So, I'll be moving out before the end of the year. Some of you might know I've been living in Brest, Brittany, France, for a year and a half. I actually had lived there for 7 years, during my first years of med school, and then, after I quit, during my Economical Studies and Marketing degree.
When I moved back to Brest from Paris, I took one of the cheapest "livable" flats I could find, in the heart of the city, which is not very expensive. It's a cosy flat, with a good kitchen, a separate room, space for my desk and "youtuber setup", and a serviceable bathroom. I prefered renting my place for several reasons, which I'll expose here, and then I'll tell you why I'm taking on some debt to own my future place.
So, renting is for suckers, right? Everyone aspires to own their place, a house or a flat, pay it in full over the course of 20 to 30 years, and then have nothing left to pay anymore. I didn't. I'm still not sure I do now. See, the thing with renting is that you're free. In France, in 3 months tops, you can have left your flat, and be somewhere else. It's liberating to know you're not tied up to a place, a city, or even a country or a way of life. And I enjoy that freedom. Not that I'm moving a lot, mind you, but I do like having this possibility.
With a mortgage, you're a bit more tied up. First, because in France, you have a ton of taxes when you buy your place, and you need to finance these, most of the time. So you're paying that before even paying the house itself. Then, because, well, you owe money now, so if you want to switch jobs, carreers, or just take time to reflect on where you want to go, you better have some money stashed somewhere to pay your debt, which is often hard, since most people max their payments to get rid of said mortgage as fast as possible.
Sure, you can sell the place, and hope to make your money back, and pay what you owe, but that's not a guarantee, and financial crisis has been know to happen from time to time, taking the real estate market with it.
So I didn't want to take a mortgage, which pretty much locked me out of owning my own place, since I definitely don't make enough to be able to buy my own place cash any time soon.
But you did take on a mortgage, in the end, though ?
Well, I thought a bit more about it. I'm pretty interested in early retirement, and financial independance from a regulat 9 to 5. And I was looking at the problem with a very short term point of view. I thought renting afforded me the freedom to, at any point, quit my job and do whatever I wished, relying on other solutions to get by, move to a smaller, cheaper place, or couch surf for some time. But that's not early retirement material, that's just pushing the deadline.
The way I see it now, owning my own place is a better solution: first, I can repay the mortgage faster. I make a bit of money off of YouTUBE, not "quit your job and do that full time" money, but definitely "enough to save" money. With a mortgage paid in, let's say, 10 years, I actually have more freedom than as a tenant. Sure, there are taxes to pay (property tax is a cold, hard truth in France), but these are way easier to pay than a regular monthly rent.
Owning my place will, in the future, allow me to save more money for my early retirement, net me some more financial independance, and, in the end, actually increase my freedom, at the expense of having more freedom now. Potential freedom, that is, since I'm not currently taking any advantage of it.
What did you end up buying ?
So, I'm buying an 80 sq. metres flat. It's nicely located, has an extra room for setting up my "studio", has a beautiful 20 sq. m. veranda where you can see the sunset, and, more importantly, is on the top floor. It will set me back financially for 10 to 15 years, sure, but in the end, I think I'll be better off that way.
This might not apply to your situation, so don't take this as an encouragement to take more debt. Debt is terrible. Debt creates anxiety, sometimes mental illness, and is avoidable. But in some case, and for real estate specifically, I changed my mind on debt.
I still took some precautions. First, I didn't give in to the sirens of my close friends and relatives. "For that money, you could buy a house!", they said. Except I don't want, or need a house. I don't want to live outside of the city, I don't want to have to take care of a garden, or have two floors to handle.
"You could buy something bigger, a little further!", they said. Except I don't need more space. This flat hosted a family of three before me, I think I'm being greedy enough as it is. What would I do with a third extra room? Pay more property tax for room I don't use? Let's be reasonable, I live alone, and having a dedicated office is already a bit too much.
So, in the end, I'm taking a mortgage. I'm trading some time stuck in a specific job (which I quite like, by the way) for some future time where I'll be free to use my time however I see fit. If all this sounded a bit like I'm trying to convince myself, that's because I actually am. I'm still unsure it's the right decision. 15 years is a long time to owe money to a bank, and lots of things can happen in the meantime. But somehow, I think I'll be fine.