This month's mortgage payment was a couple of days overdue when I paid it in cash today. With four customers ahead of me in the queue, an entirely useless promo guy dressed in a kilt asked me if he could help, but was not able to shrink the queue for me despite matching beautifully with the seasonal decorations of wrapping paper in tartan and Scottie dog themes. Though I'm sure objectively handsome, his knees were insufficently hairy to give me full warm fuzzy feelings, so I reckon the campaign has failed. It failed again when their computers couldn't access my mortgage account, nor could their customer phone connect me to their allied mortgagers on a premium service number.
Lately I have been questioning continued investment in the home-owners' paradigm, not least because of a thought-provoking post from Smash. When I was earning well, paying rent would've been a waste of my income, but things are quite different when unemployed. It's only after 9 months on the dole that I recently became eligible for 'mortgage interest relief' (MIR) from benefits agencies, which will now cover 75% of my payments. All savings and redundancy have now gone to service the mortgage until MIR kicked in, but quite where the other 25% is to be found is a mystery not addressed by said agencies. The shortfall thus becomes my private business.
A helpful lady at the Benefits Advice centre explained that I could always downsize to a smaller flat in one of the peripheral estates on the edge of Edinburgh. She had no answer to the problem of an inevitable shortfall on a repayment mortgage, no matter how small, nor how the kiddos' education would be affected by a move. I love my wee flat, the first that has been all mine, and despite its deteriorating kitchen and bathroom, am happy here.
The benefits agencies would be happy to pay double my MIR in rent to a scum landlord, should I move to rented accommodation. But if I sold up, I would first have to spend up all the equity I've built up in 15 years of home-owning before being eligible for housing benefit. This is becoming an increasingly attractive option. After paying rent myself, the property equity would give at least 2 years of reasonably high living before it ran out and the welfare net clicked back in. That would be the end of the property ladder.
Why do I persist in home-owning?
1. If I get a job, it's a more economical option
2. Something for the kiddos to inherit
3. Providing continuity and continued residence in the area in which my kiddos were brought up
1. Home-owning requires investment in infrastructure and upgrading
2. Kiddos will eventually inherit their hard-working dad's equity, if not mine
3. Can rent in the same area and relinquish responsibility for home upkeep