My Two Cents: I Resolve To Stop Renting!

Before the horns blew and the ball dropped, my friends went around the table sharing their resolutions for the New Year. More sex. Lose weight. Save money. Be a better person. Stop dating deadbeats.

One of those was mine. The other I shared with my boyfriend the next morning. “2011 is going to be a good year for us,” he kept repeating in that positive tone people mysteriously possess on January 1 of every year. “What do you want to accomplish?”

“I want to own something,” I told him. That simple. No word sounds sexier to me than equity. Renting since I graduated college at 22, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars. I’ve gone from three roommates to one to two to three to two to finally just me. Living by myself in Manhattan has its price – and it’s astronomical. Though, once you live here, you understand why it’s worth every penny, as is not living in Staten Island with my mother and stepfather.

As the youngest person in my small family, I’m watching my relatives get older and know that as time passes, I may be caring for them in the future. I already supplement my father’s income since his stroke in 2001, and I need to seriously think about my own security, too.

To me owning an apartment represents safety. It also stirs great fear. What if I get laid off? What if I can’t pay my mortgage?

City living has its conveniences as does renting. Leaky faucet? Call the super. Spot a mouse? Call the super. Can’t pay the rent? Sublet or break lease. But these things disappear when you become an owner. It’s a responsibility that scares me as much as becoming a parent — maybe more.

I guess I thought I’d be somewhat settled in my early-30s or living with someone. I’m not. While it would be easier to split a monthly mortgage payment with a significant other, that’s not a reality right now. Besides, I think owning something on my own is more prudent. As the child of divorced parents and the friend of divorced friends, I’ve seen the hardship of splitting assets. Someone is always the loser.

So how am I going to do this?

  • Research. I need to check recent sales in my target neighborhoods. Read up on the market and pry my old roommate who’s now a leading real estate broker for info.
  • Save. To avoid temptation, I have begun deleting the Rue La La, Swirl and Gilt Groupe emails as soon as they appear in my inbox. I also plan to have money automatically deducted from each paycheck and deposited straight into my savings account.
  • Cut expenses. I’ve started using Woolite more and the dry cleaner less. The sushi delivery guy no longer needs to refer to me as his “#1 customer.” Making my own meals and bringing lunch to work can save me close to $100 per week.
  • Determine how much I can afford monthly. This includes maintenance and taxes, and leeway for normal living expenses.
  • Get a pre-approved mortgage. Most real estate agents and sellers won’t even talk to you unless you have this letter. Plus, it will let me see how much I can borrow – and therefore how much apartment I can afford.
  • Start looking. I will attend open houses and get a feel for what’s in my price range and what neighborhoods are suitable and what amenities are necessary. I do not need a doorman, on-site gym or state-of-the-art appliances.

I have a decent down payment, thanks to my family who has agreed to pad what I’ve saved in lieu of paying for a wedding (not that I’m planning on having one anytime soon or ever). Though in New York, I’ll still probably only be able to afford a very large closet. Still, I can’t leave this city that I adore.

What about you? Share your stories of becoming a homeowner (or hoping to become one) in the comments!

Photo: iStockphoto