h2>Dating : Home ownership and a love story
Neither home ownership nor love always last, but a well-built house will.
We’ve seen the articles about how much better it is to rent than own property. We’re reminded that houses need repair and upkeep, maintenance costs are high and the return on our investment is low. By renting an apartment, we’ll be free to live our lives without worrying that we need to replace the furnace or the roof. Except that renters do pay for maintenance and utilities. They pay the salaries of the employees of the property management company, the rent and utilities for the offices of the property management company, the profits of that business, and the return on the investment for the people that own the property management company, usually a real estate investment trust. As their costs and profits go up, so does rent.
There is a better way, but think needs to change.
This is the story of a house built on love.
The picture above is the house my parents built in 1946 for about $1,500. It’s a two bedroom bungalow in a pretty good neighbourhood. In 1946 there were about 200K people in the city. Now there are over a million, but downtown is still within walking distance of this house.
When they designed and built this house, my parents had been married three years with no sign of any children coming along. They saw no need for a large house. They didn’t need a garage, because they didn’t own a car. There was plenty of space for the two of them, and the house was exactly what they wanted. There’s an extra bedroom, a little breakfast nook to have coffee and read the morning paper, and a built-in china cabinet in the dining room. It was perfect for a young couple.
By 1959, there were six children. The three oldest children, including me, slept on bunk beds in the dining room. Obviously, eight people crammed into 925 square feet meant crowded conditions for a few years. When my father was transferred to a different part of the country for a few years, they came to the realization that most of us would be teenagers when we returned. We would need a larger house, so they sold their dream house for about $10,000. At the time, it was a fair price. Over the years, the woman who bought the house built rooms in the basement, and rented them out to other single women. She lived there until she became too sick to live on her own. I don’t know how much she sold the house for, but it was certainly more than she paid for it. The third owner took out the basement rooms, but lived in the property until recently.
A few months ago, the house was again listed for sale, and the pictures on the realtor’s website showed that not much had changed inside. There appeared to be new windows and a new front door. The asking price was $245,000. I don’t know how much it sold for, but it was probably close to that. To put it in perspective, $245,000 right now might put a down payment on a home on the edge of the city.
When I drove by it a few weeks ago, it looked as though someone had painted the trim around the windows. Perhaps some work has been done inside. New kitchen cupboards would spruce it right up, and perhaps a washer and dryer would be nice to replace the clothesline in the back yard. Even without those improvements, it looks quite livable and very cosy. All 925 square feet of it. The house is solidly built, and may last another 75 years, with love. Maybe this owner, or a future one, will build a garage.
All three of those owners made a profit while enjoying their own home. None of them became rich that I know of. Of course there were repairs over the years that had to be done, and utility costs would have gone up. But the purpose of building or buying the home was not to get rich. It was to provide a comfortable home for a family, near downtown and near recreation facilities, at a reasonable cost. It did that.
Somehow, people have been convinced that three or four bedrooms with a pantry, a fireplace, three bathrooms, a front drive double garage and a fully landscaped lot is a starter home.
The profits now seem to be reaped by developers and Real Estate Investment Trusts. They do not build two or three bedroom bungalows. Somehow, people have been convinced that three or four bedrooms with a front drive double garage and a fully landscaped lot is a starter home. Two stories is the minimum height, often three.
I live in a city where urban sprawl is a problem. To counter this, there is a push to built infill housing, narrow homes that central but only use half a residential lot. The homes are called skinny homes. They’re boxy, mostly ugly, and they’re three stories high to accommodate the family room, the den, the two extra bathrooms and the laundry room. They’re built about 6 feet apart, and the prices start at about $350,000 and go up depending on the options you choose
I have to laugh when the skinny homes are marketed to seniors who are downsizing. They add a step-in bathtub so that we can bathe safely, while failing to realize that most seniors need everything on one floor. The narrower the houses, the steeper the stairs. That’s the dangerous part.
Cut out the bells and whistles.
I am not asking to go back to 1946. I’m saying that developers are in business to make a profit, understandably. However, they need to listen to people who are buying. Cut out the bells and whistles. We can add them ourselves over the years, if the houses last long enough for us to grow into them.