Thoughts on Home-owning

My wife and I have owned our house for the past couple years. Obviously, that’s far from affording me any sort of expert status, but it’s something I had already spent several years thinking about before we purchased, so I wanted to share some reflections.

Basically, I think home ownership is a good thing.

Of course, I need to clarify that I don’t think it’s the best choice for every person at every moment. If your education or career is at a stage where you will need to be able to move in the very near future, or if you aren’t confident you will be consistently able to make mortgage payments, then you probably still have some work to do before you buy.

But even for those who aren’t ready yet, I think it’s something to work toward.

There are all the typical financial reasons, and those are true, and wonderful. Rather than saying goodbye to your money every month as it goes to a landlord, you are paying down a loan and building equity. You’re wealthier with every passing month.

And paying down a mortgage is also, as they say, an enforced savings plan. The equity you’ve built in your house is much more difficult to access than the money in your savings account or probably even in your retirement accounts, so it’s much easier to leave it there and let it grow, rather than diminishing it prematurely or unwisely, as we’d otherwise be tempted to do.

But the things that make me most excited about home owning aren’t financial. They are actually, so to speak, spiritual.

Owning a home is ennobling. It imparts an invisible dignity.

As a renter, you are constantly trying to stay in your landlord’s good graces, even when they treat you badly, because you know you might need a good reference from them, and there are certainly some unvirtuous landlords out there who do not deserve the deference they command.

And the whole time, you’re living in a house owned by someone else. When you hammer something into the wall, you’re hammering it into their wall. If something breaks and needs to be repaired, it’s their broken item, and they’re in charge of paying to have it fixed.

I’m overstating a bit, of course. This isn’t what life is like every day for a renter, and there are some good and upright landlords who can be a pleasure to work with.

But if there ever is a conflict, or a possibility of a conflict, the renter is reminded of the imbalance in the relationship, and over time I do believe that can have a negative effect.

Home ownership is an escape from that state of affairs, and if that’s all it were, that would be plenty.

But I think there’s something more, as well. I believe that there’s a part of the human soul that flourishes when it has something to call its own.

Last summer, I went for daily walks around my neighbourhood with my son in his stroller. As time passed, I found myself looking at lawns, and porches, and gardens, and fences and hedges, around the different houses that we passed.

I’ve done a lot of walking outdoors in my life, and I’ve never paid attention to those sorts of things.

What had changed? I have a house of my own now. I have no idea how long we’ll be here, whether a job opportunity might force us to sell the house sooner than we’d intended to. But while we’re here, I want to be proud of this place. I know absolutely nothing about making a house beautiful, but I want to learn.

Deep in my heart, I know I want to make this property a little garden of Eden for myself and my family. I want this to be a place of peace and enjoyment and leisure and beauty. Since it’s my house, I don’t need to ask anyone for permission, and even if it takes me half a decade to figure out the skills I need to make it happen, I have the time, and I intend to learn those things.

I believe that’s a good state for a person to be in. And that’s the real reason why I feel that owning a home is a great good.

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