Why We’re Happy to Be Renting


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12.19.13.Why_We_Rent.web

Johnny and I are looking forward to the day we become home owners. The money we’re currently saving each month is a little bit more toward a future down payment. We can sometimes be heard saying, “It will be so nice when we have our own house because…” as we yearn for the day that we’re no longer renters. But as Johnny and I discussed in a post earlier this year, we have some fairly substantial reasons for not yet taking the plunge into home ownership. As a recap, here are some of the reasons we haven’t done the deed of having a deed:

  • We’d like to put down a significant down payment. Our initial goal was at least 20% down, and we’re hoping for that and more.
  • We want to make sure we’ll be settled for at least a few years before we buy. So far our marriage has consisted of a lot of moving around!
  • Johnny’s career field can be fairly transient, so we want to make sure that’s settled, too.
  • We enjoy the perks of renting: no unexpected costs, easier mobility, and less responsibility.

Our Broken Home Rental

In the past month, Johnny and I have been especially grateful for that last bullet point. Our current condo is about seven years old. It looks new, but we’ve realized things are not always as they seem. Thanks to renting, the following mishaps over the past month have inconvenienced us, but not our wallet:

  • Out of the blue, our dishwasher quit working. A repairman determined that a new one was needed, and I revisited the dishwasherless and pruney-fingers days of our past until it was installed.
  • Our water heater was making loud exploding noises that sounded dangerous. A maintenance guy came out and assured us that it was just hard water buildup — annoying, but nothing to worry about… yet.
  • As I was doing laundry, our washing machine started shaking and leaking water. A repairman came out and did what repairmen do.
  • A pipe froze in our laundry room (it’s been sub-freezing here), once again making it impossible to do laundry. Two repairmen later, and the pipe was thawed and usable again this past Monday.
  • Last night, our daughter’s bedroom ceiling began leaking water from our neighbor’s snow-covered terrace directly above. Today, maintenance men worked to fix the leak before we get more snow. Meanwhile, water is now leaking directly from the light fixture in her room for some unknown reason. Hopefully all will be resolved before Christmas. And, don’t fret, she is sleeping safely in our office for the time being.
  • Today during Baby Girl’s nap, as I tried to keep a good attitude about our leaking ceiling, I put in a load of laundry (still catching up on dirty laundry from the frozen pipe incident). Ten minutes later, I went downstairs to find water flowing underneath the door of the laundry room. Apparently our washer is broken once again. A repairman will be coming on Friday.

Suffice it to say that we’ve had a string of bad luck. Ya think? But our landlord has taken care of all of these expenses, and we’re out $0. The only annoyance is that sometimes our landlord’s timeline isn’t quite as efficient as our own timeline. And in a related unlucky note, last week our vacuum broke, so that’s one thing we will have to spend money on soon. Truth be told, these are all just minor inconveniences, so we really can’t complain. But we have learned a few things from them.

What We’ve Learned

  • Having so much bad luck with our rental lately has made us realize how important it will be to have liquid savings and a fully-funded emergency fund once we’re home owners. Things will break. Crap will happen. We’ll have to shell out money to fix our home from time to time.
  • We’ve also realized what to look out for in potential future homes. How old are the appliances/water heater/roof? If they’ll need replacing soon, we should factor that into the cost. And we should look for warning signs that the home was poorly constructed.
  • We will never, ever buy without having a thorough home inspection done. Like I said, our rental looks picture perfect.

So while we look forward to the day when we can plant our own garden, mow our own lawn (oddly, we’re both excited for this), and sit on our own porch, for now — especially this past month — we’re more than happy being renters.

Home owner? Renter? Please share your wisdom.

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35 Comments

  • Reply Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life December 19, 2013 at 8:31 am

    There are so many unexpected costs with being a homeowner, it makes me miss those renter days. At times, it can be full blown paranoia that something else is going to come apart by the time you come back from home. The one thing that makes it rewarding is knowing you don’t have to get approval to make changes to your home. It’s yours and you can do whatever you want to it (well almost…).

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Exactly, Amanda! We’re looking forward to calling a place our own someday and having that freedom!

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone December 19, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I agree with many of your reasons for appreciating renting now. We loved our rental home, but found so many problems with it when we lived there. Renting really helped us know what to watch for in the home that we bought.

    Home inspectors tend to be ridiculously thorough, so that helps a lot, but they can’t see into the walls. In your case, I think the inspector could have realized that things were underinsulated to anticipate the pipe freezing.

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      Yes, if nothing else, we’re hoping becoming professional renters will help us become really good home buyers :).

  • Reply Rob December 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Well Joanna, I couldn’t agree with you guys more. At this time in your lives you are doing the right thing by renting. But here’s the thing, not only do you have to consider the points that you mention (your job security situation, financial status, etc.) but you must carefully evaluate the current economic situation relating to real estate and home ownership demands. Perhaps in the US things are starting to improve (re: home buying) since the 2008 downturn but here in Canada housing is way overpriced, especially in the major cities (like here in Toronto). I can see it heading for a big downturn in values eventually. Interest rates and outstanding debt to income ratios are crazy for a lot of folks right now.

    We own our house, have so for years after having rented for a few years when first we got married. As well, our mortgage has long ago been paid off so we’re doing well. That said, we still have to keep up with regular upgrades and home maintenance expenses. It comes with the territory.

    If, however, we were like you guys and just starting out in our married lives and careers, we’d rent, not own, and wait until all our “economic ducks” were in line. Follow me?

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      Good point, Rob! The buying market is a huge consideration. Prices are pretty high in certain areas of the US right now, too. We’ll have to see how things are looking when we finally decide to buy!

  • Reply This Life On Purpose December 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

    This is one of the main reasons why we chose to rent. No unexpected expenses, no maintenance and no worries! I do hope to one day own a home but in the meantime I appreciate the low-stress rental lifestyle.

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      Me, too! I would be stressed to the max if all of our recent mishaps had been our responsibility to fix!

  • Reply Jennifer @ Budgeting in Baby December 19, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I have never been a home owner, though one day I hope to be a home owner. There are definitely pluses to being a renter. When I was renting there were a few times that I had problems with my furnace. The shower even broke at one point. I am glad that I didn’t have to pay for those repairs.

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      Yep, we’ve got to recognize the perks while we’ve got ’em, Jennifer!

  • Reply Halsy December 19, 2013 at 11:24 am

    We first rented for a year out of college when we got married. Then we rushed into buying a house (because I disliked renting so much) and bought at the height of the housing market right before the crash.Looking back I wish we would have waited and saved a little longer. We have been fortunate that nothing serious has needed replaced at our house and that my husband is very handy. However, even lawn maintenance, small plumbing issues, etc add up! We are now preparing to put house on market and thankfully only have to do some cosmetic projects and finish up some half finished projects my husband has done. We did have to put a new Patio in, which is the one project I wish we would have done a few years ago! This time around we are taking into consideration a lot more things and taking the process slow. We are also making sure we have a fully funded emergency fund and a $1000 car emergency fund and $1000 house repair fund when consider how much house we can afford and put at least a 10% down payment on. This is especially important to us as we live on one income.

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm

      I’m glad it has all worked out, Halsy! Good luck in the selling and buying process! Everything will be just fine with all those emergency funds in place!

  • Reply E.M. December 19, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Renter, and happy with it! We are in no way ready to own a home. We’re still focused on paying off student loans, and my boyfriend’s job requires moving around. Once the loans are paid off, we’ll focus on getting a down-payment together, but appliances breaking and things needing repair are my worst fears. I saw my parents go through a lot of “bad luck” with the water heater, washing machine, and roof leaks among other things. I’m happy not to have to deal with all that right now. I hope everything gets fixed asap!

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      Thanks, E.M.! It sounds like you guys have your priorities in line, and renting is the best choice right now!

  • Reply Executioner December 19, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I was a renter for six years before I bought my first place. I’ve been a homeowner for 11 years since then.

    I think being a renter is better if your cash flow is very tight, and you are not able to easily save for a reserve fund. However, once you have the means to put aside a stash for unexpected expenses, being a home owner is pretty great. Landlords often try to limit maintenance to the lowest cost option, which can result in repetitive repairs over time (exhibit A: your washing machine). When you own your home, you control your own destiny. You can install high quality equipment that is less likely to fall apart. You can choose a contractor or repair service that does top quality work instead of relying on whatever the landlord assigns you. Or you can do your own work yourself. By ensuring that top-quality equipment and labor goes into your own projects as a homeowner, you are trading higher up-front expenses in the hopes of having a smoother, less frustrating experience with your home over the long run.

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      Great points. We are looking forward to being in control when we own someday!

  • Reply EcoCatLady December 19, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Homeowner here… I’ll start out by saying that I think you have excellent reasons for wanting to rent for now. For me, buying a home was an enormously good financial decision.

    I always chuckle about people who say that renting shields them from unexpected expenses because that was not really my experience. My experience was that landlords would raise the rent by about $50-100/month each year. I guess timing could have something to do with it – this was in the early 1990’s when the housing boom was just getting going. So my biggest reason for wanting to buy was to get out from under the ever rising rent payments. Within a few years the rent on my 285 square foot apartment had easily surpassed the cost of my mortgage.

    My other experience with landlords was that they were less than good about getting things fixed. We had a stove go out and it took 2 weeks to get the landlord to replace it, at which point this contraption from the neolithic period arrived. Within days we were calling the utility company because the gas odor was so strong, only to discover that the stove the landlord had installed had about 15-20 natural gas leaks!

    For me, having control over my situation was much more important than having the repairs be someone else’s responsibility. But I think that you have to budget accordingly, and give yourself a monthly repair budget/escrow account. I always sorta figured around $100/month, though I didn’t put it into a separate account or anything.

    • Reply eemusings December 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      I hear ya. Control is a big reason I want to buy a house. I’m sick of renting shitty places (because LLs can get away with anything, the rental market is so tight), from crappy LLs who don’t want to get anything done.

    • Reply Meghan December 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      One thing to keep in mind is that in America, for the lowest renewal rates, you want your lease renewal to be during the slow season (Nov and Dec).

      • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:52 pm

        Good point, Meghan!

        • Reply Meghan December 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

          Thanks! I need to buy a new car and I have been wavering on budget, but am trying to stick to being smart with my money like you guys are. There’s a Corolla with 102,000 miles on it that I have my eye on (better than a 2014 Corolla). I have a dog, have to park on the street, and will mostly use the car on weekends – there is no justification for being spendy.

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:54 pm

      Yes, we’ve definitely seen all of that to be true about renting. That said, until we know we’ll be settled for at least a few years, it’s still not worth it to buy quite yet. But we look forward to that day!

  • Reply Stephen December 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    We have enjoyed both renting and owning. We had similar issues with one rental where we lived with lots of things breaking all at the same time (dishwaster/aircon/washing machine). It felt nice not to have to deal with the expense portion of that.

    One thing that is often neglected is the time spent ‘improving’ a home that you own. I enjoy fixed up our house but the projects are endless and we can always make it a little nicer. When we rented there was no guilt for not doing the next project on our list. I miss the extra time we had when we were renting! But I also enjoy the customizability of owning.

    • Reply Joanna December 23, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      Ha, so true! I convince myself not to worry about improvement projects all the time because “it’s just a rental.” I know Johnny and I will be the same way as you when we’re home owners! Just try to enjoy it! :)

  • Reply eemusings December 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Our rentals have always seemed awesome, and then we move in and see all the little things that are falling apart…

  • Reply Miranda December 19, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    When you do buy, don’t be afraid to shell out for more than one inspection. We had two done on our first house. First guy missed things that second guy found and vice versa. Also, if there is something major that is suspect, see if you can get a pro or pros to come out for a free estimate.

    Negotiate in your contract for the sellers to buy you a homeowner’s warranty that covers the first year (should cost them around $500 and get one that covers the fridge, too). It will cost around $60-$75 to have the repair done instead of hundreds or thousands. We required it on both home purchases and have used it at least twice in each home. They will offer to let you renew, but don’t. They are a waste of money unless you can get the seller to cover the cost. It’s just nice to have for that first year when you are excited to spend money on fun stuff like paint and lawnmowers.

    Also a pro for the homeowner column is that you get to do preventative maintenance that saves a ton of costs down the line.

    *Sidenote: A good real estate agent is HUGE, especially for first time buyers. Get recommendations, do interviews, and get someone who’s been doing it a while. This may not be great for newer agents, but those who’ve done it for a decade or two have connections that you wouldn’t believe and they have dealt with almost every possible scenario. A good real estate agent will have a pretty decent idea about the quality of a home (they spend tons of time looking for them) and they should tell you if they think you’re about to buy a money-pit.

    • Reply Joanna December 24, 2013 at 12:02 am

      Good idea on getting two inspectors, Miranda! And thanks for the tips on the homeowner’s warranty and real estate agents! I’ve heard mixed reviews about getting a homeowner’s warranty, but having the sellers cover the cost sounds like a great plan!

  • Reply Erin @ Gen Y Finances December 20, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    This is exactly how I felt this month when a pipe burst and we were without water for two days and heat for three days! Thank god I didn’t have to cover the costs for that!

    We look forward to the ability to paint and change things when we have a home, but honestly, I’m pretty okay renting for now!

    • Reply Joanna December 24, 2013 at 12:03 am

      Oh, gosh! That sounds awful, Erin! I keep telling myself the same thing: “At least I’m not paying for this!”

  • Reply Slinky December 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Renting vs. owning is definitely a personal preference. For us, there are a bazillion reasons why we’re homeowners and love it. The two biggest reasons are control and privacy. Egads, but we hated the door slamming and 3am drunken doorbell wake up calls and crying babies and laundry left in the dryer ALL weekend and announcements of the landlord coming through to get a window estimate for windows that never happened. On the flip (homeowning) side, we can play music any time, any volume, have bonfires and do yoga in the yard without people gawking and paint our walls and do laundry anytime we want wearing whatever we want. You also have to deal with the lawn mowing and tree trimming and broken furnaces and all that. Some of that stuff we honestly like doing, some of it is less awful as a homeowner and all of it is less obnoxious than neighbors and landlords. Other people feel differently, and they are MORE than welcome to enjoy my old apartment.

    • Reply Johnny December 30, 2013 at 12:58 am

      Thanks for weighing in, Slinky. You definitely brought up the two main reasons we’ll be so thrilled to buy a home when that time comes. And for all the reasons you cited.

      For now, while we’ve forced ourselves to wait out any home buying considerations, we’ll make do in your old apartment and keep sticking our landlord with the bill. :)

  • Reply Rachel Eastin January 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    I am happy renting too! I don’t want to buy a house until I find a city I really love and want to stay in long term and I’d like to be out of student debt as well. I love your website!

    • Reply Joanna January 8, 2014 at 1:27 am

      Thanks, Rachel! That’s exactly how we feel! I refuse to settle on our first home. I know when it comes time to house hunt, I’m going to be so annoying because I’ll want everything perfect!

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