When we all adjusted to our new normal in the spring of 2020, I felt—and saw on Instagram—a spike in photos of cut-out cardboard keys with the obligatory, “we did a thing” caption. It seemed everyone was taking full advantage of the low-interest rates and becoming homeowners.
My husband and I never set goals or great aspirations to own a home, and it certainly wasn’t on our minds when I thought about what life could look like over the next few years. But similarly to the consumption of my first Natty Light in a smelly dorm room, or that time I almost bought a Gucci belt—because 2019—I felt the summation of peer pressure building. Are we crazy not to buy when interest rates haven’t been this low, like, ever?
After weeks of researching, saying the phrase “housing bubble” ad nauseam, and hours of honest discussion, we found ourselves at our starting point: we unapologetically love renting. Even if we had a disposable income and the confidence to buy without a second thought, we would still be renters.
We didn’t choose the renter life, the renter life chose us. And this is an open letter in defense of millennials who also love renting.
“But, You’re Throwing Your Money Away.”
To me, this statement has always felt short-sided and, at times, classist. This is akin to telling a couple that their relationship isn’t as strong and meaningful if they aren’t legally married. Marriage is not indicative of a happy home, and a mortgage payment is not indicative of financial wealth. And as with marriage and mortgages, not everything is for everybody.
Currently, we pay $1,600 for a 1-bedroom duplex in east Dallas. Though the home is not in our names, that money ensures that we have shelter, working electricity, and a home to nest. It’s been our office, lounge space, and gym in the last year, so our rent is absolutely working for us in a way that is most optimal to our lifestyle. So, at the most simplest of levels, our money is affording us basic survival. And that counts for something.
I also think this argument assumes that we’re not financially planning at all if we’re not owning or looking to buy. We both have investments, retirement funds, and accounts dedicated to our future selves, in full transparency. Sure, we want our money "to work for us," but we don’t necessarily want to invest in a home. Renting allows us to explore other financial avenues to generational wealth and financial planning.
“You’re at Your Landlord’s Mercy.”
But, aren’t homeowners essentially at their bank’s mercy? We won't get into that, as I’m here to keep things light.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: not all landlords were created equal. Some are grifters, and others are just a huge pain. We’ve been lucky with landlords in recent years, and it’s provided us a quality of life that we likely couldn’t afford—at least in our early 30s—as homeowners.
Our current landlord handles the lawn care, light painting requests, and updating the appliances every few years. With a good landlord, it feels like I cracked the cheat code of having some of the amenities of a hotel with the autonomy to define the rental’s aesthetic and feel. We’re able to operate as functioning adults—minus the parts that we’re not equipped to do or interested in doing.
We’re able to operate as functioning adults—minus the parts that we’re not equipped to do or interested in doing.
It’s the positive landlord-tenant relationship that allows me to have confidence as a homemaker. Last week, we experienced a storm that left our fence crushed under a tree. Not being known for my handy work or yard work, it was a relief to know our landlord would handle the damage most efficiently and safely as possible.
Though my husband and I could learn new skills or budget for a yard service—and yes, have more control on which plants are in the backyard—we’d rather sacrifice power for time, ease, and competency.
“Aren’t You Ready to Settle Down and Plant Roots Somewhere?”
Admittedly, this question has evoked a feeling of self-doubt in the past, likely due to my nuclear family upbringing tucked away in a suburb of a major city. The only time we rented was when we were waiting for a home to be built.
But, despite the risk of sounding like a typical millennial, I actually don’t want to settle down much. I enjoy experiencing different neighborhoods and cities. In fact, I’ve lived in 5 other Dallas neighborhoods over the last eight years and continue to appreciate the freedom to pick-up and move should life take a new turn. Recently, we had the opportunity to live abroad, and though we ultimately turned it down due to the current state of the world and family health, we had the freedom to make a decision based on desire and priorities, not housing markets and return on investments.
The idea of “planted roots,” for us is more about our connection with our current environment. Though unconventional, I’ve always embraced and chased change with vigor in hopes that I could reinvent myself and rediscover parts of myself over and over again. And I take that same approach with my home. Renting allows me space and flexibility to evolve in a way that feels most natural to me. I make decisions for my home; my home doesn’t make decisions for me.
From a design perspective, we could never afford to renovate or upgrade a house as often as we’d like. Though we incur moving charges—that become forgettable within a few months—we are able to find and live in a space that matches our design preferences. I feel I can be my most expressive self as a renter.
There are many reasons for renting. For us, it’s peace of mind, confidence as tenants, and flexibility that keeps us renting year after year. We have more energy and time for hobbies, weekend trips, and things that are most important to us right now.
We can leave space for open dialogue, curiosity, and putting a greater focus on what’s truly important: hosting game nights and making warm memories inside the home.
But, I think it’s also important to remember that the decision to rent (or not to rent) isn’t an invitation for unsolicited advice, especially regarding finances and lifestyle decisions. Instead, we can leave space for open dialogue, curiosity, and putting a greater focus on what’s truly important: hosting game nights and making warm memories inside the home.