Note: This is a topic I am very passionate about. I think different things work for different people, and I am not against buying a home. However, I want to give voice to those who want to rent or continue renting but feel the pressure to buy.
A couple years ago I was asked if our family was still in an apartment. When I answered, “Yes,” the older gentleman exclaimed, “You are not 25 anymore…what are you still doing in an apartment??!”
I smiled and walked away.
For as long as I can remember, the general wisdom said buying a home was ALWAYS better than renting.
Renting was considered “throwing away money,” and also a bit of a stigma. Renting meant you hadn’t quite succeeded in adulthood.
So as the rule-follower types, we naturally found ourselves in a home 1 short year after marriage.
But it did not last long, and we finally accepted we love renting.
Over the last 10 years we have had 8 different dwellings.
We learned a lot about ourselves and noticed a strong house/stress correlation. There were more expectations, responsibilities, and hidden costs associated with our homes.
We learned that we hate home maintenance and yard work. We learned that we love more efficient spaces.
I think a lot of people would love to rent, but they do not believe the benefits are there. They have been told so many times that renting is a “waste” and they cannot get it out of their head.
Or, people have families and aren’t sure an apartment could work. I totally understand.
When we were moving to Arizona I scoured the internet for articles written by families in apartments. They were hard to find and would have provided me a lot of clarity and confidence.
So I wanted to share some of the main benefits of renting we have experienced.
This includes many types of pressure.
Less pressure to fill the space with furniture.
Less pressure to have a manicured lawn and perfect landscaping.
Less pressure to decorate perfectly, because usually you cannot hang too much on the walls of an apartment.
We have bought and sold two homes. It is exhausting and stressful, and does not always happen in the timeline you need it to.
We were fortunate this process went quick both times and we sold our homes for the prices we wanted.
But many people get stuck with a home that won’t sell, or they cannot fathom taking a new opportunity somewhere because they would have to sell a home.
Since we rent we have flexibility. If we want to move to a different state, we can. If we want to switch apartments and be closer to a different part of town, we can. We are not tied to one place and for us that works great.
We feel the freedom to consider any opportunities that come our way.
When you have a 950 square foot apartment, 4 people, and no garage, it is much easier to say “no” to consuming new items.
Large indoor toys? Nope.
Bulky furniture? Nope.
Extra items for “someday?” Nope.
We can own what we need plus a tiny bit extra. But this is actually mentally freeing for us, because the default answer is “no.”
In the last 6 months, here are some maintenance items Kevin and I did not have to do:
- Daily pool maintenance
- Complete HVAC duct cleaning in our unit
- Air filter replacement and smoke detector battery replacement
- Clothing bar in closet collapsed, needed replacing
- New exterior paint
- Dishwasher broken
- Garbage disposal back-up
This is just the repairs I can think of off the top of my head.
We are not handy people at all. For us it is amazing having a website where we can submit our issues and then go about our day.
The amount of stress that repairs and yard work caused us was not worth it.
More Fixed Costs
Overall, I believe apartment living offers fixed costs. Some will disagree with me on this, and that is fine.
Yes, a mortgage is a fixed amount each month for 15 or 30 years, and apartment rents can fluctuate each year. But if your air conditioner goes out in your house you owe $8,000 on top of your monthly mortgage payments.
Or that underground sewer pipe that collapsed? Turns out it is not the city’s property but yours. $20,000. (These are actual numbers we have heard from acquaintances with homes).
I agree a fixed monthly payment for 15 or 30 years sounds wonderful. But it is not entirely accurate. Many people do not factor in the hidden costs of owning a home.
On the other hand, my rent remains the same for the whole year whether the air conditioner breaks or not.
Now, I already know some of the rebuttals out there.
What about equity? You have no equity in an apartment!
True. I understand the equity logic.
Your mortgage is essentially a forced savings each month, with the goal of paying off the mortgage someday and having a large asset that you own.
This works great for a lot of people and is a very smart idea for a lot of people. But if you live in a high-cost-of-living area like us, the prices of homes are cost prohibitive.
We would have to stretch a lot to meet the fixed mortgage price, while our rent price is several hundred dollars lower per month.
What about stability?
Yes, rent prices typically increase every year, and this may lead to more moves over time.
But I do not believe that stability=staying put.
We have stability not because we stay in one place, but because we bring our love and teamwork into every place we live.
Stability exists no matter where we live.
Our apartment unit may change, but our family unit does not.
I am not against buying a home.
If you plan to stay in a community for a long time, it typically makes more sense.
But if you find yourself moving often, like us, and want flexibility, renting might be a better option.
Don’t rule out renting.