4.15.2008

RENTING

Have you ever read Bridget Jones Diary? You know how she calls everyone "Smug Marrieds"? That's how I feel about being a renter sometimes, i.e., a thirtysomething singleton hanging out with a bunch of cocky married folk.

Our landlord informed us this week that unless we are willing to sign a new lease and take on a $300 a month rent increase, that we will be given a 30 day notice as soon as they can find a new tenant that will. Oh joy. Opening my home to potential tenants, finding a new place to live and moving are three things I was really hoping to do within the weeks surrounding the birth of our new baby. What a great time for a homebirth! (I hope the sarcasm is transferring through my writing to you. )

When I notified my mother of these untimely events, she said, "Oh, that's what you get for not owning a house!" Thanks for the pep talk, Smug Homeowner.

We knew this was part of the package when we moved back to Southern California. Home ownership would not come easily to us as long as we chose to remain here. Even in "middle of nowhere Tehachapi," home affordability is difficult, and while the prices are starting to drop, I now question whether or not I want to make that kind of commitment to this town. Other options to get into our own home have included "creative" financing (we actually toyed with doing that while we were both working... I'm so glad we didn't), me going back to work, or taking out a conventional 30 year loan that is almost half our monthly take home pay. (How they can still lend that kind of money to people, I still don't understand.) While lots of people tell us to "just do it," I refuse to be house poor. I don't expect to have fancy furniture right away, but I would like to be able to afford to put in a backyard or fix a broken water heater once we move in.

Now that we are searching for a new rental, I am reminded of how Smug Homeowners like to treat us "lowly" renters. With all of the credit checks (for which we must always pay a non-refundable fee), reference checks, and questioning, I feel like I am on trial. I wish it were enough to say, "We'll be the best renters you ever had," but even with that kind of statement the Smug Homeowners treat us like we're guilty of destroying their precious rentals before we ever move in.

Erik is constantly reminding me that he would rather be on this side of the equation, "House prices are dropping! People are walking away from their homes! Ha ha, stupid house flippers and speculators! At least we're debt free!" This is all true, but like my mother (the Smug Homeowner) said, "As long as you keep renting, you can be kicked out at anytime." Unfortunately, being pregnant and days away from my due date does not make us exempt from this sort of scenario. I'm trying not to hyperventilate every time I think about moving this month, but this past week has been hard.

(Note to Smug Homeowners Reading This Post: Wipe that smile off of your face. Stop thinking how much better you are than the renters. If you must comment, please try not to make it so "smug" and try remembering what is was like before you bought your home. Thanks.)

16 comments:

  1. You go with your bad renting self!!!! I agree with you. As a matter of fact, we enjoy our debt free life. With renting comes no debt. Yeah they can kick you out but there is always tons of places to rent. When the kids get older we can arrange to not have rent and travel to Europe all summer and come back and find another place....Either that or move to some hick state where you can buy a house for $100,000...Hmmmmmm, smug homeowner or deft free renter???

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  2. (your smug mother) Okay, that was a little misquoted, but I'm (usually) willing to be fodder for your blogging hobby, so I'll try and support your literary license. Just be sure to give proper credit for my tips on making your (sorry, THEIR) house look uninviting when potential renters are shown the property. By the way, the mice you buy at the pet store are usually white, laboratory-type mice, and they can't pass for field mice :) You can always set the legs of Luke's crib in jars filled with kerosene, and then apologize for the scorpion problem. I can send you plenty of those---dead or alive. They would make great props.

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  3. Am I the only one that is understanding that this "being kicked out" is all conditional upon the owners finding new tenants that are willing to pay $300 more than you are paying??? AND THEN they will kick you out! Yes, it is awful having people come walk through you house at a moments notice (let's hope you are not in the tub wink* wink*) but this replacing you could take a very long time.

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  4. Can you go to a month to month lease and pay the extra money for a couple months until after the baby is born? I'm sorry that you are faced with having to move at this time - it plain sucks!!
    If you are in the mood for a real change...you can move here to Roseville, we may have to move, rent our house out, and go rent another home. Smug homeowner - to fellow renter having to subsidize the rent while another family lives in my home that I love!

    Good Luck and keep us posted.

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  5. Canada's full of cheap houses! you can move up here and then I could finally meet you, and we'd probably be friends. I might even like you enough to babysit your kids...and I'd blog about all the crazy things they did...

    think about it.

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  6. That makes me sick to think about being in that situation with a one year old and a new born. I'm soo sorry!! Well hopefully you have a lot of people who can help out with moving! That's true though what kelley and mom said, it could take a long time for them to find someone to pay more than you are!

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  7. As long as you're not desperate to be house poor you should definately keep on renting! We are desperate to be house poor right now so.....and speaking from past home ownership and now rentership they both have their definate pros and cons. If it makes you feel any better even if you bought a house you wouldn't be exempt from moving...(i.e. we moved into our first home on Saturday and I had Kylee on Tuesday....that was lovely). Now that i'm so close to this baby coming its inevitable that we're thinking of moving again (buying another home)....at least you can sit back and let other people do all the major moving! That was kinda fun...directing the boxes locations rather than actually having to move them! :)!

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  8. From a loser previous homeowner to a renter...until you know where you want to be and can easily afford it (i.e. not half your take home pay), rent away!

    And no, I didn't walk away. I just got very lucky.

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  9. I can sympathize with landlords wanting to jack up the price of rent. Our old apartment wanted to add $200 to our rent and we were not going to have that. We got lucky in that we were able to buy our condo in time. Have you looked to see if SOCal has any first time homebuyers programs? That's how we got our condo. Our county has a program where if you are a first time homebuyer and qualify (income wise), you can get a townhome or condo for way below market value. We're actually paying less for our mortgage and utilities than we were paying for rent.

    I love the idea of the poor staging. You could always leave some poopy diapers in a closet somewhere.

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  10. Cristin, are you guys on a long term lease or month-to-month? Check out this site for landlord/tenant law in California: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/index.shtml

    He might not be able to kick you out so easily.

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  11. Ugh! I know what you mean. I got fiancial advice from my mother-n-law who said "why don't you buy a home, you can get more money back on your tax return from the interest you pay on your home." This is when we are about to have Chloe (not knowing if I will have to work or no), paying our tax guy (which we didn't have the money for), trying to sell our car so we could have some money to pay off our debt, and we just started to pay back our student loans. I wanted reach over and strangle her. She also said "You should buy more stuff that you can write off on your tax return." I told her that was the most stupid advice. Great idea to spend any extra money you have on crap so your taxes aren't as bad.

    If anyone needs her number for financial advice let me know.

    FYI - I love my mother-in-law but her common sense doesn't make any sense.

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  12. Bryan - Thank you so much for that website link! We are on a month-to-month with them right now, but I especially liked the section on "proper service of notice," "rent increases" and "when can the landlord enter the rental unit." This has been very helpful. Thanks!

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  13. Wait a pain Cristin. I hate renting, but I'm also glad we didn't buy a crappy house while Zach's been in school. Our friends did that here and it bit them in the butt.

    We're moving when the baby is a week old, but it's been planned so it doesn't feel stressful. I'm sure you're very stressed right now with everything on your plate.

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  14. That should say what, not wait. D'oh

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  15. You identified reasons 1 through 7 that we moved out of California. There are only two types of California homeowners: 1. put their family in a financially dangerous position, and 2. lived there longer than 20 years. (There is a subset of type two: related to people who lived there longer than 20 years who are helping you out.) People under the age of 40 can't really be expected to have owned their own home for longer than 40 years, so that means they've either endangered their family financially or they're living on someone else's dime. And so we live in Kansas, which, actually, is a much nicer place to live than California. I know there are people like my younger brother who would give a limb to be able to move back, but those people are idiots. I will never move back, no matter how cheap it is.

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  16. Dear Cristin--

    I love your blog! I'm glad your mother wasn't mine.

    love, Aunt Booka

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