George Michael defined it as me not belonging to you, and you not belonging to me. Tom Stoppard defined it as being allowed to sing in his bath as loudly as will not interfere with his neighbor’s right to sing a different tune in his. And, of course, Janis Joplin defined it as another word for nothing left to lose.

Your definition of freedom might not be as philosophical as any of these. However, you will definitely get a real taste of freedom once you finally step into your own home.

You're Incharge

Before you own a home, you’re always limited by someone else’s demands and desires. Obviously, when you were a child growing up in the home of your parents or guardian, you had very little say over any aesthetic or functional decisions made about the house. At some point in your teens or twenties, you probably moved out on your own, or perhaps with friends or roommates. You may have felt free, and in comparison to how things felt at your parents’ home you probably were. But how free were you, really, when your landlord had the power to veto so many of your decisions? From painting to renovating to pets to house occupancy, your landlord had a huge say in all kinds of decisions you might have preferred to make yourself.

If you had an idea for a home improvement, you had to seek the permission of your landlord. Even if he or she said yes, you probably thought long and hard before committing to invest the time and money. After all, the home improvements would be costly and time-consuming, and in the end, who would benefit? Your landlord. You’d eventually move out, and your landlord would have a beautiful freshly painted/renovated/tiled/carpeted house to show the next prospective tenants. Thanks to your improvements, your landlord may have even been able to charge higher rents! Let’s face it: human nature leads us to be selfish and territorial. It’s hard to make improvements knowing that some anonymous stranger will benefit from them more than you will.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that your landlord will say no to your proposed home improvements. While this saves you a bit in the finance department, it doesn’t change the fact that you live in a less-than-ideal home. And since your landlord is in the business of, well, being a landlord in order to make money, he or she probably won’t be willing to shell out loads of cash to make improvements that are purely aesthetic. Basically, unless your toilet’s flooding over or your roof’s about to cave in, don’t expect heaps of extra home improvement money from your landlord.

As A Home Owner

However, once you’re the proud owner of a home, you can more or less do whatever you want to it, provided you remain within the limits of the law! You become the one to reap the benefits of any home improvements you invest in and/or carry out. As well, you get to decide exactly what your home will look like.

Case in point: Nikki, a 28-year-old professional wine taster with a fetish for collecting coins. She rented rooms and apartments in various U.S. cities for nine years. Most of the time, her landlords never even let her paint her walls. Once she’d purchased her own condo, however, she was finally free to do what she’d always thought would be the ultimate in original home decorating: she pasted her entire coin collection (which, at this point, had grown to several thousand coins) on one of her living room walls. Now, rather than have guests strategically seat themselves so that they wouldn’t have to look at peeling paint or ugly cracks in the walls, her guests fight for a spot near the coinage wall so that they can admire her artistic decoration.

Another reason your own home is synonymous with the word “freedom” is that you will likely have more space than you have ever had before—all to yourself! This is especially true if you move from an apartment. Even if the move is only to a condo of your own, you’ll still likely find yourself enjoying more space in the form of larger rooms, more storage areas, and possibly even your own laundry unit. Apartment buildings, and houses converted to apartments, are all about maximizing occupancy rather than giving individual occupants space. In this sense, you’ll have unprecedented amounts of freedom and space.

Nikki noticed this, too. As a renter, she was always lugging huge bags of laundry to the nearest Laundromat. When choosing apartments, Nikki was always careful to pick ones with Laundromats in the vicinity; however, in the wintertime, the two or three block walk could feel like nine or ten. One year, she moved into an apartment complex with a Laundromat in the basement. She thought she’d finally stumbled upon a four-leaf clover of a home—until she paid her first visit to the basement and found that:

a) the washers and dryers were all coin-operated, meaning she’d have to pay laundry expenses on top of her already steep rent

b) the basement was dimly lit, eerie, and smelled of mold—a combination that always made her feel as if her clothes were dirtier coming out of the laundry room than they had been going in!

As a condo owner, however, she had her very own washer/dryer. As a bonus, her little laundry room had enough room for her dirty clothes hamper, so she’ll never again have to walk around with sacks of soiled clothing. Rather, she can transfer them directly from the hamper into the laundry machine.

Kevin, a software consultant who played in a rock band in his spare time, finally traded in his rental apartment for a waterfront loft shortly after his thirtieth birthday. The first thing he noticed was the extra storage space. In the past, he’d always had to store guitars and other goods at buddies’ houses, or in girlfriends’ basements. As a homeowner, however, he found his new place came equipped with plenty of closet space—the home had been designed to be lived in, not just as a transitory place between homes, as his past apartments had been. What’s more, because of the open concept of his loft, he could easily set up screens and make “fake” storage rooms of his own.

So far, this article has focused extensively on the freedoms one will gain once one buys a home. However, before you take the plunge, it’s important to also have a think-through of the freedoms you will lose once you own a home. Basically, once you buy a home, it’s yours—and your responsibility. You should be as committed to it as you are to your partner or child—only unlike your partner and child, you can’t bring your house with you on, say, a year-long sabbatical to Peru. If you are a free spirit who likes to move around and/or travel a lot, home ownership might not be the best option for you at this stage in your life. When renting a home, give two months’ notice is usually all it takes to rid yourself of that home, and you’re left free to move elsewhere—whether it’s across town, or across the planet. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to buy a home, then sell it when you get bored and/or want to move away, then buy another one, then sell it. And so on. Buying a home and selling a home are lengthy processes that require paperwork and professional assistance. In short, home ownership is a commitment. Your freedom of mobility is severely limited. Really think this through before you commit to buying a home. Perhaps you want to travel around for a bit or check out a few different cities, then buy a home once you get that ready-to-settle-down feeling. When buying a home, be prepared to live in it for a while.