Savings or sanity?
September 25, 2006 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Should I rent an apartment or live with my difficult parents for six months and buy a house?

I am relocating to help with my family's business in the Southwest. It's an exciting time for me as I've been struggling both personally and professionally in my current locale.
My folks and I have a rather difficult relationship. I adore my mother but have not completely forgiven her for some, I guess, moderately serious transgressions during childhood. Yes, I'm working on that but that's a seperate thread. Mom is bearable...a complete angel..compared to my stepfather, who makes Atillah the Hun seem like Katie Couric. He is arrogant, rude, pisses off most people within minutes of meeting them. It is far more complicated than this as he is more than willing to have me live with them long enough to save money to buy a house within six months. I'll live rent-free. But will it really be living if I'm walking on eggshells? The other option is to rent a cheap apartment and put off home-buying for another six months or so. I'm 36, advanced degree with a reasonable amount of debt, and don't know other people in my future home besides my parents. I should add that my parents have a fairly large home and it is quite possible to live there and still have some semblance of a space of my own. I don't know about other metas but I'm reduced to a 12-year-old the moment I'm in my parents' presence and suddenly revert to the sullen adolescent I once was.
posted by notjustfoxybrown to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Rent an apartment and get a part time job. Or wait the 6 months. Why suffer? Seems obvious to me... also, if you can't rent and save for a house you may not really be able to afford one- what with all the repairs and expenses that come along with one. Just a thought.
posted by pissfactory at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2006

Obviously I'll never know just how unbearable things are with your parents, but, speaking generally, I think it'd be wasy to deal with difficult members of your family if you knew that, come six months from now, you'll be living in a place of your own.

Personally, when I made the decision to move out and head South two years ago, it made the months I spent at home all that much more bearable. "What's that? Work blows? Well that's okay, since I get to live somewhere interesting and be with the girl I love in a few months time."

Of course, YMMV.
posted by owenkun at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2006

If somebody offered to pay you (whatever the amount of money rent is in that area) to live with your parents, would you? Whatever you answer, that's the answer to your question.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:31 PM on September 25, 2006

Wasy? Jesus. Easy, obviously.
posted by owenkun at 12:32 PM on September 25, 2006

Oh gosh. Rent and wait. I think that relocating, making new friends, and starting a new job will be stressful enough. If your parents won't be terribly hurt and make your rental life uncomfortable, just get the apartment.
posted by christinetheslp at 12:34 PM on September 25, 2006

Work past the issues with your folks, you're too old for that even if you are going to be living with them again. Get rid of your debt, even if it means staying there for another six months. Then go look for a house.
posted by prostyle at 12:36 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

I enjoy my parents, rather well; we all get along and enjoy doing a variety of things together. I have lived on my own for 10 years now. If I were to move back in with them (ignoring the fact that I am married for sake of comparison), we would be tired of each other in a matter of weeks. A holiday visit is my limit for staying with them.

The only reason I would want to move back in with them now is if they or I were sick and needed daily assistance.
posted by iurodivii at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2006

Got yr 2cent right here:
Seems they're offering you a huge gift, in their own way, which is obvioulsy very kind of them, and within it there's a possibility for reconciliation. You're 36, educated, and obviously in a lucky position. Seems like a good time to conquer your revert-to-adolesence tendencies - and let them know (without bravado) that you are adult enough to handle them; you'd convince them that you're worth respecting. They're clearly trying to salvage their relationship with you - who knows, perhaps they're afraid of growing old with a pretty fucked up relationship with their offspring. During difficult times you could console yourself with the thought of your own house, but it shouldn't be exclusively about the money. And if your (infallible) instincts tell you're not ready to make that effort, suck up the rent and keep your self-respect.
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:39 PM on September 25, 2006

joannemerriam has the perfect way to look at it.
posted by GeekAnimator at 12:39 PM on September 25, 2006

Might be better to get a cheap apartment and keep your sanity. You'll be working with your mom/ step-dad too? If yes then you'll probably want some time away from them.

But really, you are the only one who can say how much annoyance it will be to live with them, and how much it is worth to you to spend 6 months living in a less than optimal situation.
posted by sulaine at 12:41 PM on September 25, 2006

That has been what I've been leaning toward but honestly, I don't know where to begin in working past the issues with the folks. They have actually both, in their own ways, asked for forgiveness for being lousy parents. Problem is, dad continues to be the same lousy parent he was before the mea culpa...But thanks for the two cents.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:41 PM on September 25, 2006

No, dad is actually banned from our retail stores. Yes, we actually had to tell the man he is not allowed contact with any current or potential human customers. Mom will be working in a different site after some training so it's not as if I'll see them all day.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:43 PM on September 25, 2006

Rent. Despite what everyone says, home ownership is not the be-all-end-all of human existence. Sanity is far too important, and as christinetheslp says, your imminent change of life is going to be stressful enough without having to work through your parental issues every damn night when you get home.

Renting sounds like it will allow you to keep your sanity, and that's the most important thing.

I don't know about other metas but I'm reduced to a 12-year-old the moment I'm in my parents' presence and suddenly revert to the sullen adolescent I once was.

Believe me, I know exactly what that feels like. As a relatively healthy 37-year-old now, there is no amount of free rent, no potential house in six months, that would make feeling like that again worth it for me.
posted by pdb at 12:54 PM on September 25, 2006

rent a room with roomies cheaply, then buy once the market has begun tanking. six months should do, perhaps consider a year. craigslist should do just fine.
posted by krautland at 12:57 PM on September 25, 2006

The other option is to rent a cheap apartment and put off home-buying for another six months or so.

i don't think that having to wait an additional 6 months to buy a house is a major problem ... in fact, it may help you be more sure of where you want to buy a house and what house you want to buy

you don't have to prove that you can live with them and not feel like an adolescent ... that's in the past - you can live as an adult on your own now

i feel that reconciliation would go a lot better without the additional pressure of having to get along in the same household ... and, for your own good, that reconciliation has to include the recognition on their part that you are an adult and have the right and ability to live by yourself and make your own decisions ... if they have trouble with that, then reconciliation is going to be more difficult

how they react to your decision is their responsibility, not yours
posted by pyramid termite at 1:08 PM on September 25, 2006

One benefit to renting (As krautland noted) is that house prices look like they're at the very least stable, and very possibly on the verge of coming down; so that extra 6 months could (a) be less than you think, or (b) get more/better house in a year.
posted by inigo2 at 1:08 PM on September 25, 2006

Do not buy a house in this price environment. It's called catching a falling knife.
posted by eas98 at 1:17 PM on September 25, 2006

krautland's absolutely right. while I know nothing about the current housing market where you're moving, what I *can* say is that there's no way I'd buy a home in my current market, and that statement has been true for the past several years. no amount of 'equity' is worth being forced to take a mortgage that's 2.5 (or more) times what I can comfortably afford. current mortgage practises and the willingness of lenders to encourage staggering debt loads is, frankly, insane.

again I don't know about the area to which you are moving, but here in Boulder, craigslist (and careful screening) has consistently found me great roommates. my current roommate is a closer and more trusted friend to me than any of my family ever have been.

you should, however, absolutely take the opportunity to work through your family issues, because it sounds as though both you and your (step?)parents are willing to do so, and that's a very positive beginning. but that's a delicate and ongoing process that (I feel) might be easily derailed via cohabitation and all the background noise factors of being a mature adult living at home. Forced proximity can only complexify the stress factors here. Rather, wouldn't it be nice to have the freedom to take advantage of living in the same area to *visit* often, on your own terms. this way you at least maintain a semblance of control and boundaries (with which to discipline / reassure that inner twelve-year-old of yours).
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:26 PM on September 25, 2006

There have been some good suggestions so far, but being in a similar position I feel like I should offer some perspective.

I currently am persuing an undergrad degree at a university and hour away from my parents home. During my sophmore year in order to offset my parent's financial commitment and to undercut their claim on me by paying my own tuition I applied for and was hired for a co-op. The position is with a well respected company and the office I work in is about 15 mins from my parents house. During the time of my first rotation I moved back home from an on campus housing dormitory. My parents had not permitted me in taking the car, a decision fueled by my two deadbeat siblings forgoing classes to go to the beach and concerts among other things which eventually led to their leaving university.

Anyway, long story short, I lived at home for 4 months in my parents basement. It wasn't that bad because I had an apartment type setting to myself. That was the only perk. My mother, who I also have a dark history of conflict and abuse with and my own dickhead of a stepdad- which has led to numerous useless sessions with a "specialist"- drove me absolutely insane. Add in a breakup with a longtime girlfriend and I was on the edge.

There I was, good grades, great opportunity at a great company, doing all the right things and with money in my pocket and I was truly one of the most unhappy people you'd ever encounter.

In may I had the opportunity to move back up to school and I took it. Best thing I ever did. Two years later I'm back in the same position and living in my school apt and loving it.

You've been out of your parents house a lot longer, but how you value your personal space is very important. If you're going to be working with them on a daily basis it might not be a bad idea to have some space of your own to unwind in.
posted by eleongonzales at 1:44 PM on September 25, 2006

eleon...point well taken..i truly am considering all options.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:48 PM on September 25, 2006

Sounds like you could, if you chose, get the upper hand in these relationships post-haste, just by enrolling in therapy and moving in with them. AT THE SAME TIME. I know, I know, that sounds really tough. But you'll have all the issues right on the surface to deal with and hash out. I bet you'll learn more about yourself in three weeks that you could living in an apartment for a year!

You're gonna be working with these people for the forseeable future. Someday, you'll be looking after them. But for now, being around them makes you regress and feel small. Assuredly, you want to improve that situation. I think you've got a project cut out for you, and the wherewithal to be the hero of this scene. Good luck!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:57 PM on September 25, 2006

Wonderfully worded...and worth looking into. I had thought that this move would be an opportunity for me to, once and for all, stop dreading my stepdad's presence. They are both getting older (which is in part why I am moving to help with the family business). And as much as I'd like to think otherwise, I can't just roll him into the nursing home and forget about him.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:03 PM on September 25, 2006

Rent. The US housing market is trending downward. You might as well go rent and be happy, and take advantage of the market dip in a year or so.

Also, Ambrosia has some good advice, but you also have your work relationship and you will need to get that ironed out. Baptism by fire might be a bit much when you have been away up till now and are probably used to living on your own. That can be a challenge even for someone with a great relationship with their folks.
posted by acoutu at 2:08 PM on September 25, 2006

I wouldn't consider buying a house until you've cleared up your "reasonable amount of debt." If you don't have a comfortable savings cushion, you're just asking for some emergency to come up that you won't be able to pay for. I'd use the money you've been saving for a downpayment to pay off your debt first, and then figure out how long it will take you to save up the downpayment you need.

As for living with your folks, I stridently disagree with everyone who says that you should move in with them as a means of resolving the conflict with your stepdad. I've been there, and you need your own physical and emotional space to work through these issues. Your desire to make peace is admirable, but living with them is not the best way to learn to live with them, if that makes any sense.

I agree with others who say that owning a home isn't a prerequisite for happiness, maturity, or any of the other values that may be important to you. Live cheaply on your own, clear up your debt, and then work out a plan for home ownership, if that's what you really want.
posted by decathecting at 2:15 PM on September 25, 2006

What I'm seeking from homeownership is really nothing more than growing a financial nest egg. I'm single, have about $25k in student loan debt and no consumer debt which I thought (and I am by NO means a financial whiz) put me in a pretty good position for buying a home. If there were a way I could grow money as quickly by doing something other than buying a house, I'd take that route.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:30 PM on September 25, 2006

I also don't get how you would, as an adult, resolve your issues with your folks while living under their roof. Not exactly even playing ground.
posted by desuetude at 2:59 PM on September 25, 2006

Rent, I say, going on the information provided here. If you decide to stay with your parents then six months will certainly drag on to feel much, much longer.

What springs to mind for me, as a football [soccer] fan is the situation where Player A moves from Club A where he's been for several years and is more or less part of the fittings to Club B. He wants to make the move to further his career and feels it's of maximum benifit to him. The problem comes when the move has been agreed but for legal reasons can't take place for, shall we say for this instance, six months.

Knowing that the move is going ahead, though, those in Club A, feel a little betrayed even though they have no true reason to as player A's intentions are purely innocent and reasonable - they then begin to act somewhat unreasonably towards Player A and make his remaining time there more difficult.

Imagine if Player A had a temporary club he could go to before making his permanant switch?
posted by Matt_MP at 3:16 PM on September 25, 2006

Well, if you're buying a house as a financial investment, I definitely wouldn't buy now, because as others have said, most markets will probably see leveling off or drops in the next year or two. IANARealEstateExpert, but it seems to me that there's just as much chance that a good mutual fund will outperform the housing market as vice versa over the next few years.

No matter what though, I'd clear up that student loan debt before buying a house. Home ownership is expensive, and you should have a significant savings cushion to pay for all of the little expenses that crop up (new water heater, roof repairs, property tax reassessment that ends up costing you twice what you'd estimated, etc.). Especially since, the situation being what it is now, it wouldn't surprise me if the growth in value of homes over the next couple of years is less than the interest rate you're paying on those student loans.

My personal rule is no new spending until you've paid off your old spending, even if the old spending was for a worthy cause, like education. Borrowing more when you're already in debt just puts you deeper in the hole, even if the new debt is for a worthy cause, like a house. Some people are less financially conservative than I am and don't count student loan debt as real debt because the cause is worthy and the interest rates generally more reasonable than for consumer debt. But if your goal is to make money in a cooling real estate market, being conservative is probably what's called for, because if you gamble, you could lose everything.
posted by decathecting at 3:33 PM on September 25, 2006

Option #3: Rent in a roommate sitaution. Now you're only wasting half the money (or less) and you dont have to deal with your parents.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:20 PM on September 25, 2006

I think you know that living with them is the wrong thing to do, and you need us to tell you that renting and not living with them does not make you a bad person.


"Renting and not living with them does not make you a bad person."
posted by 4ster at 5:09 PM on September 25, 2006

Real estate is not a sure thing. US housing market due for serious correction. You could have bought real estate in the early 80s, late 80s, and late 90s and held it for a few years and still have lost money. In fact, in some markets, people who bought in 1981 at the peak have still not made up for buying at inflated prices, if you convert everything to today's dollars.

If you get out of debt, you'll also be more attractive to banks and you will have the cushion mentioned above. Other forecasts say the US is due for a recession, so you might like to have a cushion.

There's nothing wrong with renting and working on the relationship. But there's no guarantee living with your parents will make things better. In fact, you just add arguments about dinner preparation, wet towels on the bathroom floor, and loud TVs!
posted by acoutu at 4:03 PM on September 26, 2006

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