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Adventures in Housing

Adventures in Housing: Holding out on a home to invest in something else

Maria Hollenhorst Nov 26, 2019
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Zarrish Khan with her children, Hasan, left, and Mishal.
Photo courtesy of Zarrish Khan

Welcome to our series, “Adventures in Housing.” Because more and more, that’s what finding and affording a place to live has become. These will be your stories. About the workarounds and compromises. About buying, selling, renting and moving. About the dorms and shacks and money pits and houseboats and yurts and … you get the picture. Share your stories using the submissions box below. Today, we hear from someone who saved up for a home, but then used the money for a different purpose.


For Zarrish Khan, owning a home has been a lifelong goal. In Pakistan, where she grew up, getting a mortgage is harder than in the United States.

“To own a home, you have to save up the whole entire amount of your house upfront in cash,” said Khan. “That’s what my mom did, that’s what my grandparents did. So having a house of your own was a huge goal for my family.”

For most of her life though, Khan invested her time and money into something else: education.

“I’m one of those poster children for the American dream who come here to make a bigger, better life for themselves and for their kids, and the only reason I’ve been able to do it is because I invested time, money [and] energy on education.”

By the fall of 2018, Khan felt ready to buy a house of her own. She was finally done with school, she’d been saving for a while, and in Iowa City, where she lived, houses were relatively affordable. After a few months of looking, she found the perfect home.

“It was everything that you could have asked for,” she said. “It was very close to downtown, big backyard. Really, I walked into that home and I could feel that this was going to be my home.”

She made an offer on the house that was accepted.

“At that point I was really thinking about how I was going to make it my own,” she said. “I was going to put my sofa there, and my reading nook would be here and the kids play area would be there.” 

Then, while at the house for a routine inspection, Khan received news that her cousin Manan had died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.  

“I felt very overwhelmed,” she recalled. “There I was standing in my dream house, the dream was almost about to become a reality, and yet I heard this tragic news and I felt that something had to be done.”

Zarrish Khan's cousin Manan Khan with his daughter Misha.
Zarrish Khan’s cousin Manan Khan with his daughter, Misha.

Khan decided not to buy the house. Instead, she took the money she’d set aside for the down payment and put it in an educational fund for her cousin’s daughter, Misha.

“I felt that the best way to honor his memory was to ensure that this girl, who suddenly had fewer opportunities in life to educate herself, is at least covered as far as education is concerned,” she said. 

Though it was a sacrifice, Khan said her dream of owning a home isn’t gone, just delayed.

“As a doctor, I see the bad side of life a lot,” she said. “What I’ve learned is how people grieve, how people give up, how people respond to situations, and it kind of matures you as a person. So while it was a sad moment to say, “OK, nope, this one’s not for me” … my dream lives on, and I’ve started saving again for my own home.”


Tell us about your adventure in housing below.

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