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Buying Instead Of Renting Can Lift You Out Of Vulnerability

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If you've watched the news lately, chances are you've already seen how the Vancouver housing crisis has created a vacuum of exploitation, with ads offering free housing in exchange for sex.

When the news story first broke, those like myself who work directly in the housing market were horrified. But the more I thought about it I realized that this is not a new scenario. Poverty, a lack of assets and financial instability make people vulnerable. By that measure, women typically make less money than men and are more likely to be single parents; making them most vulnerable to those looking to benefit from that misfortune.

While it's tempting to go ahead and dismiss this story as the desperate behaviour of a few desperate men, the reality is that -- in one form or another -- almost all of us will encounter variations of it at some point in our lives. Whether you lack the ability to leave a job where you're mistreated, a relationship in which you're unhappy, or are so desperate you must offer your body in exchange for shelter, being vulnerable robs you of your ability to make a choice; any choice. And that can take shape in many incarnations.

When we're young and starting out, a lot of us don't have much interest in planning ahead. Pensions, mortgages and life insurance are things for our parents; for older people with "real" jobs and "real" responsibilities. But that type of attitude and that kind of disregard for your own future does nothing to help you in the end. Think of it another way: owning a home or property is an investment in yourself that empowers and safeguards you against the very type of situation we're seeing right now in Vancouver.

Owning your own home can be nothing short of an awakening.

There is no shortage of people out there talking about why you shouldn't put your money into a home (just do a Google search, I got 821 million results). But in my opinion, particularly for women and minorities who have traditionally been disenfranchised, owning your own home can be nothing short of an awakening.

That sentiment is echoed throughout a publication by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) with the bold title, "PROPERTY OWNERSHIP FOR WOMEN ENRICHES, EMPOWERS AND PROTECTS."

While geared primarily towards women in developing nations, their sentiments are no less salient here in B.C. In it, the paper cites "Women who own property or otherwise control assets are better positioned to improve their lives and cope should they experience crisis... Women also can use a house or land as collateral for credit during a financial crisis or to invest in a small business..." In short, when women own and control assets like property, it improves gender equality and becomes an important tool towards economic security.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

I am aware my belief that renting is a waste of time is not everyone's sentiment, but it's definitely mine. Just 25 when I got my condo, looking back even now as a mortgage broker, I can see how the process can be daunting.

There are many things to consider beforehand; the cyclical nature of the market and fluctuation of interest rates are just a few. I am not suggesting that someone with no stable source of income go out and get a mortgage on a half million dollar property. You must look at what opportunities you have within your budget. But a property also needn't be a home. There are all types of investments out there if you're willing to do a bit of ground work.

Just 25 when I got my condo, looking back even now as a mortgage broker, I can see how the process can be daunting.

One of the more interesting observations I have made over the years is about those who happily make the switch from owning to renting. While there are some who decide to return to renting and gladly see the responsibility of maintenance, taxes and home improvement back in a landlord's hands, it's often those who are the most financially stable and have the least to lose.

They don't feel vulnerable to the threat of, say, homelessness because they have the money to weather a financial crisis. And if they really need to, they can always buy again. Not only that, as a renter you are always at the mercy of your landlord. If they decide it's profitable to sell, it's you who's back on the street and looking for a home in a city with an all but non-existent vacancy rate.

For those who don't fall into this category, home ownership seems to provide an anchor of safety and a deep measure of relief both emotionally and psychologically.

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