1. We're committed to Washington DC Both of us have moved around a bit, and we're pretty committed to both policy journalism, and doing it in this particular city. We're unlikely to take a major hit to our labor mobility by tying ourselves down to a house.
2. We're sick of moving I never used to have any interest in homeownership at all. Then I was evicted from my New York apartment so that the landlords could convert it to condos (one of the factors that spurred my move to Washington). No complaints here--the landlords had every right to do what they wanted with their property. But it drove home the fact that any rental is subject to the whims of someone else.
3. The DC rental market is extremely hot. We are in the unheard of position of taking on a combined mortgage + property taxes + insurance (aka PITI) that is substantially lower than our rent was. Even if we budget $300-400 a month, every month, for repairs, we'll come out ahead.
Now, to be sure, we are moving to a larger house in a neighborhood with fewer amenities. But the general pattern that both of us have experienced is that rental costs are rising by at least 4% a year.
Obviously, there's no guarantee this will continue. But we decided we wanted to stabilize our housing cost at a level we could afford, rather than risk having to move every few years as gentrification priced us out of wherever we happened to be living.
4. Terrible renovations The house we were living in was a flip house, with the pretty-but-poor quality renovations typical of much of the construction that has been done in the area over the last ten years by amateur developers who were mostly concerned about making it pretty enough to sell well. So, for example, we had to buy hundreds of dollars worth of additional kitchen islands, because our house had a wine fridge taking up the space where normally you would have had a place to cook. It also had two jacuzzis--and a hot water heater the size of a thimble. Plus, the plumbing and electric broke fairly regularly.
It is not that I expect a future of cheap, seamless, high-quality renovations. But at least I'll have some control over things like the size of the water heater. Moreover, I'll be able to have the things I actually want, like a powerful stove, rather than the things that developers think that a generic "homebuyer" would want, like plantation shutters. I am finally (well, eventually) going to have a kitchen where I can have decent shelving without worrying what it will do to my security deposit.
5. Paying down the house early Our dream is to pay off our mortgage in a decade in order to lower our operating costs. Given the uncertainties in our industry, this seems like a sensible way to buy some extra security (and yes, I'm aware that we'll--eeeeeeek!!!--lose the tax deduction.) You can't do this with a rental.