A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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When Is Renting The Better Choice?

I counted it up today and realized that in the span of our 20-year relationship, Fortysomething and I have moved no fewer than 10 times. It's as if we can't get enough of the stress. Every single time we decide to do it, we tell each other it'll be no big deal. Every single time, I drop a couch on my foot, lose the hardware to a bedframe or table, and yell at Fortysomething in a parking lot, usually all within the first hour. Every single time, it ends with me swearing that we're never moving again. 

What did we do last week? 

We moved. Again. Big #10.

View from the new front porch
Moving happened not because we really wanted to, but because we were desperate to get out of our previous apartment. Our original plan had been to stay there until we were ready to buy a house and make that one last big move. Sure, the place was dim and ugly with circa-1985 kitchen cabinets that clung to the wall with a few rusty screws. Yeah, pot smoke would waft in through the vents from the adjacent apartment and turn our bathroom into a veritable hotbox every weekend. But it was affordable and ideally located, and we wanted to make it work. 

Then, last fall, new neighbors moved in below us and made our dilapidated but cozy abode almost unlivable. Our evening hours turned into a predictable cacophony of music, yelling, and door-slamming. To get some shuteye, I'd have to take a sleeping pill and blast white noise through my headphones. We had some hope when our apartment manager listened sympathetically to our complaints and directed us to call the cops so that he could start the eviction process. We did, but the only result was that the noise got worse and the people downstairs became more belligerent. We decided we needed to break our lease and go.


We started looking around and quickly received a reality check. At the moment, the local house-buying landscape is sparse, cutthroat, and expensive (the average price of a single-family home exceeds $400K!) and getting more so with every passing month. Every halfway decent listing on Zillow receives multiple offers, often sight unseen. It's common for listings to be posted and taken down within the span of a few hours.  We know from friends who have taken the buying plunge that even the "average-priced" homes are far from being turnkey. Many of them need substantial work in the form of new siding, new roof, new air conditioning system, and/or mold removal. In other markets, those issues would bring down the cost. Not here. 

The idea of taking on more debt to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, competing with multiple other bidders on what would likely be multiple offers, and then, upon finally having the winning bid, shelling out even more cash for repairs and updates on a potential money pit sounded less and less appealing the more we considered it.

Combine that with the fact that a) we still have consumer debt and b) our down payment would be meager, and all signs seemed to point to Now Is Not The Time To Buy.

While we were debating home purchase pros and cons, we happened to take a tour of a rental duplex down the street. It became available just as we were tearing our hair out over the neighbor situation. The rent seemed borderline astronomical, but it had almost everything we wanted, including a big kitchen with lots of cabinet and counter space, an abundance of natural light (an absolute must for me), lovely views, and a centralized location. 




And here we are! It's a warm, bright space, and it already feels like home (even though we still have boxes and boxes to unpack).

Renting again wasn't in our plans, but we do acknowledge the benefits. If something breaks, on-site maintenance will be here within hours to repair it. We don't have to fix the roof, clean the gutters, or paint the siding. We can spend our weekends on our hobbies instead of our house projects. And this place is more turnkey than any home we could ever hope to buy here.

That said, in the interest of full disclosure, I'd be lying if I said I'm not a tiny bit disappointed that we're not purchasing. I grew up at a time when it seemed as though buying a home was the thing every adult naturally did as soon as they had a steady paycheck. There's a part of me that is still vehemently attached to that ideal and expectation, even though I know it's unrealistic for many Gen Xers, Millenials, and beyond. 

Will we ever purchase our own place? Honestly, I hope so. I really do. We love it here, and we're compelled to put down roots. But the steep up-front costs and almost certain inflation are always going to be enormous challenges for us. Only time will tell, but for now, renting is clearly the right choice for us.

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3 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new home! I hope that your landlord will allow you to make reasonable changes that would improve the property and your happiness living there. So far we have put in a new kitchen sink and faucet (seriously,why do they even make 5.5" deep sinks?), new higher,elongated toilets, additional shelves in the kitchen as well. Still on tap is a whole house humidifier, additional shelving in the bedroom closets, raised garden beds. Sure it on my dime but its small things that will make living there and renting a little easier to swallow.

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  2. So much counter space! Both the inside and the outside view look beautiful! I commend you on waiting to purchase until you are better prepared.

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  3. It looks great! I still rent when I too looked at housing, I was priced out of my neighborhood, estates across the street from my apartment complex starting in the high 300s or some nonsense

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