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Rent Vs. Own: Should I Keep Renting or Buy (Again)?

I know now that I never should have bought a condo in San Francisco, that I don’t fit the profile of someone who should buy real estate and my goals are not aligned with the commitment of owning a home. But sadly I made that mistake way back in 2007—long before Jane Hodges wrote Rent Vs. Own.

I was raised by two members of what Jane calls, Team Own. I called them “Mom” and “Dad.” My family lived in the same ranch-style house for over twenty years and when my parents were ready to retire, they sold it for a tidy little profit and moved to their dream condo on the beach. They taught us everything they knew about life and one of those truths was: Buying a home is a smart investment.

And so in early 2007, following in their footsteps and with the very best of intentions, I bought a condo in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. At the time, the national real-estate market was rumored to be overheated but I wasn’t too concerned. Real estate had always been a solid investment and there seemed to be no shortage of people wanting to live in downtown San Francisco. It was only a one-bedroom so I knew I couldn’t live there forever. The plan was to stay for five years max, and then sell it for a decent profit and roll that money into my new, bigger place.

(Cough, cough.)

Well, you see where this is going. Flash forward to 2011. The housing market has crashed and San Francisco has a glut of new condos on the market. Worse still, my circumstances had changed and I needed to sell my condo. I wasn’t “under water” on my place but I still had to sell at a loss, which was a tough pill to swallow. And even as I write these words a full year later, I see that the Zillow estimate of my condo hasn’t improved all that much.

When I first heard that we were publishing a book called Rent Vs. Own, I tracked down the team working on it to beg for an early copy. You see, even though I had a bad experience with owning, I must confess that I still felt a little guilty about renting. Am I missing my chance at the American Dream? Is renting really a good financial decision? Aren’t mortgage rates at an all-time low?

Needless to say I devoured the book. Jane believes the world can be divided into Team Rent (people who believe in renting), Team Own (people who believe in owning) and what I would call The Rest of Us, people who aren’t sure what makes the most sense for them. She does not take sides with either team and instead presents the pros and cons of each scenario so that you can make the right decision for you. And she does so with smart, engaging writing that did not soar over my head like so many real estate articles.

Thanks to Jane, I’ve realized that even though I was raised by Team Own, I’m really more of a Team Rent—at least at this point in my life. It’s just me and my tiny dog. I prefer the flexibility of being able to move if my neighborhood gets too noisy or my train service is cut back. And that’s okay. My sister, on the other hand, is Team Own and I’m so proud of her. That’s okay too. What’s important is to figure out who you are and make smart financial decisions with your goals in mind.

Want a sneak peek of the book? Hop over to our Facebook page to see the 8 questions everyone should ask themselves when trying to decide between renting and owning a home.

Ali Presley
Online Marketing Manager

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2 Comments

  • Kate W. March 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Wow! I had no idea you're a recovering Team Owner. Fascintating! One of the simple things (among the many complex things) Jane's book clarified for me was if you're still relatively unsure where you'll be in 5 years, or even 10 years, it likely doesn't make sense to buy. It kind of relieved me since I'm an east coaster living in California with no idea where I'll end up. I feel relief knowing it's OK–better than OK–to keep renting.

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  • erica March 29, 2012 at 10:40 am

    As the owner of a TIC (tenancy-in-common) in San Francisco, I must say I wish I was not part of Team Own. A condo would actually be an improvement – TICs are hard to sell, hard to rent out, and hard to own!

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