Rent or Own? Some Considerations from Experience

Hello Everyone.  I have been quite absent from my blog of late.  Well, not absent, since I’ve moderated comments and made comments, but I’ve been too entwined with our cross-country move preparations to write anything.

Some people may have the good fortune to be energetic toward organization (have OCD), or the income to hire maids and other help, or live in a house with room to move, store, and . . . be organized.  But us, no.  We live in a small apartment (although I used to live in a bigger house).  I would like to sincerely and vehemently correct anyone who says that living in an apartment can be better than living in a house (a house that you own).  Some reasons as to why we have known for some time, but other reasons we have just learned because of the major move we’re making.  Let me list them, but first let me say that I hope this helps some people out there.  Even at my age, some costly things regarding living in an apartment have taken me by surprise.  I wish I had known about them earlier, before we rented this particular apartment.

 

Very basic apartments.
Very basic apartments (though they look nice and maintained).

Paying rent vs paying a mortgage.  Financially speaking, I think this depends on a lot of different things.  When you pay rent, you’ll never see that money again.  When you pay all that interest on a mortgage–most of which is during the early years of the loan–you will never see that money again (for example, on a $100,000 mortgage you will easily pay $70,000 more in interest over the course of 30 years).  So, whether paying rent or paying a huge amount in interest is better depends on many factors.  I’m not going over all the ones I can think of here, but hopefully you get the idea.  Also, quality of life considerations are a big factor for most people (including us).

There are other financial considerations when considering renting vs buying.   Where we live, renting has many negative financial consequences:

  • Money and time spent just on doing laundry is significant.  It is frustrating and annoying trying to do laundry here, or having to leave to do it somewhere else (because there are only a small number of machines here, and they aren’t always working).  And no matter where we do laundry, the machines are never as good as using a home machine usually is (I can’t really soak clothes before washing, and we can’t use fabric softener).
  • We don’t have free large item trash pick-up.  All the homes around here do, as I think they do in most or all of the United States, but simply because we live in an apartment, we have to pay top-dollar for someone to haul broken furniture and mattresses away.  Here, that’s $85-$130 for a single item.  That can add up, or even be impossible for low-income people to pay.
  • Our rent is more than the mortgage on a smaller condo, making saving for us impossible.  And considering that our rent is below the median, that doesn’t bode well for a lot of people, I’m sure.  Also, rent increases every year, which is a factor in not being able to save any money; mortgage payments, on the other hand, do not increase (unless you opted for a variable interest rate loan).
  • The parking area is so small that we can’t hire a long-distance mover (because of their large trucks) nor use any type of moving pods (because they are also moved about by very large trucks).  That leaves us with the options of renting a truck (like Uhaul) and a car carrier, or renting a trailer we pull with one of our cars.  Amazingly, places like Uhaul charge a lot more than you’d think for long-distance moves.  Their fees, coupled with the cost of gas for their heavy trucks, make the cost about the same as (or more than) hiring a moving company (yet we’d have to do all the work and driving)!  I was really shocked by this.  So we thought it more economical to pay for a hitch that we could re-use and haul a trailer instead.  We are having to get rid of a ton of our belongings to do this, too, but there was no good solution that was within our budget.

There are usually quality of life differences between apartments and houses.  I already mentioned the issue of laundry, which is both a financial and quality of life issue, but there are more:

  • Our apartment gets very hot, not having any cross-ventilation to speak of.  This becomes a financial issue when we crank up the bedroom air conditioners to cool down the whole apartment; pretty ridiculous, and this is actually a fairly common apartment problem.
  • We happen to live behind a large plaza, on the second floor, so we are bombarded nightly with the bright light of security flood-lights.  Semi-trucks and noisy activities begin early, so, between the blasting light and the blasting noise, we usually keep our shades and window closed.  Not a good quality of life factor here.  One good thing is that at this apartment we haven’t had too many neighbors that blast music and home theaters (the bass of which travels significantly and abrasively), although as I write this someone is in fact being noisy in that way . . . .   We have had major problems with this at our past abodes, whether apartment or house, in our area.
  • You normally can’t paint rooms or do other improvements that would make an apartment your home.  You’re only a temporary sojourner in an apartment, and therefore never really settled or even comfortable.  The correspondence we get from management seems no better, and it’s probably worse, than prisoners receive on our state’s correctional facilities.  We don’t feel at home, or welcome, even, but only exist here as a personal ATM machine of the complex’s owners.
  • Many apartments don’t allow you to have pets.
  • You can’t have yard sales.
  • At our apartment complex you can’t even put up any temporary signs like “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations” (it’s very difficult to have guests, anyway, as there’s only three tiny guest parking spaces).  There are actually condominium complexes in this county that don’t allow this either, and even forbid the flying of the American flag!  (Yeah, we live in the U.S., and you can be forbidden from flying the country flag.  There’s that saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.”  Well, we’re mighty divided, and some of us can’t even fly our flag.  Insane.)

 

A simple home.
That’s better. A simple home.

 

Regarding the topics of yard sales and moving:  since we need to get rid of a ton of stuff but we can’t have a yard sale (and I know from all the nice stuff we have [had] that we could’ve recovered some of our moving expenses), we’ve been trying to sell at least some things on Craig’s List.  (Yes, I know ebay exists, but I didn’t want to deal with Paypal, actually.)   We have sold a couple of things, but that’s it.  What I really wanted to mention, though, is how strange people are.  We have had many people contact us about buying something, only to just disappear.  I guess that’s to be expected.  But, the oddest and most time-wasting thing people do is contact us, and perhaps even go back and forth for a bit, and then decide not to buy an item because they all-of-a-sudden realize we’re too far away from them.  People, if you use Craig’s List–please–look at the zip code, city, and/or map before contacting sellers!  Geesh.

So, by living in an apartment (which we had to do, since houses are far too expensive here), we have done poorly both when it comes to our finances and our quality of life.   Having to get rid of much of our belongings because we couldn’t use the mover we originally wanted to–due to the complex’s lack of space for such things–has caused us even more financial harm.  We are going to have to pay to haul a mattress or two away, too, whereas our more fortunate neighbors with houses would not have to pay anything.

One thing I didn’t even mention is that the owners here get away with not doing things they’re supposed to by law, but they also try to get tenants to pay for things they don’t have to by law.  When there’s a housing shortage, landlords can get away with things because people may have no choices; they may have to take the first place that happens to have a vacancy.  If you are considering renting, please consider the things I’ve brought up in this post.  If an area is too expensive, it will very likely be better–in many many ways–to choose to live in a more affordable area.

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