Thursday, March 18, 2010

Renting vs. owning a home: Renting comes out on top

It's an absolutely stunning day after about four days of rain of biblical proportions. Roads flooded. Basements filled with water. The MWRA let millions of gallons of raw sewage spill into Quincy Bay, otherwise the sewage treatment plant would have backed up. I walked to tech rehearsal on Sunday in the South End and from the car to the theater it was liking walking through a car wash. I had an umbrella, but I was soaked after only getting a quarter of the way there. It never seemed as if it would ever stop.

This, like so many times, is the reason I like renting. I don't want to own a house. I don't want to worry about my roof flying off in a windstorm. I don't want to worry about the roof leaking. I don't want to have to pump out a basement and clean up the mess. I don't want to be...responsible. And I don't want to pay for all those roofs flying off and all the stuff you need to clean up after a flood. I've been watching the statuses on Facebook, I remember those days of constant bailing out your basement. The backbreaking work. The worry. The mess.

I know it's not the norm in these United States. Renting is so declasse. It's so ghetto. You're not a grownup unless you own your own home. It's the American Dream to own your own little half-acre. But I like renting. A lot.

We don't have a lot of responsibilities. If it's a gorgeous day we're not tied to our house, cutting the grass. Pruning bushes. We're off on our bikes or on a trip into the city.

If something goes wrong, we call our landlord. He's a great guy. And he lives right downstairs. He's not like my old landlord who also lived right downstairs, but if he actually did fix something, it was always weeks after I told him about it and he always did a Mickey Mouse job. I mean, my toilet ran the entire six or seven years I lived there. Cooking in my oven was like cooking in a nuclear reactor. It had one setting: hot. He promised me a new stove, but I never saw one. And I hated to push the point because he was the kind of guy (wealthy who knew the cost of everything but the value of nothing--like a good tenant) who would have raised my rent to compensate himself for the cheap-ass stove he would have bought.

My old landlord, too, had this attitude that although you were paying him a boatload of money to live in kind of a fire-trap shit hole, he still looked at it as you had to live around him and his family. It really wasn't your home; it was his and he was landlording over you.

Steve, our landlord has already said Sue and I are family. We look in on his mom (who's 90 and also lives downstairs.) This is our home.

Last fall Sue bought over 100 bulbs and we planted them around the yard. Today I was out there--like I've worked in so many of my own yards--raking and cleaning up. The bulbs are coming up. We have a mulch pile where I've raked all the leaves and we put in all the compost from the kitchen--everything from coffee grinds to orange peels and egg shells. It's not the big production I once had, when I had a flock of about 25 chickens, a garden a big yard, lots of tools. But it's nice to get out there. We're going to put in an herb garden. And, Rose, our landlord's mom, wants me to plant some tomatoes for her.

It's small, but it's pleasant and doesn't take up a lot of time.

We're painting the entire apartment to our liking. It's your home, Steve has said. Do what you want.

Most Americans think renting is temporary. What if they sell the house from under you? It's not permanent. It's not yours.

Well, a lot can go wrong with a house, too. Nothing is permanent. And we like the fact that it's us who can just pick up and leave at a moment's notice too. If we want to relocate--for a job or even to another part of the city just for a change in our lives--we can. We probably won't though. Because more and more each day, this apartment is our home in every sense of the word. We're storing up memories and good times. And we're making our mark on it in the way we decorate and live in it.

The way we look at it, we have the best of both worlds. We have the freedom, and a home. Something a house doesn't let you have. It's just one of the many things I think a lot of Americans are going to wrap their heads around with this new economy. The old American model of owning your own home isn't the way to go. It may take some getting used to for some people--and some may never be able to make the change--but I am one person who is glad he did

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