Saturday, April 24, 2010

Renting: the good, the bad, and the crazy

Hard to believe, but I've been in this apartment for almost two years. When I bought my first house, over 10 years ago, I never thought I'd rent or live in an apartment again. Ever. Just goes to show that you truly do not know where life will take you.

However, I've come to see there are definite advantages to renting, so I'll start with the pros.
  • The apartment covers gas, water, and trash. Which means in addition to "optional" utilities of cable, internet, phone, I have just one utility bill - electric. I try to keep the others as low as I can and limit credit cards, so my monthly bill paying has become much easier. My heat and my stove/oven are gas, so this is a big plus, especially in the winter.
  • Maintenance. I'm lucky, the complex I live in is very responsive to problems, which I've had very few of. Bugs. I've had a small problem, but the apartment sent the bug guy and that was not an expense I incurred. Of course, living in a mid-rise, it's just common sense to tackle bug problems because they can migrate to other units. I actually think my problems might be some migration from others, but it is an older building and probably just to be expected.
  • While my rent in higher in this area, I do not have to worry about homeowner's insurance (though I do carry renters, but it's much cheaper) or property taxes. In fact, my monthly expenses with my last house, if all of this were added, probably ran more than the rent. I don't have to do yard maintenance or worry about snow removal (though my car was my responsibility). There is a trash chute in the laundry room which I love. I will actually miss that when I move as you can't beat the convenience of a trash chute.
  • On a level that really can't be measured, I have the latitude to move if I want to, though I'm perfectly happy where I am right now. Given my last job situation though, this has become a big plus. I've also come to realize that I can live and be happy in a much smaller space. After all, I'm only one person with a cat.
The cons.
  • Well, it's an apartment. I hear the bangs and bumps of the people around me. I hear folks when I'm in the bathroom and I occasionally get to listen to someone else's stereo (though I've learned that stomping my bedroom floor at 1:00 in the morning does work).
  • This is an older building with antique windows, meaning I pick up a lot of road noise and hear conversations from others that take place outside. All in all though, it's not bad.
  • Parking. In addition to losing the convenience of parking in front of your door, there are crazy people who park to close to you. The worst was the panel van that left a whole three inches between them and my drivers side door. I had to climb in from the passenger side (no easy feat in today's car) to get in. Plus, there's the scraping of snow and ice. How I miss a garage.
  • The kitchen is tiny and the black and white stove I despise (color wise, it works just fine). I'd love a refrigerator that didn't have wire shelves, though it does have an ice maker.
  • Storage isn't great, especially in the kitchen, but it could be worse.
  • I definitely miss having a washer and dryer in-unit, but there is one on each floor and I'm literally right next to the laundry room. I'm still working on whether or not the cost per load to wash and dry is more, less, or equal to water and electric and maintenance cost of a washer and dryer. Most apartments I looked at had a washer/dryer in-unit, but again, this is an older building. So, I knew that when I selected the apartment. Still, I kinda miss it.
  • Recycyling is a pain. Oh, how I miss curb side recycling. The complex mixes it with the trash and really doesn't put out enough containers. Shleping it out to recycle isn't fun and the area isn't all that pretty.
The crazy.
  • The City I live in inspects, yes inspects, all apartments every two years. One of the admonitions on the notice from my apartment management company was to make sure my housekeeping was up to date and that clutter was at a minimum. You can imagine my reaction. I was horrified. I did call the city and it appears they have little to no respect for my apartment as my home. The inspection itself was a total joke. A person from Code Enforcement (according to the car I saw in front of the apartment building) came in, set off the smoke detector, looked in every room, ran the water in the bathroom sink and did a very quick peek under the sink, checking for leaks; circled my kitchen and asked if my stove and microwave worked and then declared it done.
  • I was advised to remove or cage pets during the time frame of the inspection. Um, no. So, I had to take off from work to be here during the inspection. It wasn't required that I be here, but after learning from a co-worker that their inspector tried to write them up for clothes on the floor, I decided I would be here when a strange person roamed through my apartment.
  • I did look up the code that governs this and there is absolutely no guideline for what they inspect. There are apartment complexes that are part condo complexes. Which means the residents in the rental apartments get inspected but those who own don't get inspected. I fail to see where this right. It's beyond intrusive and I think a huge mis-spend of my tax dollars, because, oh yes, I pay city and county income taxes where I live. I'm still deciding if I'm going to write a letter and complain about this service. It's still just irritates me to no end when I think about it.
Overall, though, renting is where I need/want to be right. If for no other reason, the latitude to move to Timbuktu for that dream job if that's what I decide, without having to worry about selling a house, especially in today's housing market. Been there, done that and don't really want to do it again.

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