I heard it so often -until it made me sick to my stomach: "Oh, you're renting? You should buy because you do realize that you might as well flush that money down the toilet each month, right?"
This admonition often came from my joint-income friends that were mere freshmen in the real estate game. Their uncontained excitement about enjoying the famous mortgage-interest-tax-write-off made them anxious to preach their real estate prudence. For some reason, as a renter, I became their student. They educated me with their real estate savvy and pointed out my financial carelessness.
It didn't matter that they were eating instant macaroni & cheese every night so they could squeeze every penny from two incomes to have property that would be described as a "cottage" anywhere except southern California. In their minds, they were financially smart, I was financially wasteful and it was their job to rescue me from my "apartment money pit."
Don't get me wrong -my home-owning friends are in excellent financial positions now. Good for them. But to their sermons, I say, "Humbug." For a significant part my life, renting was good to me and, frankly, the benefits weren't so shabby.
I rented in neighborhoods in which I couldn't dream of buying a home. If living in a nice home in a nice area for a reasonable rent was a measure of success, then I was doing fine.
If I got a new job in a new city, I simply moved. A U-Haul, a refunded deposit in hand and a few calls to new utility companies and I was set in a new place. My home didn't tie me to any city. If I was not happy with my job, I had no mortgage commitment (nor a necessary second income) to keep me from taking a better job far away.
I had a "personal assistant." Call me delusional if you will, but I perceived my apartment manager as an assistant. If something needed fixing, I'd delegate it to my assistant. Sure, it didn't always happen quickly, but my own screwdriver stayed new and I paid none of my own time or money for maintenance.
If, in front of our building there were occasional, unsightly things such as graffiti or clothes hanging out the window, I didn't care! I had no concern about such aesthetics and, therefore, paid no attention.
I couldn't have cared less about the Prime Lending Rate because it meant nothing to me. Whenever TV or radio news contained any information about the Prime Rate, my smart, homeowner friends stopped chewing their macaroni and held their breath. Me? I just kept chewing my prime rib while sitting in my rented kitchen.
All things considered, it's not always true that renters are throwing their money away.
I eventually did purchase my first property -a condo. Yes, I'll likely make a profit when I sell, however, the increased work and worry of owning doesn't compare to renting. Now I've become a property-owning stress-ball with a host of new concerns:
Who's moving in? Are they quiet? Will they improve the property?
Which neighbor will be nosy and ask me too many questions next -fishing for info on how I might affect their investment?
The guy in unit 105 needs to slow down in the garage or someone will be hit and we'll all be sued.
Who left this trash in the hall? Have they no pride in our property?
With no manager when I get locked out I have to pay a bundle to a locksmith.
I had to buy new tools because I now have to fix things myself.
Why hasn't that broken car out front been towed? What if I was trying to sell my place? C'mon, haven't these people heard of "curb appeal?"
I don't like how the HOA is spending my expensive dues. What meeting do I have to attend, to fix it?
And since when do I have to pay for water? Isn't this bill a little steep?
They want how much to insure the place?
Property tax is always a predictable, spectacular, yearly nightmare.
Tenting for termites is a tremendous, expensive inconvenience. And I get to foot the bill.
Boy, this mortgage note is quite a chunk each month, isn't it? I might like to move soon but perhaps I'll stretch for a while to wait for a bit more equity.
[DING] Oh, I have to wrap this story up -my microwave macaroni & cheese is ready.
By the way, if you are still renting, you might consider buying. It's like paying yourself.