Monday, March 16, 2009

Ain't Nothin' Goin' on but the Rent

Delectables are bite-sized musings to mull over while marinating on the full-course columns posted here on the Delect Connect.

"There's more to life than being strapped to a 30-year mortgage," the message board commenter posted today.

The Huffington Post reader gave shape to a notion that has long loitered in my consciousness without proper analysis.

Owning a home is the undisputed bedrock of the American dream. It just is. Yet, its' position on my priority list is right down by getting the spider veins removed from the inside of my left thigh. The only reason home ownership even makes the list is because, well, it's supposed to. To say or desire otherwise is taboo, even a little silly. Who doesn’t want a house? Get a mortgage or die trying.

I've often said, even on this site, that I'd rather live in a condo high rise than a crib with a driveway. I didn't realize until today that that was the nonconformist in me, wrestling to find a compromise with this American ideal. Owning a condo doesn't require all of the responsibility of owning a home; and maybe to me that takes away some of the permanence of owning a house.

Permanence. I understand the financial benefits that come with home ownership, and having space and adding on and painting and planting trees. I get it; I grew up in a house with all of the above. But a 30-year mortgage? Of course, many people don't stay in the same home for the life of the loan, but for those who want or need to relocate, they can't give a house away in today's market. People are turning down opportunities, jobs, and happier lives because they're stuck in their mortgages. That's horrible. It's economic slavery.

There's more to buying a home than equity and refinancing. Buying a home means settling down. At this stage in my life, I don't even know where I want to live. I'm in love with New Orleans, but how can I set up shop without exploring Charlotte, Raleigh, Houston, and Chicago? I don't want to commit to something just because society or the Joneses or my birthday is telling me it's a buyer's market. I'm okay with taking my time; I'll know my "soulplace" when I get there.

And so, I'll continue to throw away thousands of dollars in rent for the time being, but at least I can pack and move in 30 days. No strings, no paperwork, no red tape.

Tis the price of freedom.