Owning a house as a primary residence has never, ever been part of my plans.
I’ve been perfectly fine with the idea of renting ever since I moved out of my parent’s house.
However, my boyfriend owns a house (he purchased it before we were dating), and I moved in with him after I left Texas since it made the most sense all-around.
A number of months have passed, so I figured now would be a good time to sum up the pros and cons of “owning” a house…from the perspective of someone who would rather be renting.
(So no, I don’t technically own the house, but I do pay rent, and I have purchased/split the cost of furniture and whatnot. My boyfriend insists it’s “our” house, so there you go.)
I find that a lot of people make it their “plan” to become a homeowner after settling down because it’s part of the classic American dream. It’s what we’ve been told and taught to do after graduating and getting full-time jobs.
However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to do something “just because” it’s what everyone else has been doing for years. I always challenge the status quo – especially when it comes to huge purchases – because I want to stick to my values, not society’s values.
My thoughts? I firmly believe a house isn’t an investment, unless, of course, you buy it with the goal of making it a rental property.
A house is also likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. Why go into that purchase blindly?
Here are some of my unconventional thoughts on the subject (in slight rant form) to hopefully shed some light on homeownership for those who are thinking about it.
Hello everyone! Today I am here to talk about the pros and cons of a basement apartment. Since we have been living here for two and a half months now, I think we have a good handle on the things we do and don’t enjoy about it. I wanted to let everyone know about the experiences we’ve had so you can consider if it is the right thing for you. There were a few things we didn’t expect, so read on to find out of if we would do it again!
Privacy, for the most part. Basement apartments typically have tiny windows, so most people are not able to see inside your dwelling. We can definitely see outside, though! It also offers more privacy than if you had to share a house or apartment with someone else.
Separate entrance. In my experience, most of the basement apartments we looked at had separate entrances either on the side or back of the house. This again lends to privacy, and the feeling that you’re not invading your landlord’s personal space too much.
They are usually keptcool. There were only a handful of days during the summer that R and I felt unbearably hot. We have one fan in the living room and that is usually enough to circulate the air around to cool us down. I think our apartment is pretty well insulated, so it will be interesting to see how we fare in the winter. I am hoping that fall will be nice enough to be comfortable down here.
The space. In general, the basement apartments we viewed had a decent amount of space to them. It just depends on how they are laid out. We saw quite a few with hallways that spanned what seemed like the entire basement, and a few, likes ours, that only take up half or so. In any case, it’s more than enough for us! I don’t think we saw any that were simply studios.
The stairs. If you live in anything above two floors high, you probably have to climb a decent amount of stairs. Moving furniture may be more difficult. We had a tiny flight of stairs to deal with, that were thankfully wide enough to fit everything with no issues.
Being able to hear everything going on upstairs (including talking). I’m sure it depends on the house, and how many people live above you and how active they are, but unfortunately for us, our landlord’s are rather noisy. They have a young daughter interested in gymnastics along with a very hyper golden retriever. This makes for loud bumps, often, and sometimes when they have company over it sounds like a stampede. There were times it got to the point where I told R we needed to leave and find something to do. I just can’t concentrate with things like that going on, and I really didn’t think it would be this bad. I am so, so grateful that they are always gone for the day during weekends so I can have some peace and quiet.
The lack of light. I always kept my window shade down in my room at my parents house, never really caring for light that much. Now, I definitely miss it. There is nothing like having the sun shine through on a beautiful morning. We get it rather early on one side, and then it’s gone until around 6 when the sun is setting on the other side. My cats really enjoy basking in the sun, and it sucks that they don’t get much of it. Our apartment is not gloomy at all, but it does make a difference. We only have four windows and a door that light can come through.
The lack of ventilation. Basement apartments can get that moldy, mildew smell, but our landlord’s included a dehumidifier that takes the worry out of that. Sometimes it can still get rather stuffy and it would be nice to have some cross-ventilation with the little windows. We have one open right now but it’s not doing too much – you barely ever feel a breeze. I also would have loved to have a storm door so that we could open our actual door – both for light and for breeze. We will be taking this into consideration in the future.
The lack of windows. To tie the two points above together, it really comes down to a lack of windows, and lack of full-sized ones at that. This is an obvious one, but it’s so important. I would love to have a nice view of anything at this point, or a door/window to open to feel closer to nature outside. My one cat, who lived in the old house, used to be extremely active chasing imaginary things around the house. Now, she lays on the bed being a typical lazy cat. She has gained a few pounds, too. The little kitten finds everything fascinating and doesn’t know what she is missing, but you can bet that when we have to move, we are taking this into consideration. Ideally, we would love to have sliding glass doors leading out to a patio or something, as my cat really enjoyed that at my parent’s house.
The potential for bugs. Basements tend to attract spiders and other creepy crawlies. Thankfully we haven’t seen too many, but there have been several in the bathroom. I think one time we found several babies hatching in the kitchen, as suddenly I was seeing them hanging from the weirdest places. We have also run into two centipedes. Gross!!
Sprinklers. This is going to sound odd, but it’s something I never considered. In the summer, anyway, this is a major inconvenience. Our landlord’s have the sprinklers turned on between 8 and 9pm. This is usually when we go out shopping or walking. So we have to sit and wait for them to pass and then run out (we have a backyard entrance, so we have to cross BOTH lawns). If you’re not bothered by getting soaked, that’s great, but it can be a nuisance when your arms are full with groceries and you can’t see too well because it’s dark out. Yes, we can schedule things around them, but it’s still one of those things that you somehow wish you had thought of beforehand.
The ceiling height. R is 6’4″ and I am 5’9″. If I stretch, I can touch the ceiling. R doesn’t need to be much taller to clear it. This isn’t something that bothers us as we knew what we were getting into beforehand, and all basement apartments will vary on this. My best advice is to walk around and make sure you don’t feel claustrophobic. I loved this apartment when I first saw it, but R wasn’t able to come with me. I insisted he come back to make sure he felt okay with it.
Overall, since this is very likely a temporary situation (6-8 months), I think we will be able to rough it out. I don’t see us going this route again, unless our landlord’s are older, and without children / crazy pets.
I think the biggest thing to get used to is hearing everything upstairs and trying to tune it out. I try and solve this with music, but sometimes I just want to enjoy silence! We do really like the layout of the apartment, though, and it has everything we need.
We chose this place predominantly because they allowed cats, and no one else did. However, I feel guilty because I know my one cat isn’t enjoying it much. If we fail to find a place with adequate windows next time, I will sadly be handing her off to my parents as they have a screened-in porch in the back where our cats enjoy hanging out. Since we plan on moving close to them anyway, it shouldn’t be a big issue.
So there you have it – my little “review” of living in a basement apartment. It has been a good learning experience for us so far, as you really can’t think of everything when you don’t know what renting is like. R is definitely more lax with things than I am, which I attribute to his experience dorming at college, where they got the bare minimum.
What was the first place you rented like? Would you consider living in a basement apartment – why or why not? Lastly, any advice to give other first-time renters?
Today in our “getting an apartment” series, we will be talking about the actual search process behind finding your ideal apartment. In my previous post, I covered budgeting for your apartment, deciding on where you want to move, and what you need in an apartment. Please check it out, especially if you are moving for the first time!
Searching – Where to Look
It will probably come as no surprise that Craigslist was the first place, and only place, that I looked at. Where I am located, this is the best resource for up-to-date listings; I would say there were around 5 apartments posted a day that we were interested in, and at least 30-50 new listings a day, especially on the weekends.
We decided to start our search on a Sunday, and I think we visited seven apartments that day. The easiest way to look was to filter by the max price, and normally I only looked at apartments with pictures. I didn’t really want to waste any time visiting apartments that were potentially a dump.
If Craigslist isn’t offering much near you (I know not every location is the same), then some other resources you can use are Padmapper, Trulia, your local newspaper, and social media! Don’t underestimate the power of asking.A friend might know of someone who is looking to rent out their downstairs apartment, and you get the added bonus of not renting from a complete stranger.
I had looked at Trulia a few times, but most of their postings were geared toward leased apartments, and some were a little outdated. Padmapper was similarly disappointing, as it basically aggregates apartments listings from various resources.
Searching – How to Look
As we looked at listings, I compiled a list that consisted of the necessary information: rent amount, utilities (if they were included or not), location and contact information.
I further divided this list into Brokers and non-Brokers. We really did not want to pay 3 times – the broker fee, security and first month’s rent – so we focused mostly on privately owned houses.
The few times we did try to reach out to a Broker, they seemed utterly confused as to why we were calling, as well as rude, so we decided after those incidents that we wouldn’t bother with them. Security + first months rent was a lot more manageable for us anyway. Definitely factor this in if you don’t want to pay too much up-front!
We went down this list, calling each person or emailing based on preference. We spaced out appointments as best as possible, so that we didn’t go crazy driving around, but that was inevitable no matter how much we planned.
I felt rushed anyway; the nicest apartments don’t stay on the market for very long, and chances are if you love one you see, others will as well. However, I like to weigh the pro’s and con’s of everything before making a huge decision, so I am not a proponent of jumping into anything, especially if you feel pressured. No matter what, this decision was going to take us longer than a day.
Factors We Took Into Consideration
I based a lot on the look and feel of the apartment, as well as how easy it was to get to and find. Some questions we considered: Did R fit (he is 6’4″ and some basement apartments aren’t very friendly to him), or did he feel cramped? Did we think all of our possessions would comfortably fit? Most importantly: would we be happy there? Could we picture ourselves living there?
Another huge factor was the landlord! If we met someone who seemed off-putting, would we want to deal with them for possibly a year or more? They hold power over us; landlord/tenant relationships are important to sustain, and we didn’t want to feel awkward or have any tension with them.
This is going to vary, but as R and I are both young, I took my mom along to most of these visits to kind of ease the skepticism that some people displayed. We had to go alone a few times, and the kind of reactions we got were disappointing.
One lady seemed very hesitant while showing us around, and finally let out a nervous chuckle and said, “you guys are so young though!” She then basically grilled us on whether or not we could afford it.
While the place was gorgeous, we didn’t want to deal with that kind of person, so we crossed it off the list. Would we be looking and wasting OUR time as well if we didn’t think we could afford it?
As a side note, sometimes having a deposit ready to go is beneficial because it shows that you are serious about the place, but only one person asked for it, and it was the same person mentioned above, so I have a feeling she was still questioning our ability to pay.
Respect the landlord
The biggest tip is to be honest. When at the start of a relationship like this one, it is important not to misrepresent yourself. Present the requested information and give people the whole picture.
I don’t want to make anyone’s life harder if they don’t want any pets living in their apartment. I heard several stories where landlord’s let their tenants have ONE pet, only to find three the next day. In some cases, they had no idea a pet was going to be involved, but didn’t want to go through looking for another tenant so soon.
In the PF community, renting out apartments is often the topic of discussion for extra income. Put yourself in the landlord’s shoes: you’d probably be upset if anything changed from what was originally discussed. Don’t leave something to be a nasty surprise for someone else.
Plus, in some cases, the pet can damage the place, which you will have to pay for, and an uninvited pet is not going to make people sympathetic. In some cases, people were also allergic, so it just comes down to being considerate.
Cliché: Looking for An Apartment Is Like Looking for A Job
Not even kidding here. I found myself thinking this more than once along the way. We would leave an apartment after giving references and proof of employment only to never hear back from anyone.
They are wondering if we are the right fit for them and vice versa, but someone with better credentials income/stability/history might come along, who looks like the more attractive choice when compared to us. We trusted these people with sensitive information (sometimes a credit check application) and to never hear from them again seemed a little cold.
Obviously, you could follow up, but if you never receive an answer…well, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? *cough*jobsearching*cough*
Overall, it was stressful (for me), and the best advice I have is to not get your hopes up. It’s like house hunting – don’t fall in love before you have it, because it might not be available the next day. I had a lot of anxiety wondering if my calls were going to be returned, if I was too late, what if nothing works out, etc. If you are 100% certain you want an apartment, GO FOR IT before someone else does.