Buying a House is Not My American Dream
Location Independence, Musings

Buying a House Is Not My American Dream

There’s a lot of talk about buying houses around here lately. Not for me, of course–buying a house isn’t my idea of the American Dream. But for many of the people close to me, it’s the next step in life that makes sense.

My brother recently bought his first house. My mom’s looking to move and wants to buy her next house in a different part of the state. A best friend of mine just made her first offer on a house.

Despite shifting paradigms, it seems that buying a house is still the thing you do at a certain age. That, and getting married. Having babies. Getting promoted in your career. Taking up new hobbies like pottery-making. Upgrading your car to something respectable. I recently turned 30 and suddenly I’m one of the only people I know that doesn’t own a home or have any plans to buy one.Buying a house is NOT my American Dream #locationindependence #freedom Click To Tweet

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, mind you. It’s all well and good that people take this traditional route in life. It’s beautiful, in fact. So long as it fulfills you, I say buy that house.

It just isn’t my dream.

I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt and am reminded of it frequently. As I drive around town, I see the enormous houses that have become the status quo in America and it sends a shiver down my spine. The mere thought of being responsible for something like that, well, it’s almost enough to put me right back on a plane with a one-way ticket to I-don’t-even-care-where.

The cleaning, the maintenance, the mortgage; the worry, the stress, the liability.

As someone who aspires to a minimalist existence, the excessive nature of houses in America makes no sense to me. Most people seem to want bigger, bigger, bigger when in reality we could all survive just fine with a LOT less space and use a LOT fewer resources in doing so.

Don’t get me wrong–I get the appeal of owning a house for most people. It represents so much more than shelter. I won’t even suggest that it’s purely a status symbol. Perhaps for some, a house does indeed represent success, but it also represents stability. It represents security. It represents the future. It’s the place where your children will grow up, where countless memories will be forged.

What you’re probably now wondering is whether, underneath it all, I’m really just a commitment-phobe. Having changed location every few weeks for the last several years, I can see how one might think that.

On the contrary–I’m just extremely committed to my own freedom of choice, and to me, owning a house is the antithesis of that.

To own a home in America, I’d essentially have to agree to give up the freedom I’ve worked so hard for in creating my location independent lifestyle. In case you haven’t heard, homes in America cost a whole hell of a lot these days–the median price of listed homes is $250,000. No, I can’t afford that and no, I don’t want to.

Then I hear the term “seller’s market” being tossed around and all I can think of is how much of my lifestyle I’d have to compromise in order to afford a mortgage, even in rural areas. My self-employed status. My flexible schedule. My ability to travel. My zest for life. My sanity.

I think about buying a house and in my mind, it equates to sacrifice.

Being a homeowner does not trump working a flexible job that I love, even if it means I’m earning less than my peers and living what many would consider a mediocre life.

I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t still irk me to hear people suggest that if I’m not saving up for my first home, I’m somehow failing. That if I choose to spend my money on things that provide value in other ways (like the life experience and perspective that travel brings), I’m being irresponsible.

I’m not saving up for a down payment, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to berate me for it.

Yes, we millennials hold different values than older generations. A growing number of us don’t want to buy cars and houses and instead spend our money on rent and frequent travel. The implication that we’re wrong for doing so is where I take issue.

Renting, contrary to popular belief, is not actually a waste of money. Buying a home, contrary to popular belief, is rarely the wisest way to invest your money.

Not to mention that those of us who choose to rent may have perfectly valid reasons for doing so–reasons just as valid as the ones used to justify buying. If I never plan to live in one place for too long, buying just doesn’t make sense. Likewise if I plan to be gone for much of the year (and traveling abroad will play a large role in my life for as long as I am physically able).

That being said, I really shouldn’t need a justification for not buying a house. My American Dream might look different from the next person’s, and both visions are okay. We can coexist, the renters and the buyers. We don’t need to change each other’s minds.

For me, the American Dream consists of creating a life that I’m excited to wake up to every day. Doing work that I’m passionate about. Making life a little bit sweeter for the people around me. Living each day with intention and experiencing as much of this wonderful world as possible.

Of course, I’m only 30 years old, and there’s no reason to think that my American Dream won’t change over the next few decades. Owning a house might indeed be in my future someday. People change, and so do circumstances.

Maybe it’ll be a tiny home. Maybe it’ll be a van. Or maybe I’ll be a renter for the rest of my time on Earth.

No matter what happens, I hope you can see beauty in the diversity of the American Dream, whether it’s enclosed by a white picket fence or not.

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  • Reply stephanie May 31, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Leah!
    What an amazing article. I can totally relate it. Sometimes I feel like people think that I am failing and irresponsible because I am not wanting my own home……but when I think about settling down somewhere ‘forever’ I get itchy. LOL
    Maybe I will change and want to settle down in a few years…but right now I can not imagine ‘beeing super excited about buying a house’..
    stephanie recently posted…Tips: How to get the best itinerary for your tripMy Profile

  • Reply Caitlin May 31, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Oh yes, girlfriend. Yes.

    Our situation is a bit different due to a disabled parent who at some point will be moving in with us, but we’ve now gone through the house buying process twice only for me to have an anxiety attack and back out of the deal. Funny enough, I would be way more comfortable having a child, then buying a house. The thought of owning a house makes me feel stuck. So yeah, you’re not alone. It’s not my dream either. And to be honest, home prices are ridiculous right now and the bubble is going to burst quite soon, so buying a home is a pretty stupid idea anyway.

    • Reply Leah Davis May 31, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      So true, what feels right to one person feels totally scary and wrong to another. I can’t imagine buying a home right now but some of my friends are totally gung-ho about it! And you’re so right about the prices being ridiculous.
      Leah Davis recently posted…30 Lessons from 30 Years of LifeMy Profile

  • Reply Yaz | The Wallet Moth May 31, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    This post resonates with me so much. I love being location independent, and the thought of being tied down to a house in one place is the last thing I want!

    I get what you mean about people thinking it’s the wrong choice as well – going against the norm always gets disapproval. The closest I can see myself getting to the American Dream of home ownership is converting a van into a campervan and travelling in my own home on wheels! I actually wrote a whole post about alternatives to home ownership if you want to check it out 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis June 1, 2017 at 10:50 am

      I’d love to check out your post! I’m considering other alternatives myself. Traveling in a van or camper is actually on our to-do list for the pretty near future, which, coincidentally, is a great way to save up money for something bigger down the road whether it’s a tiny home or whatever else!

  • Reply Katie June 1, 2017 at 6:36 am

    I feel that. After 13 years of living abroad abroad and travel, I will never buy a massive house although some land and a tiny home is a dream one day to have a bae half the year. We just bought our first van too and will be fitting it out shortly to be a mini camper

    • Reply Leah Davis June 1, 2017 at 10:51 am

      Haha you are pretty much describing my life! A camper is in our future and we are going to be taking a lot more road trips and eventually living on the road, too 🙂

  • Reply Leandra June 1, 2017 at 10:31 am

    I love this article! I’m turning 30 this year and feel perpetually “behind” on the American Dream. I’ve never wanted to buy a house though. Being so tied down terrifies me. I do get some surprised reactions when people find out I’m still happily renting a small pre-furnished apartment (they’re surprised I don’t want to live in my boyfriend’s house too… what can I say? I like my space.). The thing is, I’m equally in awe of people who are willing to take on a massive 3o-year loan. To each their own. 🙂 Anyway, I appreciate your perspective!

    • Reply Leah Davis June 1, 2017 at 10:53 am

      I love the idea of renting a furnished apartment! I have no desire to own a bunch of stuff I’ll eventually have to move or get rid of, so it’s ideal to me. That being said, I’m about to move into a place with my boyfriend and we’ve had to collect a few things. Luckily, we’re not attached to any of it (most of it we got for free or cheap) so downsizing will be easy when the time comes. Haha no shame in not wanting to share space with your SO just yet!

  • Reply chewy June 1, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I totally agree with this. My older sister went the traditional route, and now that I’m about to move out of my childhood home without a full time job, she is concerned for me. I don’t see anything wrong with it, since I have some money saved up that will get me by until I get a job or find a stable source of income.

    I’m wasn’t saving that money for a house, or a wedding. I was saving that money so I could do the things I want to, like travel, or move in with my friends. I’m turning 32 with no prospects of marriage or home ownership, so why should I be saving for them?

    Let’s stop the financial shaming! Thanks for writing this!!
    chewy recently posted…Two awesome weeks: Sri Lanka travel guide, video highlights, budget and tipsMy Profile

  • Reply Sandra June 2, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Yes to this 100 times over!! When I was a kid my parents moved from Europe to the USA and growing up I constantly felt surrounded by that exact train of thought – if we were renting a house or an apartment we were worse than everyone else. It’s like the idea of buying a house was to prove something or have something to show.
    It felt like prison. In Europe we had the tiniest apartment and the five of us lived in it just fine. We had so much time and freedom too.
    Now as a 24 year old I want to do the exact opposite and just go far far far away! Live simply. Live happily. Love this article!

  • Reply Bri June 3, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I totally agree with this! While I’m not location independent, the thought of owning a house and having a 30-year loan (!!) scares the crap out of me. I love our little apartment but I could also easily find another place to live if I need to. It’s filled with a large amount of books, vinyls, and paint supplies and it feels like home. Having a cheap apartment also allows us to travel more often to places that we couldn’t afford if we were in a huge amount of debt.

  • Reply Renee Hahnel June 6, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Yes yes yes! I resonate with this so much. You do you girl 🙂

  • Reply Alberto June 13, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Millennial here, lmao. This article really spoke to me because I, too, don’t have the desire to purchase a house. Older people are pressuring me to have a house and own a car but for me, it’s way too many responsibilities and expensive af! No one tells you this but there’s a lot of maintenance work. I live in an apartment, if something breaks, I call the office and they send some worker to fix it and that’s it (I don’t even have to be home). For a house, if something breaks, I have to call so/so, make an appointment for the company to send someone to check whatever (they usually take hours and I force to stay home) then they will tell me some bullsh*t “In order for me to fix this, you have to replace this, if I order this you will be saving $100.” blah, blah, blah…. No thanks. I’m good living in an apartment.

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