Day 19: The 5 Middle Class Traps — Home Ownership (4/5)

Since leaving Oregon to attend university, I’ve lived in the following cities (criteria: at least 2 months of habitation in one location):

  • New Haven (CT)
  • New York City
  • Portland (OR)
  • Alhambra (CA)
  • Irvine (CA)
  • Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)
  • Pittsburgh (PA)
  • Seattle (WA)

In each place, I’ve gained invaluable experiences and memories. While I’m certainly loving the life and community I have in my current city, I wonder if there are still more places for me to discover.

If I were encumbered by my home instead of enriched by it, however, would the scope of my adventures be limited to a cul-de-sac?

Money: Housing prices vary depending on where you are in the country, but there are always considerable. For example, a 2,000 square foot home not far from where I live in Seattle goes for just under $500k, but compared to a similar-sized property in my wife’s city of Grinnell, prices generally hover around $285k.

Presuming one should save up at least 20% for a down payment and maintain a solid credit rating, collateral, etc., that’s quite an investment for a residential property. Most people claim its their lifelong dream to own a home, but some dreams come with a hefty price tag.

Still, I don’t think money is the biggest expense in home ownership…

Time: Thirty. Year. Mortgage. I can’t seem to plan my life beyond one or two years anymore, much less a commitment that lasts for half of my expected life span. (I’ve eaten a lot of trans fats over the years, so I’m not optimistic.)

Sure there are ways to “get out” of such deals, but according to my experiences in the game of Monopoly, such transactions rarely come cheap, and some I end up in jail after it all.

Health: Hm, a bit of a toss-up here. While renting, much of the burden of providing safe accommodations falls on the landlord. On the other hand, some people feel more secure owning their own property.

I’m open to any research study that claims one is “healthier” than the other, controlling for all other variables.

Alternative: If you’re going to buy a house and you have a little bandwidth, consider the landlord life. There is always a demand from people who want to rent out their properties, and for good reason: they’re making a profit.

Otherwise, you can join me and the rest of the “suckers” who acknowledge the need for an agile lifestyle, including the ability to migrate at a moment’s notice when an opportunity (or a calamity) arises.

That’s exactly what happened to me the last time I moved.


Write with intention. Think with compassion.