There's a lot of pressure on newlyweds to buy a house. I don't really know where it comes from, except that once society is done telling you that you must have floral centerpieces, they are telling you that you must have a house. Like weddings, home-buying is a touchy subject. Once this post goes up, a number of people will comment with, "we bought a house but it made sense for us because of XYZ." Ff you bought a house, I really hope it made sense for you! You do not need to validate yourself to me, even to my judgmental badger face. Like weddings, there's a lot of people out there who tell you what to do, because that's the choice they made and they're defensive.
House envy hit us hard when all of Mark's friends bought houses while I was in law school. Occasionally he would come home and say, "man, I'm the only one who doesn't have a house." I would remind him that he was the only one who had a landlord that shoveled his sidewalk (although we don't have that anymore) or how nice it was to have somebody to call us a plumber or stop by to fix the dishwasher (or oven, as ours broke last night). Nonetheless, house envy can be an ugly thing. It can make you feel inadequate for not being at a place in your life where you can afford a house, or it can make your future wife feel like a drain on the family for going to law school. Not to mention that people who buy houses often go around putting down people who weren't "smart enough" to buy right now and acting defensive because well, spending $200-500,000 on a big risk can make you feel kind of vulnerable.
We looked at houses briefly last year, especially with the tax credit, but we like city life and the schools aren't great, but the property taxes are insane. We also talked about it and decided that since we'd quickly pay back in property taxes what the tax credit saved us, it didn't make a lot of sense, and the tax cost of homeownership annually would only be a little more than we spend renting now. The market also makes me very nervous, as does the idea of having a mortgage when I didn't know if I would have a job. So instead we found a truly awesome apartment, with a whole lotta space, that we plan on staying in until our family outgrows it. We're not even aggressively saving "for a house" right now the way many of our peers are. Once I get a (permanent, long-term, salaried) job and our incomes are more even, we will save money, but I don't really want a house yet. I want to go to Australia and South America and go on fantastic dive vacations and run for public office. Being not stupid, we're not going to spend our money on trips at the expense of our savings, but if living the way we want to now means we have to wait a little longer for a house, that's a decision I think I'm okay with. (I know a lot of people who are taking the same approach to having kids, so I don't really see how it's that different.)
I've also watched a lot of people get screwed over by mortgages, even from reputable companies, and the idea of taking on that.much.debt scares the living daylights out of me. I mean, we're talking about something where you put down a 10-20% down payment, and then spend forever paying it off. That scares me. I kind of approve of Jenna and her husband, who are waiting to pay for a house in cash. I'm sure that there are a million reasons why wanting to buy a house outright is a dumb policy, but for now, while we still have a lease and a lot of good reasons for renting, I'm not interested in them. They are something I will learn more about when we are actually thinking about buying a house. We're also not in a high enough income position to need a house and mortgage for a tax break, like some people I know, so we don't have to worry about that (or learn how it works).
Another thing about city living and home ownership is this: Houses in the city are often small, especially ones in our price range that don't need a lot of work. They are narrow and they often only have one bathroom and no closet space or parking or real backyard. We could get a much nicer place by renting, a place we actually like to live in and want to come home to, and not spend all our spare time on home improvement, than we could have if we bought a place in the city. I also don't want a starter house, because the people I know who have had to sell houses after a few years get put through the wringer over it. Oh yeah, and our marriage could fail, so I'd rather wait it out a couple of years and not set ourselves up for a miserable property settlement. So I didn't want to buy a house with the assumption that we'll be selling it in 3 years or 5 years or when my shoes overtake the closet (6 months). A lot of city homes need a lot of updating as well, and we are simply not at a place in our lives where we want to devote every.single.weekend to home improvement projects and installing a new dishwasher/water heater/backsplash. I like projects and home improvement, but see above - I want to travel and generally enjoy being married. (If home improvement is part of you enjoying being married, then go forth and enjoy it!)
So there you have it. For now, we rent, and we live vicariously through our sisters, who are both in the process now of homebuying. Are you renting? Did you buy?