Moving Isn't So Bad

This week, we will be moving for the fourth time in four years; put another way, we have lived in five residences since 2004.

Did I expect, at age 49, to 1) be moving once a year and 2) be a renter?  No, I didn’t.  But because of job changes, not to mention the sad state of the market, that’s the way it’s worked out.

I don’t expect to be a renter forever.  On the other hand, in uncertain economic times, I am more comfortable being a renter than a homeowner.  Why?  Because if something happens to one of our jobs, we can give 30 days’ notice and move.  Selling a house, on the other hand, would be a lot more complicated — and, in this market, problematic.

Would you be surprised to learn that, for that reason, some economists have linked home ownership and higher rates of unemployment? Here’s an essay from Slate on the subject.  It’s pretty interesting reading.moving-company.jpg

Here’s a brief history of our last five years of housing:  In 2004, I got a new job in San Diego County.  We sold our house in Riverside and bought a house there.  In 2007, my husband got a new job in L.A.; while we sold the house in San Diego, we sublet a downtown loft to save money.  After the San Diego house sold, we moved to an apartment near The Grove in L.A.  And this week, we’re moving to a less-expensive duplex with a yard and air conditioning.

I don’t love the process of packing everything in boxes, particularly during this nasty heat wave.  But I don’t mind trying out a new neighborhood.  What’s nice about renting is, if we don’t  like this neighborhood (although I think we will), we can move.

I have purchased half a dozen properties in my life; with half of them came problem neighbors.  Two involved barking outdoor dogs; in another, we lived across the street from a family of ex-cons and prostitutes.  It’s stressful when you plop down tens of thousands of your hard-earned dollars on a place and find yourself at the mercy of a loser.  As a renter, you have to put up with crap for only a year, max.

I’m not ruling out buying a home again; I have nothing against doing that, if it makes sense.  In the meantime, I will enjoy the relative simplicity of renting. 

Moving day is Wednesday.  It might take me a while to get the Internet up and running at the new digs, so posting might be a little erratic this week.

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  • http://www.los-angeles-real-estate-blog.com Phyllis

    Cindy, moving is a drag BUT there is always opportunity. Best of luck in your new home & neigborhood.

    The good news is that with moving so often I bet you are fairly organized and have weeded through the clutter of life.

  • http://www.personalrealestateinvestormag.com Andrew

    I now understand why Cindy is so negative about real estate and tries to find and post everything bad to personally justify her “real estate luck.”

    Cindy, Your experience is not common to the market as only 5% to 6% of homes are in play in any one year and in current economic times, a few more of those that are forced to sell based on personally unrealistic projections. Real estate agents are never a good source of data as they are transaction commission dependent.

    A simple spreadsheet is an amazing planning tool.

    Better luck on your plans next time.

    Andrew Waite

  • Kim

    Agree with other comment posted – renters want it to be a bad market. Renting sucks. There is no way around it. Everything belongs to someone else; the carpet alone creeps me out to think of what may have happened with previous tenants and now I live on. Neighbors close by, and throwing the money away. Good luck with your move but I don’t think you are honest about being happy to be a renter.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Andrew, I see from your URL that you are publisher of something called Personal Real Estate Investor, which helps explain the antagonistic tone of your post. It also means that you are no more objective a source than the real estate agents you reference.

    I have no idea what you mean when you tell me I need “a simple spreadsheet” (in fact, to be honest, I really don’t understand much of your post), but let me assure you that there is nothing dishonest about what I have revealed about my personal real estate history nor my feelings about renting.

    My husband and I have 800+ credit scores, no debt, and a net worth in the mid six figures. In other words, unlike most people who seem to think the road to financial security is mountains of debt, we are not financial dolts. I have owned half a dozen homes and rented about the same in my adult life, and I see pros and cons to both renting and owning.

    I challenge the notion that buying is inherently superior to renting. Every situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Our situation is such that renting is the smart option. I am VERY comfortable being a renter. Is it perfect? No, but neither is homeowning.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Kim, I just don’t agree that renting sucks. When you buy a resale home, aren’t you also walking on carpet and using toilets that other people have previously used? Are you of the opinion that only lesser people rent?

    There are pros and cons to homeowning and renting. With a home I have more control and can do what I want. If I stay there long enough, I can build equity and perhaps even pay it off (which is a great strategy, but hardly anyone does it). But I’m also responsible for everything that goes wrong. It also costs a lot more — in down payment and monthly payments, plus repairs and maintenance — at least around here.

    With renting, I have a nice place that cost me a $3,000 deposit that I’ll get back when I leave. The landlord has no problem with our pets. And I live in a lovely neighborhood that would cost me three times what I pay in rent to own in — and that’s before the down payment and other associated costs.

    I could move 30 miles away and buy a house for cash right now, but why would I? My gasoline billl would go through the roof, and I’d be miserable sitting on freeways for hours a day.

    I have no idea why you would think I was being dishonest about being happy to rent. I AM happy to rent. Being a homeowner in this economy, for the amount of cash I’d have to part with, would stress me out to no end.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Phyllis, thank you for your kind wishes. Yes, I was going to mention that when you move frequently, you tend to get rid of all that accumulated clutter. After all, you can’t take it with you, so you might as well start whittling now.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/category/northridge_san_fernando_santa_clarita Tim Hebb

    Good luck with your move, Cindy!

    The New York Times’ resident economist/columnist Paul Krugman just yesterday published his take, called “Home Not-So-Sweet Home” on why home ownership is overrated.

    Here’s a sample: “In effect, U.S. policy is based on the premise that everyone should be a homeowner. But here’s the thing: There are some real disadvantages to homeownership.

    First of all, there’s the financial risk. Although it’s rarely put this way, borrowing to buy a home is like buying stocks on margin: if the market value of the house falls, the buyer can easily lose his or her entire stake … All I’m suggesting is that we drop the obsession with ownership, and try to level the playing field that, at the moment, is hugely tilted against renting.”

    For the rest of Krugmans’s thoughts, paste this in your browser:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/23/opinion/23krugman.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

  • http://www.geniusmonkeys.com Patrick

    Cindy,

    Thank you for your columns. You’ve helped to convince me to rent for a year while this market continues its downward slide.

    I’m in the same boat as you- we just don’t see the point in buying another house right now, given the economy. In our area, prices are still not in line with reality and we strongly believe (especially after the Case-Shiller report this morning) that even if they were priced correctly things will still be dropping over the next year. Plus, most of what’s on the market now is junk. There’s not a lot to choose from.

    That said, like you we plan on buying again when the situation warrants it. Until then, we’ll enjoy this new renting adventure.

  • Ryan

    “I challenge the notion that buying is inherently superior to renting. Every situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Our situation is such that renting is the smart option. I am VERY comfortable being a renter. Is it perfect? No, but neither is homeowning.”

    bingo… i currently live less than 2 miles from work in the same apartment i rented as a student 10 years ago… i have a room mate who pays half, and i’m pretty confident my share of the yearly rent is less than the yearly taxes i would have to pay on a house in my area (LB)… and now FINALLY i can see a light at the end of the tunnel…

    yes, i want to own because i’ve made it my personal goal, but now i actually have the opportunity to own a place i really want to live… and still have it be a distance i can ride my bike to work…

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  • Kim

    I have tenants in two rental homes I own. I also allow pets; in all cases. I get a security damage to cover myself and then the tenants live with the knowledge they are living in a property where other pets have lived. Which means the new tenant is moving into a home where other dogs have lived, had accidents, etc. When I bought my house 16 years ago, the one I live in, I asked for a carpet allowance in the deal, received it and replaced the carpet and pad prior to moving in.

  • BlogReader

    Kim:
    Did you get a toilet allowance and bath tub allowance also? What about the kitchen sink? God know what the previous owners might have done in there.

  • Kim

    Kitchen sinks and toilets are hard surfaces that can be bleached or even power washed. Pets are hard on property as any honest pet owner will tell you. People who are renting are many times cash strapped, won’t take their pets to the vets for simple meds that would cure say a UTI for an animal, and most likely work long hours and allow their pet to be home unattended. This is a common policy and if the property even allows pets, there will be a special deposit and sometimes extra monthly rent. Hotels that allow pets have similar policies. My properties rent quickly because I do expect my tenants to take good care of the place while there and I pay to maintain and keep the homes in good condition.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Wow, Kim, with your attitude toward your tenants, I’m grateful I’m not renting from you. Renters won’t take their pets to the vet? Are you kidding?

    Any landlord who got my husband and me as renters should be pretty happy: 850 credit scores; college-educated; mid six figures in the bank; stable employment history. We love our dogs and take very good care of them.

    But I’m sure there are no other renters out there like us; we’re the exceptions. The rest are irresponsible, dirty, pet-neglecting, lower-income miscreants.

  • Kim

    You’re probably right – and you are living in the aptmartment that they just vacated.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Very classy, Kim. Question: What’s an “aptmartment”?

  • http://www.redfin.com Christina Chan

    Wow. I have to say that I am a bit floored by some of the comments posted above. I’m not sure how Cindy’s post (Hope your move went nicely, by the way, Cindy) about her move turned into this back and forth banter that includes what are very nearly personal attacks. As a writer on this blog, I believe that this space should be a positive place to come share our thoughts on all thing related to real estate and that we can all respectfully share our opinions without having to “categorize” or put down others.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Christina, thank you for commenting. Yes, it did get a bit ugly here, didn’t it. Don’t people realize that their mean-spirited posts say more about them than the folks they’re writing about? But it’s too bad that people like this exist; they only reinforce the negative notions people have about people who do what they do (i.e., rent and invest in property).

    The truth is, there are plenty of high-end landlords out there who treat tenants with respect. The woman we rented from for the past year had an impeccably maintained, beautifully decorated and upgraded unit. The few things that went wrong, she fixed promptly. It was a great experience. We moved only to get a yard for our dogs.

    Good luck, btw, with your newly priced home. Sounds like you’re definitely getting close.

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