By BEN GRABOW
Scripps Howard News Service
October 25, 2005
I will rent forever. I will move from apartment to apartment like some kind of hermit crab, forever seeking a shell that will accommodate all my stuff. I will never mow a lawn or rake a leaf. I will call a landlord every time something breaks. I really don't need to own a home.
I've made it this far without ever owning the place where I live. And thank God, because I'd never want to be the sole person responsible for my college dormitory. I don't think I could find a plumber in the Yellow Pages willing to excavate the kind of unholiness creeping in those bathroom pipes.
Really, I've had one kind of landlord or another for my entire life. For a while there, I had a landlady who cooked my meals, washed my laundry and even cleaned my room. Though the room cleaning was mostly done with a garbage bag, and in a fit of rage. At this point, I think I'll be perfectly happy to pay by the month and have someone on call to at least un-drip my sink.
What's so great about home ownership anyway? If anything goes wrong, you have no one to complain to but yourself. And if you can't un-drip that sink, you'll have to pay somebody to do it. Electricity goes out? You'll be paying somebody else for that. Raccoon lodges itself in the dryer exhaust, suffocates on lint dust and dies, filling your laundry room and eventually your entire house with dead animal funk? I don't know who you'll pay to fix that. But it'll probably be expensive.
Besides all those payments to wrench and solder and spackle and drain, you'll be making mortgage payments for the next thirty years of your life. And a mortgage payment, with its habit of taking a large chunk of your paycheck every month, has a striking similarity to a rent payment. It's like paying rent for thirty years with the ultimate reward of your very own raccoon-stinking real-estate that nobody else wants.
Of course that's assuming you stay in the same place for 30 years. Which is about as likely as keeping the same job for five years. Which is about as likely as... Okay, so I'm rationalizing. I'm stalling. The truth is, I'm scared. I'm afraid of buying a house. Because buying a house is a pretty scary prospect.
There's all the research and paperwork, finding a real estate agent, getting your credit reviewed, having the house inspected and appraised, deciding whether you want a five year ARM or a 20 year fixed or a 30 year fixed, and whether you'll take out an additional loan to pay off the PMI... And then the settling down! This could be the most frightening part - committing yourself to one piece of property and one city and one neighborhood. You have to stay in a place for at least five years to recoup your investment.
God, did I just say "recoup your investment"? Now THAT's scary. In fact, that's got to be the scariest part - home ownership is a big step towards (shudder) adulthood.
Really, I'm going to keep paying rent in apartments because I'm afraid of growing up and introducing words like "depreciation" and "equity" into my everyday vocabulary. I am essentially paying for my own youth.
Spending money to avoid growing up. Don't real adults do this all the time?
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