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To Rent or to Buy?

By Sarah Sacco

March 23, 2011

The burning question in our not-so-normal life these days is this: to rent or to buy? You see, we just started earning enough money to be able to fully pay for our own housing! Yeah!! We've been working towards this goal for years, now -- and finally the day is here. Time to celebrate some measure of self-sufficiency.

And we are. But, I guess there must still be some part of me that wants to have a "normal" American life. The one with a white picket fence, a home mortgage, 2-1/2 kids, mowing the lawn for weekend fun, you get the picture.

So we've been looking into buying a home. After all, they say prices are as low as they are going to be and interest rates are low -- the opportunity of a lifetime. Pressure. Lots and lots of pressure. We started out actually getting approved for some funding -- turns out we can get some but for the price everything is a dump -- not even fixer-upper status. For two people with chronic illnesses, one with a depressed immune system, and a person under age 3 this is just WAY out of the question. We did consider buying something terrible and trying to get on Extreme Makeover, Home Edition, but thought that was too dishonest. :-)

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Then we looked into a charity that helps out folks in that situation. Really great program, actually. We even applied and started the whole process. They called yesterday even to let us know we are qualified.

So you are wondering why I'm writing this blog, especially on an HIV site. But the thing is that our HIV status makes us look at life differently -- to ask some really tough questions. Looking at a 30-year mortgage is just one. Is there any way we might actually be able to pay that off? Carmen Anthony is 55; there is about NO way, even if he wasn't sick, that he is going to be working in 30 years! Then, I look at myself. I am starting to see some things coming along -- nothing huge (maybe just the difference between 20 and 30??) but I can feel a whole lot less energy than I did even just a few years ago. Is it pessimistic? Or just being honest?

How on earth would I be able to manage working full time, caring for a sick/dying husband, raising a child, and taking care of a home all at once? Not to mention the fact that my own body is not exactly getting any younger, spryer, or healthier as the time goes by. I'm not thinking worst-case here -- just looking at what is likely to come. It sounds like a recipe for foreclosure, an anxiety attack, or worse.

Plus, given such a scenario I know that I will want to care for my family, personally. Is it really worth it to miss out on precious time just to say that I "own" a home? Surely it doesn't make our house any less than a home if our name isn't on the title? Anyway, neither way seems really to be a good answer. If we rent, we give up a bit of a dream -- a hope that life might somehow be "normal." If we buy, we give up time with our family and make ourselves particularly vulnerable financially. A rock and a hard place. What is normal anyway?

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More on HIV and U.S. Gov't Housing Assistance
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Beth (California) Mon., Mar. 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm EDT
Sarah,
What is the name of the program that you applied too? I was just looking into buying a home aswell and was surprised to see you went thru the same thought process i did.
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Comment by: Anonymous Sun., Mar. 27, 2011 at 10:44 pm EDT
thank you
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Comment by: anthony Sun., Mar. 27, 2011 at 10:44 pm EDT

great discussion thank you all
We will let you know what happens PEACE to all
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Comment by: Kevin H. (Dallas, TX) Sun., Mar. 27, 2011 at 11:47 am EDT
Hi Sarah and Carmen: Your story strikes a responsive chord with me. I was diagnosed in 1989 at age 28, just as my career was taking off. I, too, always dreamed of a home. "Would I be alive in 30 years?" I let my fears get the better - for 5 years. In 1994, I had gained enough courage to take the plunge, and purchased a modest home. Then, a funny thing happened. For one thing, protease inhibitors came along, extending my lifespan enourmously. And then, well, "life" happened. I stopped focusing on when I might die, and began to live life normally, making my home payments, continuing to work, having friendships and dating, eventually settling down in a long-term relationship in 2000. In 2006, I even re-financed the house for on 10 year mortgage! Who would have believed it! Now, it's 2011, and only 5 years to go until the house is paid for!

The point of my story is, I learned to have courage, and make good choices for myself, and trust that I would be able to deal with whatever life sent my way, whenever that may happen. And I have never looked back. Buying a house was probably the best decision I ever made, as a person living with HIV. It has given my life an incredible amount of emotional and financial stability.

I wish nothing but the best of luck to both of you!

Kevin H.
Dallas, TX
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Comment by: anthony (colorado springs co.) Tue., Mar. 29, 2011 at 10:38 am EDT

Thank you and the best to you also-PEACE


Comment by: A Guy in FL (Fort Lauderdale, FL) Fri., Mar. 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm EDT
I think it really depends on individual situation and the math. I found a nice, simple, town home short sale...the price is so low it can only go up. When I do the math, the mortgage, insurance, taxes are less than the house I'm renting. I also can easily rent it out as a possible revenue source down the road. I try to live way below my income and buying this allows me to do that, hedge against inflation, have an investement...so makes a lot of sense in my particular case.
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Comment by: anthony Sun., Mar. 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm EDT
thank you for shareing


Comment by: Mike S. (Stockton, Ca.) Thu., Mar. 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm EDT
buy if you can... because renting builds no equity, and you need to live somewhere besides under a bridge, your house payment's interest is a shared deduction to your income for taxes,(shared meaning if you didn't have the interest deduction, you'd be paying income tax on it as a percentage) prices are way lower now, and so are interest rates, pretty sgood bet you'll be able to sell the house later for more, locking in a fixed interest rate locks in your monthly housing expense and you won't be subject to rent increases. Don't go with a Adjustable Rate Mortgage!!

The other comments are well based, we don't know your situation financially. I don't know where you are now living or your current income, I am assuming you have what others have going for them, ie; a job with income.

Good Luck and Best Wishes with what ever you choose to do
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Comment by: anthony Sun., Mar. 27, 2011 at 10:39 pm EDT
thank you


Comment by: Darlene (Minnesota) Thu., Mar. 24, 2011 at 6:48 pm EDT
Sara - You brought up this topic just as I recently went through the same decision myself. My other half is 58 and negative and I am 40 and positive. We decided to go ahead and purchase a home despite what may come in the future. We did not want to forgo our dreams. I came to the conclusion that if one of us goes or gets sick before the other we can sell and move. If we dont live to see that day then our kids can sell and get whatever they can out of the house. Do not give up on your dreams!
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Comment by: anthony (colorado springs co.) Tue., Mar. 29, 2011 at 10:39 am EDT

Thank you


Comment by: marlene (bloomfield hills, MI) Thu., Mar. 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm EDT
I am a 57yo HIV nurse and have Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. I have been on chemotherapy for the past five years, presently going every two weeks for my treatment. I have recently been pondering the same situation as you re: the reality of getting a mortgage at my age, knowing my life is of shorter duration due to the cancer. I have lived in an adorable house in suburban Detroit for the past five years. Nothing big or fancy, but cute, quaint and suits the needs of my 17yo daughter and myself. There is a small pond on the property and woods around one side of us. My elderly landlord and his wife live behind me and are wonderful neighbors. My brother is constantly advising me to buy a house because of the current economic situation, low interest rates, etc. I pretty much live check to check with very little emergency cash on hand if something happened. Maybe the Post WWII American dream of owning your own house is not necessarily THE American dream anymore. I do not have the energy or strength to mow a big lawn, rake leaves, trim bushes, etc. That is NOT how I want to spend my precious spare time, of which I do not have enough of anyway. I do like to plant and nurture flowers and so would prefer to spend my time doing that. I do not have the savvy, strength or money to fix a broken window, pay for a new garage door, purchase a new furnace, etc. Let the landlord deal with this. Not everyone has to own a house...there is nothing wrong with renting if that is what fits your lifestyle. My priority is to live as long as I comfortably can, watch my daughter go off to college and support her in this endeavor and enjoy my friends and family. Just my view. Hope you arrive at a decision mutually pleasing to both of you!
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Comment by: Bradley (Pacific Northwest) Wed., Mar. 23, 2011 at 4:28 pm EDT
Sara! Great topic! Just another example of how this affliction effects us all. Loved owning my home until there came a need to sell. My 'excellent' credit was damaged by not being able to sell my property in time. Now that I'm living with AIDS, I wouldn't want to be chained to that again~~ Way too stressful! Good Luck with whatever you decide is best for you and your family!
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Comment by: anthony sacco (colorado springs co.) Thu., Mar. 24, 2011 at 10:50 am EDT

Thank you for your comment Peace


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What's Normal Anyway?


Sarah and Carmen Anthony Sacco

Sarah and Carmen Anthony Sacco

Carmen Anthony, Sarah and Abbi often ponder the meaning of "normal." Anthony's music brought him healing after his diagnosis with AIDS in 2000 when he was given six months to live. Sarah was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 at the age of 23. They met at a support group and embarked on life's adventure together. Then, along came Abbi -- a precious gift free from HIV! Life as a family with AIDS is not what anyone imagined, but it is full of music, blessings, and chaos!


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