Renting vs. Owning a Home: My personal story
The yellow five bedroom house with the red roof that I grew up in, is also the house that my father grew up in, although it was probably not yellow at the time. It is the house that my grandfather built, over 70 years ago. There are so many things that I learned about it after I moved away and I will always be infinitely grateful that my parents owned rather than rented their home. First, let me explain that my grandfather was a contractor. My uncles also went into construction and my father now holds the licence to a construction business in our family name. You could say that our family was and still is known for construction. It’s how the family made its money. But my father couldn’t stand the heat of 90 degree F day with a foreman telling him to pick and carry for 9 hours at a time, so he quit the building business altogether and decided to get into civil service. Civil service doesn’t pay as well as contracting apparently and so you could also say that we are one of the poorer branches of the family.
Owning your own home:
But the house my grandfather built and made sure my father, his youngest legal son got, meant that no matter how tough things were, and things were tough sometimes, we always had a home. I never really understood what that meant as child but I do now since I have had to rent a place to live. Owning your own home outright means that there is no bill every month for a mortgage. My mother worried about paying several mortgages on other properties that my parents bought over the years but there was never a knock on the door with a man behind it saying that if the money didn’t come we would have to leave by the end of the month. Instead my dad did the knocking on the units that my grandfather gave to his daughters, my aunts, who decided they would rather have ready cash than deal with the hassles of tenants. He wasn’t very good at the knocking. He still isn’t. I think it embarrasses him to ask for money even when it’s owed. I inherited that personality glitch even though I didn’t want it and hated it so much as a kid. We needed the income on the property to eat because my parent’s salary was taken up by those other mortgages I mentioned. When they didn’t pay, there were times we barely ate. I remember one particular meal where my mother stretched two or three pieces of lamb, with beans and rice, to feed our family of 7. Still, when you own the roof over your head, these problems are not intractable.
Why you rent as a student?
When you rent as a student though, it’s really tough. I left home and moved to Canada. I got an apartment so I could study and of course had no income. My parents had to pay the rent on my student apartment. I did what I could to keep costs low by renting out to people who were happy to just have a place to sleep. Still there were months they couldn’t pay the rent on my place, because of other people who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the rent on the apartment they owned. I learned about eviction notices and things that never occurred to me before, like how long how much time you have before you are obligated to show up in court after you get an evictions notice and that landlords threaten to change locks if they don’t get their money. Those were some of the most stressful years of my life I have to say. Eventually though, I earned the right to work and get off campus job. The money I get from working makes sure they roof stays over my head but I know it’s not the same as my roof. That’s not an illusion I have the luxury of having. It can be taken away if the money stops.
When I visit my family, I lie in my bed and look up at the mahogany stained tongue in groove ceilings of my room and I know that they are solidly my own. Barring a natural disaster, or an act of sabotage, there is no one who can take it away owning a home is a bulwark against hard times and a protection when everything else has failed. Renting has shown me that the stability of those four walls is what probably helped to bring me where I am today. Not having to pay a mortgage meant that my parents could pay for tutors, extra lessons, save a little to help me with university. If they didn’t have that house, if they had to rent, then neither I nor my siblings would not have been able to go to school. A home is a foundation than anchors generations. When my grandfather gave my father a home to raise his family, he was making sure his grandchildren would be taken care of. I hope that I can do the same one day for my own children. So for now, I am renting in this cold country but one day I will go home where my father has given me some land and my build my own walls, my own roof and God willing never rent again.