In 2017, just 3 days shy of my 29th birthday, I purchased my first house in Washington, DC. Fuck.
Humor me and allow me to spend a few moments reflecting on the first couple of months after I purchased my home (a time I like to refer to as hell). Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. My closing date was pushed back twice, which put me in a panic. What I thought would be a smooth transition out of a townhouse basement I was renting into my new home turned into a mess, due to things that weren’t communicated to me by my landlord until less than a week before I moved, including him wanting me to have my room painted a different color than what it was when I moved in. And a friend I relied on to help me move my smaller items out of said townhouse showed up hours after our agreed upon time only to tell me that she had to leave 2.5 hours after she arrived to make a Happy Hour event (emphasis on Happy Hour because I love a good happy hour….EXCEPT when it inconveniences me in my time of need). In my moment of frustration, I lashed out, called her unreliable and told her to leave (we’ve since reconciled). I felt like I didn’t have the emotional support I needed during what seemed like a tumultuous time.
I thought: if homeownership was going to be anything like what I had experienced during that two-week process, I was going to have a challenging 30-year journey of debt (bae, where you at??).
I’m not often as strong as I should be in times of stress, and that weakness, among many others, was exposed. I spent the first several weeks after I moved in uninspired to decorate or really arrange my things. Once the moving company moved all my furniture, I felt some semblance of relief but still couldn’t muster up the energy to arrange or go shopping for things to make this new space my own. After spending some time wallowing in self-pity – and a desolate home – I decided to pick myself up and carry on. Besides, being a homeowner in what’s considered one of the most expensive cities in the country was no small feat. With home prices escalating every year in DC, I had managed to come out of a competitive housing market with a decent sized semi-detached home on a quiet, friendly block.
According to CNBC, in 2018, millennial homeownership fell slightly from a 3-year high of 36 percent to 35.3 percent in quarter one of 2018, while the homeownership rate for older millennials and baby boomers increased. This shift is attributed to weakening affordability and decreasing inventory. And the numbers get even grimmer when you discuss black homeownership. According to a Washington Post article, as of 2015, black homeownership was “virtually unchanged since 1968,” when housing discrimination was legal. This stat alone illustrates just how far behind black people are in homeownership, which is a contributing factor in the continuously widening wealth gap. And while African Americans have worked to build wealth in other ways, abusive and predatory lending practices have put us in more dire situations than we were in during the redlining era, which still has lingering effects.
I reflect on these statistics for two reasons: (1) It makes me feel like there’s so much more I could be doing to try to help uplift and educate others and (2) because they help me realize (among other things) what I have to be proud of: I focused on my goal, I avoided my usual procrastination habits, and I stayed diligent and didn’t get discouraged even after I lost one property to a cash offer and another because of timing. I was even rejected initially when I submitted my offer on the home I purchased. I also realize that this can be applied to so many moments in life. We sometimes lose sight of the things we want to accomplish for fear of failure. We sometimes get overwhelmed with the daily struggles of life and forget to look back on what we have already accomplished. We forget to trust the path that we are on and be gentle with ourselves if we stray every now and then. Straying doesn’t mean that we’re failures or short-sighted; it means that we’re human.
I first decided that I wanted to buy a house in the city in 2015, but I don’t think I was prepared for all the steps it would take and all the financial resources I would need. Of course, it would’ve been ideal to purchase three years ago when things were cheaper, but I digress. I wasn’t prepared for my (as my friend would call it) financial enema or providing all the documentation that was required, so I lost focus. I think that when we take the time to be honest with ourselves about what is truly feasible at certain points in our lives, we give ourselves space to invite in our true purpose. I think I’ve gotten too insightful about a home-ownership article at this point (lol), so I’ll leave it here.
In the spirit of NIKE and their bold move to make Colin Kaepernick the face of their 2018 campaign….. “Just Do It.”
What lessons have you learned about Homeownership?