Easy: we moved. We hadn’t been planning on moving, but our landlord wanted to raise our rent, so we figured it couldn’t hurt to see what lose was out there. Once we started looking, we realized our current house was a little overvalued, even before the rent increase. What’s more, we didn’t actually need all the space we had. There were smaller, cuter, cheaper houses available in town.
Lesson 1: Don’t let the pain of moving keep you in the wrong place.
We should have moved earlier, but moving just seemed like such a pain that we stayed put year after year. Inertia is not your friend.
It took our landlord trying to hike our rent to get us to really consider leaving. Once we said we’d be moving out, our landlord tried to backtrack on the rent increase, but by then it was too late. (Sometime later I’ll write up the many lessons of property ownership that our inept landlord has taught me.) We discovered we could rent a smaller but more charming house just around the corner from our old house for $300 less than we were currently paying. That’s $390 less per month than the proposed rent increase.
Lesson 2: Every year before you sign a new lease, look for a new place.
You don’t have to move, but you should at least consider it. Go see two or three places that are available. Are they better? Cheaper? Try to forget the pain of moving (this checklist will help you out when the time comes) and imagine how a new house could change your budget or your commute.
Of course, moving can be a budget-buster. Our actual move was cheap, if protracted. We borrowed a pickup truck and enlisted some friends to help us move all the big stuff one Saturday. Then we took another week to ferry everything else from the old house to the new. But we’ve had to buy quite a bit of new stuff: the new place has much less storage, so we had to stock up on IKEA shelves and carts and drawers. And of course there were the curtains. And the inevitable multiple trips to the hardware store for all the things you suddenly discover you need.
Lesson 3: Weigh the cost of the move against the rent savings.
In our case, we could afford to spend quite a bit on the move before we started to eat into our savings: at $3600 less per year, we’d have to make a lot of trips to Lowe’s before we tipped into the red.
I’ve been avoiding tallying up our total spending on this move because we did buy a few more things than we strictly need, but most of what we bought is the kind of thing that’s always good to have: kitchen carts, metal shelves, and closet storage. Sure, we could have just gotten rid of a bunch of our stuff, but we actually use it all. We cook a ton, and we really use all the pots and gadgets and spices that we have crammed in our kitchen.
Lesson 4: Learn how to make creative use of storage space.
We could have easily looked at the new house and dismissed it because the closets are tiny and we used every one of our eight closets in the old house. But we spent some time thinking about how we could reorganize the stuff we had unreflectively jammed in the closets so that it could all live in the new house. And once we really thought about it, we realized that there was plenty of stuff we could move to the basement, and plenty more that we could store on shelves around the house. We’ll need to be a bit tidier and more organized, but that’s probably for the best.
Has anyone else learned any valuable renting lessons? I feel like people don’t talk about tips for renting as often as they talk about home ownership, but sometimes renting really is the smarter choice, and the tips and tricks are very different than they are for owning your home.