To rent or to buy?


Recently we had to make a big decision to continue renting for the next few years in hopes that the insane housing market would crash and give us a meager chance at affording a home or to just jump in and, with a lot of prayers, see if we could play this game and win.

At first, I decided that we hadn’t a chance in this state and we would just have to wait, continue saving like crazy and be patient for something to change in the world of real estate.  We live on one small income so that seemed like the only choice.

However, I kept reading about the real estate market and trends, I had my own crystal ball ideas of what was going to happen, and then the rents started soaring.  Bay area folk were flocking to Sacramento in droves…just as I had predicted.  Rents were rising with terrifying rates and with no rent control and housing prices were going up in increments of  $50,000 to $100,000 overnight.  Rents were rising in increments of $200 to $500 and more in less than a year.

I felt like there was nowhere to hide out the storm.  We were in a scary and unstable time and we had two children, two big dogs, and a cat to consider.

Then one morning I woke up and I heard that whisper of guidance that God gives one now and then.  It said, “Now is the time.  Hurry!”  As irrational as it seemed, I knew that when God speaks and says, “Go”, you go and you do it fast or you wind up turning an eleven day journey to the promised land into forty years like the Israelites.  I knew to not even question. I’ve learned a few lessons on blind faith and what I call faith jumping.  I felt a bit panicked and I got to work fast…and completely blind and ignorant.  I had a tiny window of opportunity somewhere and it wasn’t going to last.  But where?

The whole story is long and dramatic and I’ll spare us all.  The short of it is that we only qualified for a $130,000 loan.  In today’s market that is a real laugh and a half.  I looked far and wide and even a very run down shack in an ugly and unsafe neighborhood required at least $150,000 in Sacramento where we lived.

In the end we were blessed and it was by a small and fast closing window.  We moved to a smaller town that I hadn’t been crazy about 6 months ago and now that I’m here I love it.  We bid on a HUD house and because of the timing and the house being on the market past 10 days and no one biding that Monday or Tuesday night…we had victory and a new home the next morning.  It was all God working that magic and making it work and I now understand the urgency I felt because the timing was to the minute.  We now live in a house I passed up 50 times before everything else was removed and it was all that was left and it just so happened to be $135,000.  I now love this house very much and I’m so grateful that there is a Higher Power working for my best interest.

The whole journey from wanting a home of our own over 5 years ago to this point of sitting at my table in a house we own has been filled with obstacles, no’s, not yets, cleaning up a spouses credit, building my credit, saving and sacrificing, many false starts and employment issues, moving 4 times, not making enough, not qualifying for enough…then waking up one morning and knowing it’s time but everything that happens after that seems to say, “well, you’re completely priced out of the market and out of your league at this point.”  I cannot express how hopeless our situation seemed.  However, I’ve learned to listen to the guidance from up above and I always remind myself, “God makes a way where there is none.”  Something like that.  And it is true, true, true.

There is always that moment when everything is going wrong and you wonder if you really heard God’s guidance or it was just you talking to yourself internally.  I’m a control freak and many times I wondered if it was an urgency that I instinctually picked up on or just my controlling and impatient nature.  Turned out it was the timing that I was being pushed onward by and there really was a very real urgency.

Now that we have a home, I feel this huge relief.  We have housing security for my family and a mortgage that we can always afford.  I don’t have to worry about rents going up or a landlord selling our house.  I don’t have to worry about housing prices increasing or finance rates going up.

Owning a home means that I can paint all my rooms different colors.  And I did.  I can plant as many trees as I please, I can garden all over the place and go crazy with home improvements because it’s all ours.

I’ve rented all my adult life, 27 years.  I have had to ask permission to paint, to plant a tree, to fix something.  I have also invested so much money and time only to move a year later.  I have left most places in better condition than when I moved in and it didn’t always serve me but another.  And that is fine because I believe in karma and leaving things better than when we arrived.  It just becomes exhausting after a while of working hard and then having to leave something precious behind.

Having my own home I can now do all the things I write about.  I have planted all my fruit trees, I have put in my organic strawberry patch and veggie gardens.  I’ve rigged up my clothesline that my friend and editor mailed me the other day, and I have my compost started.  I can be as creative as I like, make memories and this time I will be staying and enjoying it all with no one that holds a deposit or housing stability over me.

Now, with that said, I know that not everyone can reach this dream at this time.  I want to offer hope and inspiration to those of you renting and wanting to own a home one day.

  • There are FHA loans for people with not great credit and you only have to put down 3% to 3.5% down.  HUD homes, even some foreclosures or short sales are a great way to get an affordable place.  The damage can’t be too much though or a bank won’t loan on it.  See if it qualifies for a 203k FHA loan (that is for home improvements and upgrades).
  • Fixer-uppers in a nice neighborhood are smart.  Some homes have great bones and just need cosmetic work.  If you do it yourself and shop around for less expensive materials and even free stuff you could do it under $10,000.
  • Consider a new town.  We actually moved into the town where my husband commuted to work.  Be open to a smaller town where the prices may still be low.  Consider a new state if you work from home or can transfer.  Just be open is all I’m saying.
  • Save like crazy.  Set goals, make budgets, learn to be super frugal.  My The Homemade Housewife is a great book for learning to be frugal and sustainable.  I even talk about home shopping and how to do it in there.
  • Dave Ramsey is a great source for financial advice also.  He has a website and books you can get at the library.
  • Pray on it!

With all that said, renting can really serve a purpose and be the wisest choice at times.  If you haven’t decided on a town to settle into renting is a great way to check out the place and not get stuck.  If you find cheap rent you can save for the home.  You don’t have to repair things and have the stress of insurance and fixing things, values going down, etc.  If the neighborhood goes sour or you stop loving the town you can just pick up and move.  Renting is easy, flexible, and non commital.

Owning is security for me.  For my husband it’s investing our money monthly instead of throwing it away on rent.  For me it’s having my own peice of home and land to go wild with in how creative I can get, building, growing, living.  For my husband it’s pride in providing his family with a home of their own.

My children love this house and have a special affection for it because they know it’s theirs.  It’s not big and perfect, however, it’s ours and that makes us adore it.  The dogs are even far more happy.  They can sense the stability of it all.

Stay tuned for more great ideas on this topic as I learn more and grow into home ownership.




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