home real estate
Photo by Benji Mellish on

So we’ve just signed another two-year lease on our apartment. Hooray!

We’ve been living in the same place for ten years.

Holy cow! Ten years.

It got me thinking about housing and the amount of money we’ve paid over the years, staying at the same place. Ten years is a long time. Most people don’t really rent for that long. The general advice is that if you plan on staying in a home for a long time, you’re better off buying your place.

So if we do the math: Our rent at ¥63,000 x 12 months x 10 years.

What’s the total?

Drumroll, please!


Let’s round that out to a $75,000, shall we?

For that amount of money, we could have bought a tiny house, or a small apartment in Sapporo. According to a New York Times interactive calculator that compares renting versus owning a house, for a couple like us, we were better off buying a place.

I wonder though.

One of the reasons we’ve continued to rent this long is that my husband’s job encourages people to rent instead of own homes. His job gives us a rent subsidy–up to half our payment. Since he is military, he is meant to get transferred everywhere. And I mean everywhere–all over Hokkaido or all over the country.

This means that if you’re a renter, it’s easier to pack up and move to the new place. If you own a home, like most of the men with families do, it’s much harder to do. In cases like these, families then live apart. Dad goes somewhere far, while Mom stays with the kids at their home because she doesn’t want to uproot them. After two years, Dad either comes back or is transferred to another place. This is so typically Japanese.

The other reason we’ve been renters is that we live in Hokkaido and have to deal with the heavy snow every winter. Don’t laugh as this is a legit reason why we’re such fans of renting.

During our first few years of marriage, I really wanted to own a home and insisted that we look for places to buy. We even went and looked at open houses. My husband went along reluctantly. I grew up in a house so I wanted the same thing here in Japan. So it was all me. I envisioned owning a house I can decorate and furnish. I dreamed of having the yard for summer barbecues.

My husband–smart man–remained strong against my arguments and refused to buy a house. His main reason why: he didn’t want to shovel the snow in the driveway. He drives to work so winter mornings are really tough if you have to shovel your driveway before going to work.

Of course, I thought he was an idiot. What a stupid reason!

And then you find out why after your first winter season. It dumps a lot of snow in our area. Sometimes, you’ll get two or three feet of snow in one hour. It’s difficult to keep up with the shoveling. You see it with our neighbors. We live in a residential area surrounded by homes. The owners–and they’re mostly in their fifties or sixties–are usually outside shoveling the snow in the winter. And they are out there for hours. Who wants to do that?!

Because we rent, we don’t have to do it. The owner or the property manager for our apartment building does it for us. He comes in with his little snow plow and removes the two feet of snow off the parking lot. Next weekend, he’ll do it again. It is a blessing.

I realize that owning and renting is not really about the math. It’s about the emotions involved with your home. Yes, we’re grateful for the rent subsidy we get from my husband’s job, but it’s not only that. Even if we didn’t have it, we would still be renters. So maybe we’ve spent about $75,000 on our home that we’re never going to own. It might seem like we’ve just thrown all that money away.

For us, we value the time not spent shoveling the snow. We could be inside our nice, warm, cozy home instead of outside trying to keep up with the piling snow. Or we could let just the snow pile up–but then we’d be buried under all that and die. No thanks.

So I’m super grateful we’ll be here for another two years. Unless, hubby gets transferred, or if we decide to uproot and move to downtown Sapporo. Either way, we’re good. Since we don’t own, we’re flexible. And that’s the best thing about renting.

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