Thinking of Owning Your Home?

Frank wants to try to buy an apartment. This is not something I ever thought I'd be able to do. Apartments, even in Brooklyn, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars--that is so many, many times my annual income that it is staggering. A hundred thousand dollars is like an imaginary amount of money, something I've never seen all in one place and probably never will. And yet, apparently, people like me buy apartments all the time.

When Frank first brought it up, I wasn't sure what to say. He's turning thirty this year, and I think that's been kind of bugging him. His brother and sister-in-law own their house, and they're younger than he is, but then again they live in Ohio (where things cost a little less) and also they are much more responsible than either of us.

It's not that I don't want to own a house someday, I mean, who wants to be throwing away rent money for the rest of their lives, it just never occurred to me to try. I assumed that at some point I would magically start making tons and tons of money, and at that point I'd just walk up to someone selling their apartment and offer them cash. I don't know. I'm not that good with money.

I brought the idea up with my mom, expecting her to say that we should wait until we're older or richer or more sure we wouldn't break up some day, but instead she was encouraging. "The younger you can buy, the better," she said. "I can help you guys with the down payment, when the time comes--your dad's parents helped us buy our first house."

I told a co-worker, hoping she'd discourage me, but she said that she and her husband were thinking about buying, too.

"But I still want to travel, to try and find a way to live abroad for a year or two," I said. She and her husband had lived in China for a year.

"You can just sublet," she said.

"What if I want to move? What if I get a job in California or Chicago? Or if Frank does?"
She gave me a funny look. "Then you can sell it, and buy a place wherever you move," she said.

Nobody was trying to talk me out of what sounded, to me, like a completely insane idea. I mean: a mortgage. That's serious. To borrow money with the expectation of taking twenty or thirty years to repay it is crazy.

I don't even have a credit card, because when I was in college I saw some Oprah or something with a girl who had accidentally run up thousands of dollars of credit card debt and had to declare bankruptcy and was sobbing on tv while Oprah chastised her and cut up her cards. I knew that I had the potential to be that girl, humiliating myself on national television in exchange for Oprah paying off my debt. And now people, including my mother, who've known me my whole life, think I'm responsible enough to purchase real estate?

I feel like I did when I found out my old best friend from middle school was pregnant. I went around telling people, expecting them to be shocked, and instead they were like, "Oh, that's great for her, is it a boy or a girl?" I would ask if they thought she was maybe a little bit too young to be starting a family, but no one did. I was twenty-five at the time.

Anyway, so Frank and I are going to go open a joint savings account and start saving. For an apartment. It'll be a while before we have enough money to do anything, really, but just the idea that there'll be a lump of cash somewhere in the world earmarked for me and Frank's apartment weirds me out. At the same time, it's kind of exciting, I guess. I looked in the real estate ads, and depending on how much we can trick some bank into lending us, there are actually some places that we could possibly afford to buy. Us! In our own place! Very strange.