This is a guest post by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007.
A question I am often asked by my Ecuadorian friends is: “When are you going to buy a house and stop throwing your money away on rent?”
My answer: “Never – if I can help it!”
The common belief here is that if you rent a house you are just making your landlord rich and that home ownership is the only way to go.
I must admit that I also at one time shared that same view of renting. Before moving to Ecuador, I had been a proud home owner for some 20 years. After all, everyone knows that only poor, transient people rent houses and that stable, upstanding people own their homes. Well, I must be the poor, transient type because since moving to Ecuador in 2007 I have been a happy renter and have no intention of returning to the home owner camp.
Living in a rented house has brought me a level of freedom and a peace of mind that I had never experienced before. Consider these facts:
- I do not have to pay property taxes, mortgage payments, insurance premiums nor maintenance expenses.
- If something breaks or springs a leak, I just call the landlord and let him worry about the repairs.
- If there is something that is a little imperfect about the house, it does not bother me because, after all, it’s not my house and I don´t plan on staying in the same rented house forever.
- If noisy neighbors move in next door and I can’t put up with it any more or if the house develops a serious problem, such as a mold infestation (which actually happened in one house we rented here) we just pack up and move.
When the house starts shaking due to tremors, which occur here on a fairly regular basis, I don’t worry about the little cracks that form in the ceiling or walls nor do I lie awake at night wondering what to do if the “big one” hits and destroys the house. The other day during a particularly strong thunder storm, the window in my office began to leak. Was I worried? Did I climb up on the roof to find the source of the leak? I barely gave the pooling water on the floor in my office a second thought. It’s not that I don’t care, I just don’t fret about such things because, you know, it is not my house. I pay my rent, electricity and water bills on time every month and let the owner know about any problems that arise with the property and with that, I have fulfilled my responsibility toward this house.
A couple of years ago something happened that reaffirmed in my mind the wisdom of renting a house verses buying one: an expat couple we knew proudly gave us a tour of their new house that they had built north of Quito. It was their dream retirement home, built just to their specifications. However, a few months after our visit with them, we received word that they were desperately trying to sell their dream home due to a family problem in the States that required them to move back. At that moment I realized how much better it would have been for that couple if they had simply rented a house instead of investing so much money in a house here. They would have still had their money safely in the bank back in the U.S. and available for immediate use. Had they chosen to be renters instead of home owners, they could have easily moved back to the States without having the added anxiety of trying to unload a custom built house in a foreign country.
Since we are renters, we can pick up and move in one day and be set up in another house within a week. I don’t like moving, but the freedom of not being tied down to a particular house or neighborhood as well as not having the financial and mental burden of taxes, insurance and maintenance is well worth the time it takes to move and set up housekeeping.
I’m not saying that owning a home is all bad, just that renting has its merits and is worth considering if you are trying to simplify your life and reduce financial and mental stress. Home ownership has been called the “American dream”, but as they say… been there, done that. I am now quite happy to let others live the home ownership dream while I enjoy the benefits and freedom of being a renter.