Here’s my new story to tell when people ask, “How’s the real estate market?” My siblings and I just flew home from an Arizona trip to ready 90-year-old Mom’s house for market. The day our chores were done and the listing went live, we received an offer for $15,000 over asking.
We’d priced it right, so a quick offer wasn’t a surprise. But that extra $15K? For Mom, it’s several months of her fancy assisted living digs. The sale of her mortgage-free home guarantees her life in style. Magic!
I bought my first home when I was 25. A corporate girl making a good living, it made sense to me. What I didn’t realize then was how buying that condo was like putting the white rabbit in my top hat. That equity stayed with me all these years, property to property. I’ve had careers, and I’ve owned stocks and bonds. But nothing has helped me grow wealth like real estate.
Is timing everything in Home Ownership?
Even though interest rates in the early 80s were higher than 10 percent, my monthly living expenses were less owning than renting, and I could paint the bathroom any color I wanted. No brainer then? No brainer now! At the beginning of the month, Freddie Mac reported a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.88 percent!
I studied for my real estate license as a gift to myself when I turned 50. I chose it as an emergency backup career in case my husband died. But the surprise was on me. We divorced instead. Truth is, thanks to our real estate investments over 35 years, there was enough for both of us to live comfortably … individually.
I had no idea, statistically, the average homeowner has 44 times the net worth of a renter. The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances tracks that data every three years, and the number is rising.
Let’s face it: just paying a mortgage every month is savings. Home improvement is forced savings, too. I know because whenever I had an extra chunk of change, I spent it on a new roof or AC or put it aside for taxes. If my ex and I had spent all our income on hot cars and exotic vacations, my personal wealth as a single woman would be considerably less. Property owners have different priorities.
The luxury of staying put
I get calls all the time, asking if I have a property for rent. Landlords decide to sell and once again, it’s moving time–perhaps the best consideration for home ownership. The secure feeling in knowing you can’t be forced to move is more comfortable than a feather bed.
Earlier this year, I worked with a friend–also divorced–who decided at 72, it was time to have her own place. She enjoys working part time and wanted a place closer to the office. It’s never too late to take the home ownership plunge … for the first or the 10th time. She’s home in five minutes now. The smile on her face when she opens the door to welcome me? Magic!
If I wanted to, I could retire comfortably and live just on income from rental property. But I think I’m going to keep earning so I can afford a fancy place like my mom’s when I need it. I promised her: I’m not waiting until I’m 90 to have someone else take care of my every little whim.
Photo from Terri White