Rent vs Own

It’s 3AM and I am listening to the low, pulsing hum of a freighter making its way up or down Puget Sound. The noise I’m hearing is the propeller churning up the salty water and the silence here amplifies the sound enough to wake me sometimes.

Expensive real estate along the Sound advertises with the popular slogan “view of the shipping lanes”, usually followed with an exclamation point. My little chicken coop home perches on such a property.

I don’t own the land here, or the building, and my rent, I am quite certain, barely covers the property taxes. I think about this often. Especially when I get news from Jay Shafer at Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. I’m particularly fond of his design called Harbinger and fantasize about building it myself.

That is until I think about buying land.

I’m spoiled here with the open space of the wetlands to the west. With the proximity to long, sandy beaches perfect for a morning stroll. With my view of the ships going by. And I don’t imagine affording such luxury as a property owner.

I’d rather make art than money.

Not that the two are mutually exclusive… but I have a pretty good idea about how much I would have to work to pay for land like this, and it’s not my idea of simple living. I’m also not convinced that ownership is the way to go.

My neighbor recently paused in his mowing to chat with me as I went walking. “You know,” he said, “you’ve got it figured out. Here I am spending all of my time taking care of my property and you’re out enjoying yourself.” We proceeded to talk about renting versus owning. Ten acres is a lot of grass if you choose to mow it. He could, I mentioned, pause in the seat of his mower and look at the shipping lanes. His laughter carried as he restarted the engine and I resumed my walk.

There are plenty of arguments in favor of ownership: an investment that increases in value while the payments remain the same; tax write-offs for mortgage interest; security.

But I’m thinking about the price tag for the recent remodel. The cost of the new refrigerator. And last year, the new roof. Repairs and maintenance are home expenses that I don’t have.

Sure, the rent goes up. However, so do the property taxes.

When I watch the sunrise light up the valley or watch the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains, I am certain that renting my bit of paradise is the best choice. My landlords like me and I like them. Things could change here and I might have to move, but in the meantime, when the ships pass in the night and happen to wake me, I’m thinking that I’ll just hum along.

Let me know if you think I should be singing a different tune…

9 Thoughts

  1. Fun to know you’re right across the wetland from us, and that we both hear those ships crossing in the middle of the night!

  2. Well… I miss my little Mutiny Bay farm, but I must say – the renting life is affording me a lot of freedom, a home PLUS an amazing office both for far less the mortgage price – and I am NOT pushing that mower any longer either!!! Wheeeee!
    Great topic and nice writing, my friend!

  3. This just in from Uncle Bob: Most people don’t really “own” their property, they are merely renting money from a bank, instead of property from a landlord.”

    Very thought provoking….

  4. The only thing I know is that every house I choose to buy eventually seems much too big for the cozy existence I dream of. Tiny House guy sounds interesting. The definition of “cozy and efficient” treads a fine line when there’s two of us. Thanks for the reminders.

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