I was having a conversation the other night about the merits of buying a home against renting with my legal writing teacher. He commented that he strongly encourages renting over buying for students entering private practice, since most such lawyers have careers that allow or even require geographic mobility. He said that he was buying a house because he knew he wanted to settle in San Diego and wanted certain amenities that buying allows, but otherwise would have still kept renting, and that he didn’t believe in the predominant cultural norm that encourages everyone to buy.
Yet another dimension to renting/home buying that came to mind was how the act of buying solidifies ties to a location, which is particularly important for immigrants. When my parents moved to the US from Korea, they had no family ties here whatsoever (even now, all of my family is back in Korea.) They had come on my father’s graduate student visa, and it wasn’t clear if they would stay or return. When they bought our house, it wasn’t just a financial investment, or a nice building in a neighborhood with good schools, or a choice for a certain bundle of goods that a local government could provide. It was a statement about the future, that our family would be rooted in this new place. The Kim family would make this place home.