COVID-19 Update: Many realtors, including myself are conducting virtual consultations. All protocols are followed as recommended by CDC.
I have always known I would be a dancer. At the young age of 12, my mother – an immigrant single-mother raising three kids by herself with a very nuanced grasp of the English language at the time, surprised me with the gift of education. There was a summer intensive for performing and visual arts. The Institute for the Arts provided an escape for me and allowed my passion for dance to blossom outside of choreographing dances in my room with no real technical training. I began an impossible journey to an obtainable goal. I attended the dance classes at the Institute for the Arts for another two summers, moving up in levels quickly. When I was 15, I got a job and began saving money and paying for my own dance classes when I wasn’t working or at school.
My dreams of dancing didn’t have any specific focus. I started ballet late in my childhood, so landing a contract with a classical ballet company was out of the question. I kept an open mind and tried to think outside of the box. I was willing to travel for big city dance auditions like in New York, perhaps try my luck dancing shows aboard a cruise line, or live in Florida working as a dance entertainer at Disney World. I knew that I needed commitment, a plan of action, and flexibility in living arrangements dependent on the type of dance gig I could acquire. Owning a home was the last thing on my mind.
Fast forward after majoring in Visual and Performing Arts – Dance from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, a part in the production of “Host and Guest” with DC’s Synetic Theater, an east coast US tour with Canadian dance theater company Caravan Stage, learning Middle Eastern Dances and performing at Embassies and at the Asian Cup in Qatar with the acclaimed Silk Road Dance Company, a marriage, one baby on the way, low and behold, I become a home owner.
And I bought in 2006, the absolute worse time in recent realty histories to buy a home. The home was an over-valued condo in a very expensive suburb in Northern Virginia.
I had always pictured home ownership as putting down roots. I never even thought I would own a home because what I envisioned for my life wasn’t static. I wanted to try back packing across the country and dropping in at random auditions. I had always wanted to perform on a large cruise line or work at a resort. My husband agreed that I could still have those types of opportunities and we would find a balance for our family and those ambitions. After I had my first baby, and then after my second child, I began feeling despondent. My first priority in life now became my kids and not my dreams. Were my dance days numbered? Now, I’m expected to hold down a “real job” to help support my family and pay the mortgage?
Nope, I began immersing myself in another dance style. Throughout the years, I took classes in workshops in the growing popular industry of cultural dance arts such as Belly Dance, Polynesian dance, and Bollywood dance classes. I especially exceled at Polynesian dances like Hula and Tahitian. I joined local dance entertainment groups before founding my own company, DC Hippodrome Variety Show. The gigs I booked took me to many places throughout the mid-Atlantic area. I’ve gotten to dance at the National Park, concerts for pop singers, and visit very special places hidden in the nook and crannies of Americana.
It’s 10 years later since the housing crash of 2007. My family and I now live in another home, a single-family home situated on 1 acre of land in Nokesville, VA, a part of the rural crescent. We still own the first condo. We’ve been renting it ever since we moved out. If we sold the condo now, we stand to make a good profit despite our initial loss from the infamous economic debacle of 2007. I’m very happy we decided to buy. It ended up being a sound investment that is going to help me further in my future endeavors for dance, financial preparations for my children, and my next investment if I choose. Despite my reservations of such a large life commitment, I still accomplished the dream. I became a professional dancer.
Does Owning a Home Make Sense for Dance Objectives?
First, decide what your clear objectives and goals are for dance. What are the general options for career pursuance in this highly competitive field? These examples include paid opportunities for the career-minded dancer.
- Full-time dance teaching – a long-term opportunity that requires a commitment to one living location
- Part-time dance teaching – still a long-term opportunity if with a consistent dance studio or company
- Contracts with a highly accredited dance company – hopefully long-term
- Broadway – work hard to keep this long-term
- Resort work – more of a transient work
- Cruise line work – more transient work
- Back Up dancer in music videos and concerts for artists – very transient type of work and always traveling
- Local event gigging company for dance specialties – usually only local travel involved
- And now more than ever, we are teaching and sharing dance online either virtually live or streaming.
There are other ideas, but this list still gives a full range of the type of work a professional dancer can find. For all these types of work, I think the answer for does home ownership makes sense in their life is yes.
Consideration for Rental Value
Home ownership is an investment in life itself. You need to live somewhere and if you are paying rent every month, you’re giving that money to someone else instead of paying off a mortgage. Most people move at least 11 times in their lives. For dance teachers who have given themselves over to a steady commitment and dancers with long-term contracts, if they have the means to buy a home, it makes a lot of sense to do so. For dance dancers who must include travel into consideration another option would be investing in a home for rental value. This is a good option for dancers who do intend to live in their home after working on the road for a few years. Renting their home relieves them of the financial obligation of paying for mortgage when they aren’t there. In this case, buying a home below or at the exact price point of the market makes the best sense. Find a realtor in your local market that can help you decide on the best option.
Military personnel are very transient as well, probably more so in some cases than dancers. Active duty Army, Navy, Marines change assignments frequently and they do buy and sell homes. Sometimes, they rent their homes when they are unexpectedly required to move for their job if it doesn’t make sense to sell right away.
Finances for Buying a Home
Finances for buying a home for a dancer is the same as it is for everyone. Are finances and credit in good shape for home purchase? This is probably the biggest conundrum for dancers. I haven’t met many dancers who were filthy rich from dance as a job. I also haven’t met any dancers in my circles who did dance only in order to have money. There are some, don’t get me wrong. But throughout my life, I’ve known dancers who also waited tables, worked administrative jobs, had a full-blown career in a completely different field, and so on. So, there’s a huge range of financial means within the dance community. It helps if a dancer is married or has a family that helps supports them, especially if their partner works in a field garnering a larger tax bracket. There’s always the exception of the few who are accomplishing a lot while making very good money. In general, most dancers didn’t get into dance to become rich. Most of us knew the salary ranges before embarking on this mission and we did it because we love dance. The key in anything in life is to try to save money if you can.
A lender is a financial institution, individual, private or public group that makes funds available for a loan with an expectation of repayment. They can also help advise how to get your credit to where it needs to be in order to qualify for a loan. There are a lot of programs and loans available for first-time home buyers. The biggest initial cost to purchasing a home is the down payment which can be excessive for people who don’t make a lot of money and if they’re in-between good paying dance gigs, might seem impossible to achieve. A lot of people are unaware that down payment assistance programs exist to help the lower income. I would recommend working with a lender and checking out the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to see if you’re eligible for any assistance.
How Does a Dancer Prepare for Home Ownership? – Just Like Everyone Else
First, work with a lender for financial set-up. Then work with a realtor for the home buying transaction process. I have outlined the main stages of home buying here.
Stage 1 – Get Ready
Stage 2 – Preview Homes
Stage 3 – Property Selected
Stage 4 – Contract Ratified
Stage 5 – Contingencies Satisfied
Stage 6 – Home Stretch
Stage 7 – Settlement
Payoffs for Home Ownership
The payoff for me as a homeowner has been the sense of accomplishment for life milestones. However, home is where my family, wherever I can dance, and where my dogs are, that is home. The house I live in is a property, a financial investment. When I sell, all the money I spent on mortgage will hopefully be returned if not appreciated. It is also a place where I rest when my wings are tired. All dancers have wings, but they must rest from time to time. I also use my home to customize for my personal tastes. I built a greenhouse in the yard to express the joys of growing my own food and herbs. As a creative person, I’ve decorated the house with mine and my children’s paintings. The basement is set-up for dance or working out. Increased home ownership in areas have statistically shown an increase in elevated social and economically status. Everyone in the community benefits from home ownership. That is one of the many payoffs.
There were times in my dance journey that I didn’t believe in myself. What really changed for me was the moment I stopped thinking of dance as a dream. I began focusing on steps to achieve certain goals and continued working on my craft as I reached for things. Home buying is the same process. When you decide to buy a home, you follow the steps. There were times when I regretted buying a home because I thought I had committed my life to something other than dance. But I was wrong. The reason why I was able to continue dancing through the many changes of my life is because I stopped using travel, my kids, moving into a home as excuses for not dancing. In fact, I enjoyed my dance life and adventures so much more with having a home I owned and a family that I love.
I hope my fellow dancers find this helpful when considering where to live and whether to buy or continue renting. I wrote this because life has many twists and turns, and home ownership has been a benefit to my life and not a detriment. There are many types of opportunities in life to include with all your endeavors.
About the author
Cindi Lin is a graduate of UMBC, a mother, a wife, and adopts rescue dogs. She started DC Hippodrome Variety Show Ent. In 2009. The company specializes in Hula, Belly Dance, and Samba performances for special events. She has worked with niche dance theater and dance companies both locally and abroad. Cindi has over 6 years of blog and marketing experience. She is also a licensed realtor in Northern Virginia with a specialty in the Military Relocation Program.