In 1994, my husband and I built a fabulous home on a seven acre farm. We constructed a huge barn and filled it with critters and big boy toys.
Each weekend, we'd have a mile long to-do list: we'd plant more trees, paint fences, weed the garden, remodel. Our housekeeper spent half a day each week cleaning our home-- despite the fact that the two of us occupied only half of our total living space.
One financially reflective day in 2003, I calculated the total cost of living in our home. Due to our sweat equity, our mortgage balance was very low ($120k with monthly principle and interest payments of about $855), but once I added property taxes, insurance, maintenance and, especially, lost opportunity costs (home equity not available to earn money), it became very clear that our shelter "need" was costing us too much in life energy. The total cost for living in our home, including lost opportunity costs, was an astounding $60,000 that year.
That day was a turning point in my financial life. We discussed our options, sold our home and became renters. I took our home equity and invested in a well-diversified equity portfolio.
Our net worth blossomed exponentially. Some might find it ironic, but the day I officially became a millionaire, we were renting a small apartment.
By downsizing into a rented apartment, we had replaced our previous $60,000 annual shelter expense with one costing $9,000 per year. This huge reduction in spending quickly accelerated the growth of our net worth.
Our downsized move saved on other costs, too: the clubhouse, swimming pool and exercise room eliminated the need for our health club membership; our utility costs dropped dramatically; and our commute was shortened, cutting car transportation expenses.
The benefits were more than financial-- we enjoyed our first taste of freedom. We'd wake on Saturday morning with no to do list: no mowing, no repairing, no cleaning, no sweat. We'd sit smugly on our patio, enjoying our coffee and newspaper, watching the property management's landscaping and maintenance crews busy at work.
We chose to move into a house when we adopted our daughter. Currently, we rent a nice family home located across from a large neighborhood park. Compared to owning our previous house, our annual savings is about $44,500. How long do we plan on staying here? As long as our property manager comes when we call and no yappy dog moves in next door.
Important Update: Welcome! If you have arrived here via Lifehacker, Mental Floss, or are jumping into this conversation without any additional background information, you MUST read the following posts to completely understand the point of this post. Additionally, please read the information I offered in the comments sections.
Uncover The Truth About Needs and Wants is prerequisite reading to understand why I compare apples to oranges in this post. I discuss the difference between needs (basic shelter) and wants (such as a large home) and how understanding this concept can significantly affect your finances and lifestyle.
In Rent vs Buy: The Hidden Cost of Lost Opportunity, I explain why it was so costly, despite my mortgage payments being so low, to own my house. In a nutshell, lost opportunity cost is defined as the cost of something in terms of an opportunity forgone and the benefits which could be received from that opportunity.
In my post I Get Richer As A Renter, I directly compared apples to apples, using a comprehensive rent versus buy calculator, on one typical home. The calculator reported, "Your home purchase does not breakeven after 30 years."
Finally, in Dispelling The Myth That Home Ownership Is Your Best Investment, you'll find answers to common questions and objections.
Additional resources comparing renting versus buying:
Wall Street Journal: Your Home Isn’t the Nest Egg That You May Think It Is
New York Times: A Word of Advice During a Housing Slump: Rent
The Motley Fool: The Worst Investment Ever
SmartMoney.com: Renting Makes More Financial Sense Than Homeownership
CNN Money: Stocks vs. Real Estate
MSN Money (by SmartMoney): Why rent? To get richer
Priced Out Forever: Renting vs. Purchasing
Get Rich Slowly: Renting vs. Buying: The Realities of Home-Ownership
Consumerism Commentary: The Cost of Buying a Home Over 30 Years
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