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by Cynthia Cummins

Cynthia is owner and founder of Kindred SF Homes and a top San Francisco Realtor. Check out RealEstateTherapy.org for refreshing reflections on the meaning of home and for more best real estate advice (since 2013).

Reading time: 2 minutes 

“The fellow that owns his own home is always just coming out of a hardware store.” ~ Kin Hubbard

As a successful San Francisco real estate agent, I can rattle off a long list of reasons to own a home. I can also recite an equally long list of reasons not to own a home.

Homeownership ain’t always everything it’s cracked up to be, as J. Money so eloquently explains in this (2017) oldie but goodie post from Budgets Are Sexy. I stumbled across it today and read it wistfully.

Serendipitous timing, you might say. I had just paid my landscaping contractor’s invoice for six months of work and I was feeling low. (Note to all you vendors and contractors – remember to bill your customers regularly because it’s much less painful that way.) It didn’t help that – right after that – I received a Venmo payment request from my housecleaner (whose rates have doubled since 2021). And then my partner reminded me that we still need to get someone out to fix our gas fireplace which is the sole heating source in our San Francisco home and it’s August and that means we’re freezing our you-know-whats off.

A la Kin Hubbard, you might say, “The fellow (or gal) who owns their own home is always just conducting a Yelp search for a reliable tradesperson.”

I have many friends my age who – accidentally or on purpose – missed the real estate train. They never got around to buying because their down payment savings had taken a hit in the stock market, or they couldn’t afford the payments for a single family home, or they were walking their socialist talk. They’re (still) living in wonderful, rent-controlled apartments in prime San Francisco locations. And now that they’re over the age of 60, they are protected tenants! (Which means they cannot be evicted except when they’re carried out feet first.)

When we were in our 30s, 40s and 50s they would often lament not having bought real estate. They missed every opportune moment to be a buyer (even though they had a friend in the real estate business – me). And they therefore missed some fantastic investment opportunities. They would sorta kinda apologize to me, as if I’d been counting on earning a commission from our friendship.

Now that we’re 60+ they still talk about woulda coulda shoulda. But I’m here to remind them – and you – that without the responsibility of owning real estate there comes a lot of freedom. Freedom to travel, freedom to move, freedom to not worry that the shower drain is clogged, freedom from the dogma of what some people think constitutes being an adult.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy real estate. (In fact, NOW is a GREAT time to be a buyer in San Francisco despite what you might be seeing online.) I’m simply saying you’re not required to buy real estate.

It’s wise to carefully consider your reasons for and assumptions about owning or not owning a home. Does your thinking serve you? Are you running some tired old script that doesn’t make sense anymore? Are you following your heart’s desire?

What are your thoughts on the subject? I’d love to know.

Photo Credit: Mika Baumeister

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