When I first landed my current job, I got really excited about the steady, reliable income. I felt like I’d just put my big kid pants on, ready to conquer the adult world.
I remember talking to my bank a few months into my job and calculating what mortgage I could afford, what my price range would be, how much I’d need to save up, etc. I was excited, and I’ve always wanted to buy my own home, but I was also realistic: I was worried about taking on that kind of financial responsibility, I wasn’t sure how long I’d be in the area, I wanted to feel settled and stable in my job for a few years, and I wanted to understand my budget.
Those were the most important reasons I didn’t buy a home, but looking back, I’m really glad I didn’t jump into it then. Over the past 8 years, I’ve rented 5 different places (two apartments, two townhomes, and one single family home), and I’ve learned a lot of little things to look for that I never would’ve thought of 8, or 5, years ago – heck, even a year ago, because living in a house built in the 1950’s has been an interesting experience.
6 lessons learned from renting
1. Always look for a dishwasher and disposal.
Don’t assume that just because you’re renting or buying a place in the 21st century that it will have these features. If they’re important to you, make sure to look.
When we were about to move in, we realized we didn’t know if this place had a disposal or not. We didn’t really care either way, because the rest of the house was so perfect – and we definitely checked for a dishwasher! – but it turns out the house doesn’t have a disposal. It’s a minor inconvenience for us, but if it really matters to you, look for it!
2. Know your landscape.
If you’re moving into a single family home that has a bit of yard, this is especially important.
Does it have trees? Is that a good thing for you? Trees provide a lot of great shade and look pretty. We love the view in our backyard and that it gets nice afternoon shade.
But you know what trees also do? DROP DEAD LEAVES ON YOUR YARD every year that you may (or may not, if you’re lucky!) be responsible for raking up. They also block light to your yard in certain places, so if your dream is to plant a garden in your new digs, think about that and where you could put it.
Trees close to your house can also cause a lot of structural problems as they age and the roots spread out. If you’re buying, it’s especially important to think about this. We love our cute little house, but we’d never buy it, in part because of a tree out front that has roots coming up in the walkway and surely right into the foundation of the house.
3. Understand your power bill.
Make a list of all big appliances in the house that use electricity. We were super excited when we had 2-3 months of such mild weather we never had to turn the heat or AC on. But ya know what we didn’t think about? We have a sump pump in the basement, and when we had record rainfall here one day, that thing was working for two days to pump water out. And you know how a sump pump works? Electricity that we were paying for.
Think about how well sealed the house is: are the windows drafty? Are the doors sealed well?
Does a humidifier have to run to keep the basement from being damp and gross all the time?
These are all things that will also contribute to added electric bills.
4. Consider your heat source.
Electric and heat pump heated homes are the norm these days, but make sure you understand what you’re getting. In our house, we have a heat pump, but it’s pretty old and not the most efficient.
If your home has baseboard heating like our living room (it was an addition to the house in the 80’s), those things can sure get a room warm and cozy fast, but if you leave them on for prolonged lengths of time or forget they’re on, the bills can rack up pretty quick.
If you live in an older place and have oil heat, know that when a landlord or agent tells you it’s “about $200 a month,” that’s an average – a per month price of what you will pay ALL AT ONCE when you have the tank filled. Yep, it can cost over a thousand bucks, even $2,000, to fill up a tank of oil for a home. Some friends of mine learned that lesson the hard way. I’m glad it wasn’t me!
5. Can you get a queen or king box spring where you need it?
In our house, we legit cannot get a queen box spring up the stairs; the space between the stairs and the ceiling is just too short. Some friends of ours had this problem in their townhome, too, and they cut their box spring in half and then bolted it together. You gotta do what you gotta do, but if you’re in love with your king bed and have narrow stairs and hallways, you may have some issues.
6. Check the exterior.
Not just for the normal things, like what condition the foundation, outside stairs, and siding is in. But also look for the things you may not think of at first that would make life just a little annoying in the future.
Is there an awesome deck you’re excited about chilling with your computer on and working outside? Maybe you should check that there are external outlets for that sort of thing.
Are you excited about planting new flowers, or maybe a garden, in your new yard? Cause I sure was. When I moved in, I wondered why the heck a hose was sitting in our basement. Three weeks into living here when I went to water my newly planted roses, lilies, and basil, I figured out why. There’s NO water spigot on the outside of this house. I thought every house had one.
Because it’s too much trouble to run a hose around the entire house from the basement and worry about the cats sneaking out, I now lug pitchers of water out front to water my plants.
What are your crazy renting or buying stories?