So often I hear people almost apologize as they admit they are renters. Perhaps that is because they know most people hear the word renter and visualize this:I refuse to apologize; I am a proud renter! But perhaps that is because I know rentals can look like this:If we bought our house when we moved to Nevada instead of renting, we would have paid at least $1100.00 more per month in house payments, several thousand a year in property taxes, and paid more for home owner’s insurance. We would also now be upside down in a loan, which would negatively impact our plans to move next year.
Soon after my husband and I married, we started receiving pressure to buy a house from family and friends. That pressure has steadily increased in the 21 years that we have been married. Friends didn’t understand why we chose to live in base housing rather than buy a house out in town. The main reason we didn’t buy a house is because I didn’t want to get stuck in some of the places we were assigned (90 degrees and 90 percent humidity with a chance of alligators is not my idea of paradise). And when my husband had orders to places that we liked, they were always too short to warrant buying a house. (The Navy allowed us to provide our children with many field trip opportunities by moving us cross-country 3 times in less than 2 years).
When we first made plans to move to Nevada, we seriously considered buying a house because we knew we would be staying for at least 5 years. But once we arrived and looked around, we could not figure out why anybody thought the houses were worth as much as they were asking (our only reasonable answer was that everybody must be on drugs). Instead of hanging our heads in shame that we were still renters, or succumbing to the pressure to buy a house before prices went up even more, we sent the following Christmas letter to our family and friends. Warning: I am a lot more obnoxious in real life and my husband is insufferable (I asked my daughter if I could print that and she said, “Yeah, I don’t think Dad reads your blog). Our Christmas letter went out with a PG-13 warning for drug references and thematic elements. Seriously!
Excerpts From Our Christmas Newsletter- 2005
Remember last year, when we were certain we would change our address as we purchased a plot of Nevada salt upon which to build a house? Well, in the intervening year, real estate speculators transformed Nevada, in the marijuana-addled id of hopeful California investors, from a desert into beachfront property without the inconvenience of an ocean. Nevada property values became more obscene than a Las Vegas family show. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to spend $600K on a 1 acre parcel of sand (and glass) on a former nuclear test site. Thus we are still renting the same small house. We did learn to translate the enthusiastic gushing of the realty sections of Nevada newspapers into reality, and we share that with you this Christmas to save you the trouble we had in understanding Nevada real estate newspeak. Keep in mind that Nevada is a desert [ETA: the italics mean my husband channels Sam Kinison and screams the word desert], and a popular one with prospectors, gamblers, smokers [ETA: In 2007 the voters banned smoking in most public places, which means you no longer have to walk through a cloud of smoke to pick up your asthma medicine at CVS], amateur chemists, nuclear physicists, and people who wish to live like slobs without incurring the wrath of the neighborhood association. Always be on your guard when offered Nevada “investment” property.
[Edited to remove all of the stuff about our children that you would find boring; our family and friends were not so lucky.]
And now, for your holiday enjoyment, and our little attempt to bring Nevada real estate prices back to reality, we offer you the…
Nevada Real Estate Newspeak Translator
“A quiet neighborhood” – the neighbors are all incarcerated.
“Custom home” – the previous owners converted the master bedroom from a crystal meth lab into an indoor kennel.
“Needs a little TLC” – a bulldozer.
“Needs TLC” – a thermonuclear weapon.
“River view” – near an irrigation and flood control ditch. You can get West Nile virus but you can’t get flood insurance.
“Easy access to BLM” – drunken hunters on ATVs in your backyard at 2 AM.
“Great starter home” – you’ll recognize it by the crescent moon carved in the door.
“Bring your horses” – it’s the only way you can reach the house.
“Investment property” – we hope you are dumb enough to buy it without seeing it.
“Well cared for” – most of the livestock manure remained outside the house.
“Historic home” – of ill repute.
“Access to electric power” – high tension wires bisect the property.
“Pump and septic as is” – a little cholera never hurt anyone.
“Water has been tested”- and it has a measurable half-life.
“Several good building spots” – mercury contaminates all the rest.
“Great for kids” – they’ll love playing on our radioactive mine tailings.
“Great for alfalfa” – nothing else can grow here.
“Great view” – of Nevada (see figure 1)
Figure 1. Great View (of Nevada)
My husband likes to take credit for bursting the housing bubble, but he also likes to take credit for convincing Donald Rumsfeld to resign (you actually have to be on our Christmas list to hear that story).
House prices have fallen significantly and instead of congratulating us for avoiding a financial disaster, family and friends are once again pressuring us to buy a house. I tell them that although it might look like a good time to buy, it is not the right time for us.
Factors that will NOT influence my decision to buy a house:
1. I will not buy a house to gain a tax deduction. I realize our country is built on our common abhorrence of taxation, however, I refuse to make an unwise financial decision for my family simply to save on my taxes.
2. I will not buy a house because I (or my parents) want to say I am home owner. Even though you get the privilege of paying home owner’s insurance, you do not actually own the home until it is paid for, until then you live in a bank owned home (Unfortunately too many of my neighbors are learning this the hard way).
3. I will not buy a house upon the advice of anybody who has any stake in the real estate market. As the markets were collapsing, there were real estate pundits who were predicting a brief dip and a quick rebound.
4. I will not buy a house as an investment. I want to live in a home, not an investment.
5. I will not buy a home because it has a “master retreat” with an Olympic size pool for a bathtub.
Factors I will consider when deciding to buy a house:
3. Do I plan to live in the home for more than 3 years?
4. If I have to move and I am unable to sell, can I afford to pay the difference between what I would receive in rent and the actual house payment?
5. Have most other buyers left the market? If you haven’t guessed by now, I am a serious contrarian!
This post has been linked to Works For Me Wednesday because as much as I would like to settle down, buy a house, and live happily ever after, I have to admit that renting works for me! It has allowed my husband to pursue his career without having to worry about selling our house if he accepts the next promotion. Renting has made it easy for us to move to a new home to meet the changing needs of our family. And it has allowed us to try out different homes so we now know exactly what we want in our “forever home”.
Note: We have been blessed to rent some fantastic homes, but I have not resided in either of the homes pictured above. Sadly, each of the bullets in the Nevada Real Estate Newspeak Translator is based on a home or property that we visited.