OK. We’ve been in the apartment for three weeks now, still early, but here’s how it has gone:
Maintenance and improvements. We have needed to have a couple of things repaired and we have added ceiling fans where they didn’t exist before. We call one number, the management company hotline, they schedule the work and, at no extra cost or effort on our part, the crew comes in and does the work. It’s quite different from ownership since this type of work used to consist of either doing the work myself or us finding someone to do the work, making the call, managing the work then paying the workers.
Landscaping. I see the workers come out every few days or so to work on various parts of the grounds. They cut the grass and blow the clippings, climb tall ladders with their machetes to trim the vine covered walls, they trim the hedges and pick everything up at the end of the day and then they’re gone. The place always looks great.
Community. So far, not much different from neighborhood living. I see my neighbors here about as often as I saw my old neighbors. Instead of yelling “hello” across the yard, I’m a few steps away from the new neighbors when we speak to each other, but, the conversation is not any different. So, neighborly relationships are unchanged so far.
Pool. I like having a pool a few steps from my door again. I haven’t had that since Mandeville. This time it’s different though. I don’t pay for chlorine or utilities to run the filter, so there is no extra cost there. I share the pool with other families now instead of having my own, and that’s been fun. We’ve met interesting people and the pool is big enough for us not to get into each other’s way. Usually it’s just our family at the pool though.
Cost. We still have four bedrooms and the apartment is roughly the size of our house, but it turns out that renting is a better deal than owning over a short term stretch. Pros – The rent is lower than the house payments, no maintenance costs, no remodeling costs, no grass cutting cost, no real estate fees to move to another place and the equity is invested in stocks and mutual funds instead of the downpayment getting a fixed 4% mortgage loan offset. Cons – I lose the mortgage interest deduction, no portion of my payment goes into a principle bucket and I don’t get to pocket real estate appreciation. I calculated five year total ownership cost/gain of a house vs rental cost and it’s nearly a wash, with a slight advantage to renting. Longer term, ownership makes more financial sense, but it only works out if you stay put, which we seem to have trouble doing. Our average time in a house is 3.2 years.
Newness. Change is fun. Exploring the new neighborhood and the surrounding ones gets us out and exercising a bunch. We’ve taken tons of walks and bike rides. We try to mix in some paid restaurant and coffee shop visits with lots of free exploratory walks and rides. I’ve seen amazing old Baton Rouge residential architecture that I never knew existed. I get to see some really shocking income disparity between residents on one side of a block compared to folks just on the next street over. I see artfully, meticulously restored houses next to abandoned, boarded up houses with decades of termite damage. New experiences are always fun.
Eight and a half months to go on the lease and so far I’m liking the new place.