We are renters. Meaning we choose to rent our houses, rather than buy our houses. Call us what you will: Rotten Millennials, Killers of the American Dream, Bad Economists, Stupid. Whatever, doesn’t hurt our feelings. We don’t mind paying a premium for a house in a neighborhood we couldn’t otherwise afford, that allows us to send our son to a top-tier school. We don’t mind paying a premium to live in a house with a pool, or a house with one of those fancy refrigerators that talks. Because we value things that might be different than what others value, or (gasp!) that might be different than the values of our parent’s generation. One of the things we value is proximity to “cool shit”. Cool shit here being, museums, festivals, children’s libraries, theater performances, amusement parks, easy and quick access to both major highways and a large, international airport for easy traveling, etc, etc.
Yes, we realize that owning a home allows you to save money, in the form of equity, and own a slice of that previously mentioned American Dream, but we also realize that time is money. Particularly, my husband’s time. He is the sole, full-time worker in the house, and we value his time the most. We strive to be close to his work, which usually means close to the city, and we strive to make our amenities top-notch, so that even if we want to spend a relaxing evening at home, we can still, say, hang on our deck with a pimp-tight view, or swim in our pool, or play a game of billiards because the house comes with a pool table too. Simple conveniences are a big deal for us.
We also do not own because we have enough in student debt between the two of us that we could already own one, or two, or three houses (depending on which side of the country we live in) and adding $300,000 to what we already have in the way of debt, scares the shit out of me. Yes, I know I could spend less than $300,000 on a house. But, let’s be real. I won’t. See above amenities. And we know, we know. It’s our fault for valuing an education over, say, both of us working full-time, and never getting to see each other, and fighting over who was supposed to clean the bathroom this week, and why didn’t someone go grocery shopping?! But hey, we could own a beach house for that one precious, mythical week a year when both our schedules aligned and we could take the time off work. #MillennialsRuinEverything Read: We want to spend as much time as we can together, the three of us, doing fun things. And when/if we buy a house I will probably need to have a steady income coming in. Which means that we have another schedule to work around, and less time to pick-up and go on a whirlwind weekend vacation to NYC just because. #DifferentValues
So, we don’t want to work our asses off to live on a golf course, then never have time to golf. Or live on the lake, and never have time to boat. Ya dig? We’d rather rent a sweet-ass house, in a kick-ass neighborhood, never worry what we will do if the air conditioning unit goes out on us, and get to spend all of our free time doing whatever the hell we want because someone else mows our yard or someone else makes all the minor repairs or someone takes the anxiety of home-ownery off my shoulders. But, I get it, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
But I am a little sick of hearing people tell us to buy because it blah, blah, blah. Wanna know something, we almost did buy one time. Once, a few years ago we went to the old bank and asked the old banker man for a loan and he was all, sure. Then we started looking. And looking. And looking. All the houses in my price-range (under $300,000) were either too small, needed too many repairs, or were not where we wanted to be. I got frustrated. My husband got frustrated. Our dog got frustrated. It was a shit-show. Then we said, wait a second. Why are we living somewhere (a rental house in NC) that we can’t even afford to buy a house we want to live in? That’s when it occurred to us that we needed to move. And well, good thing we didn’t have a house to sell. Then we moved into our “city” house and got he work a year later we had to move to a new city. Good thing we didn’t have a house to sell. See how that works? And I get it, I get it. There are things I am not taking into consideration. Economics I don’t understand. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Save me. I’m here to help. Not argue.
Throughout all these eleven years or so that we have been renters, we have learned a few things. We have had crazy-ass landlords, we have had crazy-ass property managers. We have met crazy-ass brokers, and lived next to crazy-ass neighbors. All in the name of renting. So here is a list, because people like lists, of the things we have learned from all these years. Take what you need, leave what you don’t, and learn from our mistakes. **None of this is legal advice and it should not be taken as such! See a lawyer or at the least Google state laws to protect yourself, either as a renter or a landlord, both have certain rights!**
- You can’t have a waterbed. You can’t. It is written in every lease. No Waterbeds. Now I know what you are thinking, why can’t I bring my sweet-ass waterbed to my sweet-ass, new two-bedroom apartment on the third floor? Aaaaaaand the answer is in the question. Also, why do you have a waterbed? Also, are you that guy with the ponytail, that works at one of the two Blockbusters still in existence who, along with a waterbed, owns an “exotic” animal like a ferret or a boa of some kind? And right now you live in your mom’s basement, cause the bright light bothers you, and you play a lot of role playing games on your $4,000 computer while your “GF” who lives in China (but it’s cool cause you guys Animoji each other every day) sends you cards that you can’t understand because you can’t read Chinese? Craig? Is that you? It’s not a good time for a waterbed, man.
- Landlords can charge you all sorts of shit up front. Like for real. But some states are different so you really need to know your rights as a renter in each state. Like in some states you can’t be charged first and last months’ rent, along with a security deposit, while other states allow it. Also, some states say they don’t allow it, but there are ways to skeet-skeet around it if the landlord is smart and you are kinda Craig-like.
- Pet deposits can be crazy big! This is a new one we learned. In some states, like Georgia, landlords can charge anything they want for a pet deposit. The house we are renting asked for the pet deposit the size of the house payment. Thousands of dollars. No joke. We were shocked at first, the most we have ever paid for a pet deposit was $500 and it was non-refundable. Our new house uses the pet deposit as insurance and refunds any or all of it that they can at the termination of your lease. When I spoke to our new landlords, who are super lovely and super animal lovers, they explained a time when they were very trusting and it cost them $4,000 in repairs. So now they ask for a big deposit. 1. To weed out people who are not serious about their property and 2. To cover their asses if they take a chance on pet lovers and they end up being crazy. We get it. We aren’t crazy. DON’T BE CRAZY, KAREN! Take care of your damn pets and take care of the damn house you are renting. Yes, they are your houses, but also, they are not your houses.
- Property Managers are good and also bad, like the landlords it depends on who you get. We once rented from a property company who were nothing but a hassle to work with. They never fixed anything on time. They never answered their phone when we called, and they didn’t even show up to do normal “inspections” which comes along with renting with property managers. They come once a year, twice sometimes and they change the filters and take a look around. Believe me, this is for your benefit as well as theirs. But this company did try to nickel and dime us on the move out inspection. First they showed up super earlier than the time was scheduled so that I wouldn’t be there. Then they charges us for crazy stuff that wasn’t our fault. Case in point. There were curtains in the master bedroom when we moved in. They were nice and looked like they belonged there. They were also a neutral color so I kept them up the whole three years we lived there. When we moved I took the woman into the master and she motioned to the curtains. I told her they were here with the house and she said great. I left not long after, then remembered that I had to give her something, so turned around and came back. When I was pulling up she was sitting the curtains and the rods on my trash dumpster that was having its last pick-up the next day. Then when our deposit check came back it was short $75 for what was labeled as “Removal and Disposal of Curtains/rods”. No shit. So I called to tell them my story and they said there was nothing they could do, I left them. I even explained how it was my actual trash company that I actually paid for that actually picked them up. Again, crickets. So I did what any respectable person would do. I opened a complaint on them with the BBB, of which they liked to talk about how they were A members. Better believe I got my $75 back. Bitches.
- Then there are independent landlords. For some of them it is old hat. They have been buying, flipping, selling, and renting for years. You can always tell which kind they are by how fast they talk. If they talk fast they are salespeople. The house probably isn’t that great, or there is some serious shit wrong with the neighborhood. And trust, NEVER do one of those “Rent to Own” leases. Bad, bad stuff, y’all. Politely explain that you want to rent, not own, that’s why you are renting, then leave, FAST! We like to rent from young couples just starting out. Newlyweds, with dogs. That seems to be the sweet spot. Millennials like us, if you will. They get it. They get the student debt. They get the doggo. They even get the “only one” child bit. Hell, they don’t even think they will have any kids, good on you guys for having “only one”. #StickItToTheMan They are usually super chill and laid back, but they don’t joke around at the beginning. See above. They run all your background and credit checks. They see your bank statements and W2s. All normal stuff. Then they “interview” you. Either on the phone, in person, or the tenant that is currently living there does a “drive by” for them. We have now been on the sending and receiving end of this one, and it’s helpful, actually. Everyone gets to learn about the other people with a cozy middle-man or woman. All your questions answered. Bing, bang, boom.
Oh man, I am getting preachy. And I have way more to say on this topic, but you know, I should probably save the good stuff for the book I am never going to write one day. For now, go forth in rental prosperity. And remember, it is never a good time to get a waterbed.