Why I Have Not Bought a House

Sometime in the next couple months my wife and I will likely purchase our first home. As a friend of a friend said concerning that and my values which I clearly convey on here about money and community, she said:

“Isn’t that Hypocritical?”

The honest truth is, it might be. For the next few days though, I want to try and articulate some of what has gone into the decision and where we hope to go in the future. In hopes that even friends of friends will continue to hold me to the values I acknowledge and convictions I have.

In our current culture, I think it’s probably important to start with why I have not bought a house before I even begin to discuss our decision to buy. I’m not sure how many reasons I’ll list so I’ll just use some bullet points.

  • Debt is a Bad Thing. In our consumer driven, credit-card swiping society, I think this statement is becoming more and more uncommon. As the value of your almighty ‘credit score’ increases people are becoming more and more convinced that debt is good (not ridiculous debt of course, but where do you draw the line?). In my journey of questioning our culture and continually checking my faith to Scripture rather then society I feel the statement above is quite obvious.
    [sidenote: Did you know the quote, “The borrower is slave to the lender” is actually by Benjamin Franklin? (update: actually proverbs 22:7 is pretty close)]
  • Renting Makes Sense. People tend to talk about buying a house like it’s a no-brainer and that renting is ‘throwing away your money.’ First of all, buying a house causes you to ‘throw away’ money on closing cost, interest, mortgage insurance, taxes, and more. In the same way that insurance can sometimes make sense because it transfers the risk to the insurance company for a small fee, renting put’s the risk of house problems and cost into the hands of your landlord (Which has been a might good idea in my opinion).
  • A House is a part of the ‘American Dream.’ And, as you know, I’m quite skeptical of the U.S.A. Dream. I do know too many young people who have stepped into home ownership, with the support of friends and family and church members, and gotten in way over their heads. That dream forced them into jobs and hours they didn’t want, projects and expenses they hadn’t planned on, and ultimately consumed much of their lives.
  • Home Ownership is available to the privileged. Many in the world do not have the resources to own a home, why should I? Why participate in a profit driven, redlining discrimination, capitalist market, that only some can afford to be a part of?

I think there are more reasons but we’ll leave it at that. Here’s the honest, but possibly hypocritical part of this. I think at this stage buying a home is the wisest decision for my family and for building community, but I recognize that it’s entirely possible I’m twisting my values to justify my selfish behavior (I don’t think I am, but I recognize I’m not a purely righteous person). Therefore, I leave it up to you, friends and readers, to challenge me, converse with me, and help me think through this decision while keeping with my values and trying to follow.

7 thoughts on “Why I Have Not Bought a House”

  1. There is not a cut and dry, “this is what a family should do”. We rented for 13 years. We didn’t really have a choice. It was a divine moment that brought us to a place where we could buy. I don’t think that having a house debt that has only accrued value to us was a poor use of our stewardship. Conversely it has freed us to give in many ways. We certainly wrestled with each of the issues you have described.

  2. @Andy: Thanks for commenting. I agree there is no cut and dry answer. I do think there are so few people willing to suggest differently then the societal norm and thus most people think ‘what a family should do’ is to purchase a home.

    I’m amazed when I think about how many resources could be freed up if most people in churches owned their own homes.

  3. Regarding your last two points, I would be careful not to confuse the symptoms with the causes. The major problem with the American Dream is greed and materialism. The question that should be asked is not whether buying a house is a part of the dream, but whether you are buying a house out of greed and materialism, and will buying a house encourage you to live out of greed and materialism.

    And as far as renting goes, even through renting, you’ll be participating in that system. It’s just one more symptom of a spiritually broken world.

    I think the question boils down to the following:-

    Houses have and continue to be used in ways that dishonor God and hurt God’s people.

    If I own a house, will I be using it to dishonor God and hurt God’s people? Will I be contributing to dishonoring God and hurting people? Is there a way to own this home in a God-honoring and loving way?

  4. Richard,

    You make a very good point. I completely agree one of the questions we should be asking is how to own a home in a ‘God-honoring and loving way.’

    My point with the ‘American Dream’ was (and I’m sorry I didn’t make this more clear) that I don’t want to appear to be promoting the American Dream. You know the whole, ‘avoid even the appearance of evil’ kind of thing. I don’t want people to be confused by the message. And the reason I mentioned the difficulty it’s caused people is to say that there are a lot of people who own homes and whether they are honoring God or not, the message that is conveyed without saying anything is, it’s good to own a home.
    Does that make more sense?

  5. While I agree with most of what you said, I have to disagree with the point about “the american dream”. It’s not about that at all. It’s about having a property to live in that’s paid off by the time you are in retirement because it’s difficult to afford a housing payment on social security. (especially when there are prescriptions and healthcare that is so expensive these days)

    It’s really about planning for the future and trying to make your retirement as payment free as possible. This only works though if you stay in the same place for 30 years. If you move around you loose 5% of your value to relators every time. (that is a lot of lost cash)

    I also think people act differently when they don’t have a morgage or rent payment to fulfill every month. You do things with your job and career because they are right for you and what you believe in, rather than doing anything to keep the cash coming in because you have housing to pay for.

  6. I disagree, with the last statement. Even if you paid your house you would still be paying taxes every year on your house. In New Jersey property taxes are a lot. Add to that the fact that utilities are considerably more for a house than apartment as well as maintenance and repairs. I would prefer the landlord deal with the risks. I like the efficiency of a smaller abode as well, easier to clean, renovate, furnish, etc. Buying a house only make sense if you buy it outright otherwise you are giving your money (interest) to a wealthy person who did nothing except put his money in a guaranteed investment. In those 30 years it took to pay your house you might have paid the bank back 2 – 3 times its value, does that make sense? God prohibits transactions that contain interest. This prohibition can still be found in the bible although much of the bible has been changed from the original words of God:

    In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the story of the servant who did not increase the talents given him by his master:

    “His lord answered and said unto him, ‘Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury.'”(Matthew 25:27)

    Jesus affirms just banking and just interest:

    “Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?” Luke 19:23

    From true words of God:

    Those who eat Ribâ (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitân (Satan) leading him to insanity. That is because they say: “Trading is only like Ribâ (usury),” whereas Allâh has permitted trading and forbidden Ribâ (usury). So whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Ribâ (usury) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allâh (to judge); but whoever returns [to Ribâ (usury)], such are the dwellers of the Fire – they will abide therein. (Al-Baqarah 2:275) To learn more http://spubs.com

  7. I am thankful I have stumbled into this blog.We are first time home buyers from a third world country but we are legal aliens and our jobs are stable. My husband and I gave earnest money to a builder but after carefully examining the good faith estimate of the lenders, we realized that we could not afford the house. But the builder says they could not accept that as a reason so they won’t be refunding the 1000$ we gave.What do we do next?Thanks a lot!

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