Virtual Voices

Renting way underrated

Economy

There is nothing wrong with being a long-term or permanent renter. Don't believe the hype. One of the reasons we are in the midst of a housing depression is the misguided belief that owning a home is always a good investment and that home ownership is key to experiencing the "American Dream." Both are false. Owning a home is not a good investment if you cannot afford to maintain it or if you are not the home-owning type. Owning a home does not necessarily create a better quality of life.

Pushing home ownership on those who are probably better suited to be long-term or permanent renters sets many people up to fail. The home ownership idol does not deliver, as we now see.

I have an engineer friend who earns a great salary and sold his house a few years ago because he didn't like being a homeowner. He disliked doing maintenance work, mowing the grass, dealing the all the extra bills, worrying about security issues, and so on. He sold his house and is now a renter with no plans to buy another home anytime soon. He invests his money in other areas instead of property because, as we have now seen, housing investments are not guaranteed to appreciate.

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Renters are people who want a certain lifestyle. They prefer the freedom of mobility, free from the hassle and worry of house maintenance, etc. For older generations, home ownership made more sense because of the romantic vision of "settling down" in marriage, buying a house with a fence, raising a family, and remaining in the same house for 30 years before retiring to a place that one really enjoys. For younger generations---most of whom will have four to six career changes during their lifetime---renting long-term makes more sense in many cases.

There are many people stuck in towns they hate and working jobs they no longer want because they bought a house that they cannot afford to sell. The value has tanked or they do not have the cash to prepare it for sale. How sad is it to be offered a fantastic job opportunity and turn it down because your house has you in residential shackles? Moreover, to be "house rich" and "cash poor" can no longer be sold as a "good investment." Is it not irresponsible to buy a house that you cannot afford, hoping that "someday" it'll pay off? What if your "someday" never comes?

People who are truly wealthy are not so because of home value appreciation. There are other areas to invest money and people should be free from the cultural mythology that harasses them to buy a house. Leave renters alone, because they are not throwing their money away as the myth portrays. If renters choose to rent, the economic trade-off is theirs and theirs alone to absorb.

Renters, I know you all value other things and the home-owning types just don't understand. When your family and friends ask you, "When are you going to buy a house," feel free to chuckle and say, "Maybe never." If you're not the home-owning type, there is nothing wrong with you.

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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