Home Is Where the Cat Is…

We went to view an apartment today.  And now I’m totally bummed out.

Some background: we have been homeowners.  And we have come to the conclusion that homeownership bites.  Bites hard.  With condos, there’s HOA dues and HOA members and HOA management to deal with.  (And speaking as a former president of a HOA, it sucks to be in one as well as to be on the board.)  With houses, there’s so much maintenance to deal with.  The costs of homeownership are not just the price of entry, but also property taxes, roofs, garbage collection, utilities, HOA fees, insurance, lack of mobility, opportunity costs…

So after selling our last place, we (well, Chris who then convinced me) decided to forego homeownership for the long-term future.  Which leaves us with the joys of renting.  On the plus side of the ledger:

  • If something breaks, it’s not our problem.
  • If heat is included in the rent, that’s a fixed cost for us (which in Chicago is often in our favor).
  • No worries about homeowner liability (and rental insurance is so much cheaper!).
  • Many landlords allow custom painting (which is the only improvement we ever made on any of the homes we ever owned).

Of course, on the negative side of the ledger:

  • If it breaks, we need to wait for the landlord to fix it (or pay to fix it ourselves and wait to get reimbursed).
  • The quality of most apartments leaves much to be desired.
  • Neighbors are usually much more transient than in condo buildings (although there was quite a bit of come-and-go in our last condo building too).

Our current home is wonderful in many respects: the light is wonderful, the layout is great, there are beautiful vintage features (built-ins, 10 ft ceilings, crown moulding, mosaic tile floors in the sun room and bathroom, hardwood floors elsewhere), heat and water are included in the rent, and the neighborhood is awesome.  We’re a 10-15 minute walk from some of our favorite theaters, restaurants, coffee shops, three major grocery stores, oodles of Zipcars, public transportation options galore…

But there’s very little outdoor space (just enough for our grill), I’m getting tired of the neighbor upstairs (or rather, her dog — which just barked as I was typing this sentence and loves to run back and forth through the length of the apartment), I’m tired of the inconsistent heating, I’m tired of the inconsistent hot water, I’m tired of the crappy water pressure in the shower, and I’m getting tired of nagging our landlord to fix non-urgent issues.

So when I found a coach house a couple of blocks from Chris’ office in the suburbs, I thought I had hit a jackpot.  The rent is pretty much equal to our rent (but utilities aren’t included), but it’s a private coach house with its own fenced-in yard.  The pictures looked adorable: grey-blue siding, a cute front porch, picket fencing…

So on the coldest day of the week, I dragged Chris to view it.  The outside matched the photos perfectly and it just looked too darn cute!  And the private yard had beautiful, southern exposure.  Then we went inside…  again, very cute!  Of course, I loved it.  By the time we were back outside, viewing the private yard again (which would be a perfect vegetable garden!), I was smitten.  I could overlook the too-low ceilings.  I could overlook the awkward layout.  I could overlook the cosmetic blemishes.  I could overlook the fact that our cat is beginning to show signs of arthritis and wouldn’t appreciate the stairs.  I could overlook the fact that the heating bill would be astronomical.

Fortunately, I wasn’t completely stupid.  I had brought Chris with me to serve as the reality check.  Which he did: upon leaving, he asked me what I thought.  I, being me, immediately started in on how cute it was, how wonderful the private yard was…  He let me go on for about five minutes.  Then he reminded me of all the flaws.  And he asked if I could really live in the suburbs.

No.  I really can’t.  I don’t want to give up easy access to theater.  I don’t want to give up my 2 minute walk to my favorite grocery store.  I don’t want to subject my 12-year-old cat to staircases.

I just want that yard.  In the city.  In one of the most dense neighborhoods in Chicago.

Oh, and the privacy of a coach house.

For the price of an apartment.

Yeah, I’m now bummed out.  But it will pass.

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