

      I agree with you on the maintenance aspect of home ownership… it’s so nice knowing for sure we won’t have any extra home-related expenses each month! That said, I still think once a person is financially ready, the pros of home ownership outweigh the cons.

  • Reply Emily @ evolvingPF April 15, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I’m not excited about owning a home except for the potential investment aspect. I just don’t really care that much about customizing the space I live in or whatever. We like to be comfortable in terms of square footage and amenities but I’ve never had the desire to paint a wall. Maybe we’ll feel differently when we finally do own a home, but from this side of things it just seems like a lot of work!

    • Reply Joanna April 16, 2013 at 2:56 am

      I think everyone has different reasons for wanting to own a home. I’m sure I won’t even realize some of the perks of home ownership until we’re actually homeowners! For now, we’re happy renting, and it sounds like you guys are, too!

  • Reply Michelle April 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I love my owning my home!! I love it for the following reasons: I bought small and wisely. I live in a 495 sqf condo in a triplex. It is the garden level unit. It gets really warm during the winter when the other unit’s heat is on. It’s really cool in the summer. It doesn’t get a lot of light until the sun is on the west side of the building. My mortgage is $600 a month and I pay a little bit extra each month on top of that. It’s in one of the best areas in Denver. I love that no one can walk in my home and disturb my privacy. My sanctuary. My landlord kind of sucks because she’s slow about fixing things (oh wait-that’s me!) I just feel empowered in my home in a way that renting didn’t give me. There ARE downsides! My HOA of three sucks (I’m the President). sometimes my place is a little noisy. But, it has created a since of stability for me that most people seek . If I decide to sell the place I will make quite a bit of $ because it has appreciated throughout the Recession. The key is buy something for 1/2 the amount that you could be loaned! Look for charming and slightly awkward places and make them yours. There are a lot of diamonds in the rough. My place was a diamond in the rough, I just had to have a vision for it. DON’T OVER SPEND!! I could work at Starbucks and afford my place. I am now thinking about buying a new place in 2 years and renting this one out. Can’t wait!

    • Reply Joanna April 16, 2013 at 2:54 am

      I love hearing about such a positive home-owning experience, Michelle! It sounds like you did things the right way for yourself. You’ve got your own little sanctuary, which is what a home should be. And you’ve got some awesome advice… not overspending is key!

  • Reply Ellie April 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Great post – loved reading all of the comments. As someone who got burned in the housing market, I say take your time and dive in the way YOU feel most comfortable. When we were buying we heard a lot of “it is the best investment you will ever make”…until it wasn’t.

    A huge AMEN to those of you posting about reevaluating the American Dream. It is important to tune out what America is saying to dream for and to focus in on your specific situation and what is best for your family. None of my good dreams include stress and worry. I have found that after downsizing and living on less than we have ever had (but a lot more faith!), I am happier than I have ever been – and have realized that that is my dream. It is so hard to keep things in perspective sometimes!

    Look forward to reading more about this journey for you and the rest of the readers!

    • Reply Johnny April 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      We’ve got that “best investment” line advice flying in from all directions, despite the fact that it hasn’t been a very good investment for a lot of those giving us the advice!

      Thanks for the comment, Ellie.

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls April 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Sorry this is long…

    After what we experienced with our last home, I would be very happy to never have to own a home again. Unless you buy it outright, you own NOTHING. I learned the hard way that even when you start out with a nice down payment, a monthly payment that is within 25-30% of your income and you have an emergency fund that it all can be ripped away through no fault of your own. We lived in CT and in 2007 with our first baby girl on the way, we bought a condo for 245k. We did everything we were supposed to. However, when our daughter was born my husband’s company got bought out by another located in RI. For 7 months he commuted 90 miles EACH WAY to an from work. While they gave him a small stipened for gas it was when prices were over $4/gallon. They relocated us with all sorts of promises that never came to fruition, we were paying rent, I had no job and we couldn’t find a renter. We decided to cut our losses and go back to our home where I got a good job and he continued commuting. Soon after moving back, we found out baby #2 was on the way and then he lost his job 2 months before she was born. Expenses doubled as income was cut in half. We were too late to do any refinancing and it was before all the programs and the government started holding the mortgage companies feet to the fire (not that I agree with that) so we had to sell nearly everything we owned to fit our stuff into a 6X9 uhaul trailer and leave the home we had brought our daughters home to and moved 900 miles away from nearly all our family. We had to live with my mother for 2 years, but hubby was able to find a job and I got promoted. However, we were still making only 75% of our former income. We finally got back on our feet and got into a rental home. It is gorgeous and when something goes wrong, someone else has to deal with it and pay for it. 3 mos into our lease hubby was out of work again for six months. Then he got a new job and I was laid off (luckily with severance). Now we are both working but our income is now HALF of what it used to be.
    Honestly, the house was the catalyst to the worst 5 years of my life (when they should have been the happiest, bringing our daughters into the world). My husband would like to buy again, but in this day in age you have to be able to pick up and go for the best opportunities and unless we have at least 50% down I will not do it!

    • Reply Linda April 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Wow, thanks for sharing your story, and I’m glad to hear that you’re back on your feet.

      Stories like this encourage me to rather play it safe and rent rather, our mortgage would only be 30% of salary as well, but if one of us loses our jobs we would be skating on pretty thin ice.

    • Reply Johnny April 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Such an incredible story. Thanks so much for sharing it. I knew bits and pieces of your story from other comments (your two girls and your bounce back after losing your job), but the whole story is really something else.

      Congrats on overcoming so much and thanks for your words of wisdom. Clearly they come from hard experiences, so thanks for sharing them.

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone April 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    But…your reasons for wanting to own a home someday are totally possible without owning! I live in a rented house currently: Yard, check! Dog, check! Painting walls as I’d like, check! Garden, check! The reason I would like to own a home is for the investment. Right now I pay my landlord so that he can pay his mortgage and property taxes and someday sell the home to make a profit. Yes, I get a place to stay in return, but I’d like it better if I paid the mortgage and property taxes and had a place to stay AND had the option of selling for a profit.

    • Reply Johnny April 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Sounds like you’ve found the perfect rental. We need to figure out our want list and get after it with our next one. And as far as the reason to eventually own, you’re spot on. We’d much rather our money be going to an investment instead of a landlord. But only when it makes sense (cents) to do so.

  • Reply slinky May 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    So this is a huge pet peeve of mine. When did the American dream become synonymous with buying a house?? The American dream isn’t something you do or buy or get or achieve. Its the idea that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”, whatever that may mean to you.

    That said, we’re loving our new house. Its old and it needs work and those are some of the best things about it. We are living the dream, right now, every day. Every day you are hard at work making your life into whatever you want it to be, ignoring the people that say you can’t do that, you are living the dream.

    • Reply Joanna May 13, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      Agreed. It is and always should be about potential. That you have the freedom to pursue opportunity and happiness.

      A fixer-upper sounds like an awesome American Dream project. Congrats to you guys!

  • Reply FI Pilgrim August 26, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Wow, I totally agree with this. My dad’s always said that if loans were not available then companies would find ways to make inexpensive houses and cars. I actually just wrote a post about downsizing our house and upsizing our lives, but it took me a few bad decisions to reach that conclusion. Great post!

    • Reply Johnny August 28, 2013 at 2:00 am

      Your dad is spot on. I’d rather live in that world than the borrow obsessed culture we currently have. I’m going to head over now and check out your downsizing/upsizing post. Love the premise.

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