Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I know a guy who, unfortunately is amidst a divorce and has left his 3,700 square foot, 100 year-old Victorian house and moved into a 3 bedroom rental apartment. He insists that aside from all the other issues implicit in a divorce, he is loving renting now. He has nothing to worry about fixing or renovating. He no longer comes home to annoyances like leaky faucets; he no longer frets about peeling paint or creaky steps. Now he just comes home from work and can finally relax.
My wife and I considered buying a decrepit Victorian house in Waltham and he, coming from the unimpeachable perch of experience, essentially said not to do it. Asked if he went back in time, would he still buy his old Victorian, this guy said he would only buy the house if he were "young and dumb."
This was one of the points I argued with my wife when we were jawboning buying a few places earlier this year. Every little repair job in a house is a burden on the MAN. He's the one that has to diagnose and research every little issue. He's the one who has to manage plumbers and contractors as they try to ravage his wallet. I told my wife that renting allows me to sleep at night - a luxury of almost unquantifiable value.
So I am here in my new place four weeks now. The rails on the staircase are falling off, the window sills outside need paint, the glass door on the shower is hanging by a thread, both the seal and the lock on the back door are in disrepair, the pump in the air conditioner has been broken and fixed twice recently, and there's probably some more stuff I can't remember at this instant. Again, this is only over the past four weeks!
Then this week my landlord got hit with two more little disasters. The blower on the septic tank went - cost $770. And, in the course of trying to convert the heating system from oil to gas he not only obviously needed to buy a new boiler - costing a few grand, it turns out the chimney that houses the exhaust also has all sorts of problems. It has a crumbling interior of asbestos, terra cotta, or some other junk; it had to be swept/vacuumed out and now needs a new steel liner. This will run around $1,800 - so they say. It might even make sense to completely rebuild the chimney, given the total cost.
So yes, I truly believe that Homeownership Sucks. It is completely overrated AND it makes no economic sense given that rental costs are roughly 70% of purchase costs nationwide. In Florida, they are down to 60%.
How many times have you recently heard Morons say they bought a condo because they didn't want to deal with yard work and upkeep?
Notwithstanding the premium of buying over renting a place, it makes perfect sense that an abode with outsourced upkeep should cost more than a place where dwellers are responsible for every little maintenance problem.
Devil's Advocate - No, those condos pool their upkeep costs, spread them over more people, so they'd be cheaper to maintain than individual units.
Now that's a great little theory, but have you ever seen low condo fees out in the real world? I haven't.
Added to that is the bickering amongst condo owners over management decisions. How often should the grass be watered? How much to spend on flowers for the common roadway? I know a new tony condo development in Port Washington, NY that is already awash in management strife. There was a big brouhaha about how long the parking lot lights would be left on at night. The cheap old folk wanted to save money on electricity. Remember, that's what fossils do whether they are rich or not - they run around turning lights off.
As I sit here typing this, my landlord is outside trying to remove a sliding glass door and re-glue the insulation. It's a little complicated to extricate such a door but he's hoping to avoid calling a carpenter.
I gave my wife last night the litany of things that have gone wrong in our first month. I chuckled that I love having a landlord because it's like having a handyman, on call, for free!
What could possibly be more ideal?
In this hectic age where consumers highly value their free time, don't y'all think that free maintenance and outsourced upkeep should demand a premium?
In other words, it should be cheaper to buy than to rent a given house that's replete with the on-call handyman.
Sometimes the market prices of our world really are upside down.
UPDATE - Door couldn't be fixed by owner. Carpenter has been called.