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At the start of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince there is a description of the place where Snape lives when he is not teaching at the school. The neighbourhood and the house itself are quite miserable.

Here some quotes:

Many miles away the chilly mist that had pressed against the Prime Minister's windows drifted over a dirty river that wound between overgrown, rubbish-strewn banks. An immense chimney, relic of a disused mill, reared up, shadowy and ominous.

...

The woman named Narcissa gained the top of the bank, where a line of old railings separated the river from a narrow, cobbled street. The other woman, Bella, followed at once. Side by side they stood looking across the road at the rows and rows of dilapidated brick houses, their windows dull and blind in the darkness.

"He lives here?" asked Bella in a voice of contempt.

"Here? In this Muggle dunghill? We must be the first of our kind ever to set foot--"

...

But Narcissa had rushed ahead. Rubbing her hand, her pursuer followed again, keeping her distance now, as they moved deeper into the deserted labyrinth of brick houses. At last, Narcissa hurried up a street named Spinner's End, over which the towering mill chimney seemed to hover like a giant admonitory finger. Her footsteps echoed on the cobbles as she passed boarded and broken windows, until she reached the very last house, where a dim light glimmered through the curtains in a downstairs room. She had knocked on the door before Bella, cursing under her breath, had caught up. Together they stood waiting, panting slightly, breathing in the smell of the dirty river that was carried to them on the night breeze.

Not a very appealing neighbourhood, right?

Now the description of the house itself:

They had stepped directly into a tiny sitting room, which had the feeling of a dark, padded cell. The walls were completely covered in books, most of them bound in old black or brown leather; a threadbare sofa, an old armchair, and a rickety table stood grouped together in a pool of dim light cast by a candle-filled lamp hung from the ceiling. The place had an air of neglect, as though it was not usually inhabited.

We know that Snape comes from a poor family and a professor's salary is usually not that big but most probably he could afford a much nicer place to live. If we compare to the Weasleys - they are also quite poor and have much more expenses with the seven kids. Nevertheless their home is a nice place to live without being a palace.

So didn't Snape buy/rent a decent home somewhere?

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    He can only spend the summer vacation at his house. So he doesn't really need a palace. Furthermore, he's lonely, won't have Lily or kids, so what's the point ? – Stephane Mathis Jul 25 '15 at 21:16
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    Yes, why would this deeply self-hating, borderline depressive misanthrope want to live somewhere so depressing? – Valorum Jul 25 '15 at 21:18
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    I always assumed it was the house he grew up in, in the village where he met Lily. – Harry Johnston Jul 26 '15 at 1:16
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    @HarryJohnston It is. I can't remember the exact quote off the top of my head, but in one of the flashback Harry sees of Petunia and Lily meeting Snape as children, Petunia says something like, “I know you, you're that kid from down in Spinner’s End”, and the chapter where Narcissa and Bellatrix visit Snape’s home is called Spinner’s End. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '15 at 8:57
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    Don't forget that Snape’s office at Hogwarts was hardly a cosy or inviting place, either, and there he actually had the free choice of moving to another office if he had wanted to. He liked cold, dark, damp, crowded, oppressive rooms. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '15 at 8:59
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It was his childhood home.

If you're really observant, you can pick this up from the books. The place where Narcissa and Bellatrix go to visit Snape is on a road called Spinner's End, as seen in one of the quotes from your question:

At last, Narcissa hurried up a street named Spinner's End, over which the towering mill chimney seemed to hover like a giant admonitory finger. Her footsteps echoed on the cobbles as she passed boarded and broken windows, until she reached the very last house, where a dim light glimmered through the curtains in a downstairs room.

-- HP and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2: Spinner's End

And the place where Snape lived with his parents as a boy is also called Spinner's End:

"I know who you are. You're that Snape boy! They live down Spinner's End by the river," she told Lily, and it was evident from her tone that she considered the address a poor recommendation.

-- HP and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33: The Prince's Tale

This is also confirmed by a more recent piece of writing from JKR on Pottermore, in which she reveals the name of the town: Cokeworth, the very same town that Harry visits with his aunt and uncle when they're on the run from Hogwarts letters near the start of HP and the Philosopher's Stone:

Cokeworth is a fictional town in the English Midlands where Harry spends a night at the Railview Hotel with his aunt, uncle and cousin Dudley. Cokeworth's name is supposed to suggest an industrial town, and to evoke associations of hard work and grime.

Although it is never made explicit in the books, Cokeworth is the place where Petunia and Lily Evans and Severus Snape all grew up. [...] It is therefore Cokeworth that Bellatrix and Narcissa visit at the start of Half-Blood Prince, where they visit Snape at his parents' old house. Cokeworth has a river running through it, evidence of at least one large factory in the long chimney overlooking Snape's house, and many small streets full of workers' houses.

So it's probable that he continues to live there because of his memories of a childhood with Lily in that town. Although it might be painful to dwell on those memories, Cokeworth was probably the one place he could feel closest to her, so it made sense for him to continue living there for those parts of the year he was absent from Hogwarts.

  • This really should become the accepted answer - it uses direct quotes, and reliable sources. Nice answer! – Singular1ty Mar 10 '16 at 22:42
  • @Singular1ty Thanks! :-) A couple of people had already mentioned this fact, but since it didn't appear in the existing answer, I thought it was worth adding a new one. – Rand al'Thor Mar 10 '16 at 22:44
  • ...Plus, like, to each his own. Depressive houses need some love too. And Snape doesn't seem like the Art Deco type. – Misha R Mar 11 '16 at 10:29
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    I always thought it was probably he continues to live there because he inherited the house. – davidbak Apr 12 '16 at 1:28
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First thing that comes to mind is that Professor Snape probably does not live in his house very often. All the students and the staff live at Hogwarts durin gthe school year, and since Harry has to return to the Dursley's for just 2 months (or was it 4 may be) before the next school year starts, we can assume that it is the same for Snape as well, that is, he is only home for 2 months in a year. From book 3 we see that he is at Hogwarts during Christmas break as well, so that leaves him with even less time to spend at home. He probably stays in his current home because he likely inherited it from his parents (note that, as pointed out in the comments, Snape seems to have spent his childhood in the same place), but as he usually stays at Hogwarts, he probably has no interest in looking for another house

Also, the gloominess of his current home does not seem to disturb him. Recall that in book 6 Harry says that Snape had changed the DADA classroom as per his personality, dark and gloomy. The fact that his current home does not look much cheerful is probably not worth giving attention for him

Also, I doubt he can or would just magic a magnificent house for himself. For one thing, he seems to live in a muggle neighbourhood, so suddenly having a very nice place in a run down part of town is going to attract attention of muggles as well as the Ministry. Secondly, I don't know whether this can be backed by cannon but house building in the Potterverse seems to have some restrictions when it comes to the use of magic. Notice that the Weasley's house isn't particularly a marvel of architecture, even though it has been magicked. Harry describes it in book two as looking like having been created by holding bits and pieces together through magic. Moreover it was in the country side so the general environment was probably nicer than Snape's

All in all, Snape didn't buy/rent a decent place somewhere because he didn't much care for it

  • I'm pretty certain that it is confirmed on Pottermore that it was his parents' house. – ThruGog Jul 28 '15 at 21:07

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