Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It Takes Money...

So, as part of our plan to invade Middletown, DE with an embodied, hopeful, subversive, gospel presence, we need a place to live. To that effect, we've signed a contract to purchase a townhouse. We will soon be homeowners.

Those that know me well, know that I've never wanted to own a home. Even when prices were rising astronomically, it never seemed like something that made a lot of sense. The recent economic issues have made it less of a sure thing, money-wise. Although we do have plans to be in Middletown for the long haul, so we're not exactly looking to sell in five years anyway.

Part of my reluctance had been selfish - I didn't like having to worry about yard work and home repairs. Part of it was the thought that we'd be in a city somewhere and really unable to afford such a luxury as a home.

However, given the current climate and situation in Middletown - lots of people who want to live there, but fewer who can qualify for a home loan - renting an identical home to the one we're buying would cost almost twice as much. Buying was a no-brainer - because even if the value of the home never increases, we're still making out well. In fact, buying a home rather than renting is the only way we can afford to make this move right now.

Still, I have a difficult time thinking of this as an investment. We're not buying this house to make money, we're buying it to have a place to live that we can afford. Is there a chance we'll make money on the home? Sure. Is there anything wrong with making money on the home? Not at all. Still, the mindset troubles me some.

Obviously, part of the current housing crisis was due to people buying homes they couldn't afford with the presumption that they could sell them for a profit in a few years without ever having to pay the bulk of the mortgage. In other words, people who made risky investments on homes.

I studied history as an undergrad - one of the basic conceptual frameworks we're taught early in our history studies, is that most people choose a specific lens through which to interpret history - religious, economic, social, or political. Each of these has some impact on how events unfold, but usually, historians choose one (consciously or otherwise) as the dominant factor.

I feel as though our society has chosen for us, these days. Everything is economic. We attempt to market everything and monetize everything. It leads to a fascination with value, efficiency, and return on investment. Not that these issues are inherently evil, but simply that we take them too far. I haven't read it yet, but I'm intrigued by what Michael J Sandel will say about this in his new book, "What Money Can't Buy: the Moral Limits of Markets."

All of this to say - I'd like to slow down the conversation a bit. We are agreeing to spend a lot of money on a place to live. We'll be paying for it for at least two decades (probably three). We have made a lot of economic considerations in the decision to buy it - mainly figuring out how we could afford to pay for the mortgage and upkeep on what we make. At the same time, our priorities are how well it fits our growing family and the ways in which our new home can be used to serve those around us.

I have never once thought of this home as an economic investment, but I hope our home can be an investment in the lives of those around us.

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