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Archive for October, 2011

People facing the choice between renting an apartment or purchasing a house will find themselves the recipients of much information designed to persuade them that purchasing the house is the more logical alternative.

A little digging into this information, however, will reveal that its source is from people who have a vested interest and stand to make a profit from influencing the decision in favor of purchasing rather than renting.

Banks, mortgage companies, mortgage brokers, realtors, insurance agents and title companies are a few of the many that benefit whenever a place to live is bought.

These vested interests are responsible for the existence of many myths and misinformation regarding the choice to rent in lieu of buying.

Let’s examine some of those myths, attempt to dispel them and supply some level of objectivity to the decision making process.

Myth 1: Owning a Home is The American Dream

While it may be true that many Americans desire to own a home, claiming that it is The American Dream is hyperbole in the first degree. This one almost seems to be implying that not wanting to own a home is unpatriotic. The fact is that no one, however much they may want to claim to have their finger on the pulse of some idealistic expectation, cannot account for the diversity that is represented by millions of people that are able to use their own self determination to define their dreams. Some people dream of owning a business. Others want to pursue advanced education. Others want to travel the world freely and experience the variety of different people and cultures. These are also worthwhile dreams, dreams that could be inhibited by the responsibility of home ownership.

Myth 2: Paying Rent is Throwing Your Money Away

This one has been repeated so often, that is it is accepted as truth without any critical thinking being applied to it at all.

Those who advocate purchasing a home go to considerable lengths to make the argument that a mortgage payment is an investment that is guaranteed to appreciate in value, while at the same time maintaining that rent is a complete waste of money.

Try telling that one to anyone in the past several years who has plunked down $30-$60,000 as a down payment on a $300,000 house and is now dealing with a $240-$270,000 mortgage, needs to move and sell the house, and is told that based on comparable sales in the area, the house is only worth $200,000. The reality is that this person is staring right down the barrel of a loss of their down payment and whatever it takes to cover the negative equity on the sale of the home.

Even in times when home values are appreciating, the simple fact is that anyone who either wants or needs to sell a home during the first five years of ownership is going to break even at best. That’s because mortgage interest is front-loaded, and settlement fees on the initial purchase also contribute to the deficit.

The main element of this myth that must be discredited is the idea that buying a home is an investment. If it is being purchased as a primary residence, it is not investment, it is a place to live.

Myth 3: Mortgage Payments Will be Less Than Rent

There are numerous mortgage calculators that propose to demonstrate that the mortgage payment on a purchased home will be less than the rent on a similarly sized apartment.

Most of these are completely incapable of accounting for some of the variable costs of home ownership, with property taxes and mortgage insurance required for down payments of less than 20%, being two that at best, can only be approximated.

Then, there is the cost of utilities to consider. While some rental properties do leave some or all utility costs as the responsibility of the tenant, all homeowners always pay all utilities. When you factor in that most single-family housing has four exterior walls exposed to the environment, you can be relatively certain that heating and cooling costs will be elevated compared to many apartments that have only one or two exposed walls.

These are just three of the many myths that attempt to make home ownership more attractive than renting. There are others, including the claim that people who live in an apartment do so out of necessity, when in fact for many it is a deliberate choice. It is also sometimes claimed that rental housing experiences a higher crime rate, a claim, that under close scrutiny, falls apart.

The freedom to move easily, invest savings in more liquid investments as opposed to tying them up in a huge down payment, and the freedom from routine and unexpected maintenance costs, are just a few of the reasons why renting will always be a valid choice for those who take the time to weigh their options logically.

Stress comes in many forms and it does many adverse things to the body. Our jobs, our finances, traffic, broken appliances, kids’ sporting events scheduled while you’re en route home from work plus a dozen other things cause stress. When it hits the body, headaches, fatigue, body aches in addition to more serious things like hair loss, bags under the eyes and eyesight problems are only a few of the little joys stress brings us. Moving day is no fun, but it doesn’t have to give you a stroke. Some tips might even help it be a smooth move.

The Search

When shopping for apartments, every woman checks the apartment listings for storage space and closets. While the kids are at school and hubby is at work, guess who packs the house out and guess who unpacks it to store it? So storage and closet space are of paramount importance to a woman. As a matter of fact, occasionally an extra bedroom used for storage is a good idea, so when checking the listings at Apartment Map.com, be sure to check for a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment, depending on how many bedrooms are needed.

The Prep

Now that you’ve found an appropriate apartment in your location of choice, it’s time for some spring cleaning. Being ruthless about extraneous things, call the Salvation Army or Goodwill to come pick up what you’re not moving. That erases quite a bit of stress. Next, grab a notebook and pen because it’s time to organize the packing. Into a room you’re not using every day, write down what you don’t use frequently, if at all, then pack it out. Next comes things you don’t use every day and won’t bother with until you unpack it in your new apartment. List these in your notebook, then pack it out.

The Tools of the Trade

Everybody knows how to raid the grocery store for produce boxes in which to pack the books. Everybody knows to head for the department stores in town to get tall boxes for odd-sized things or boxes of all sizes for clothing, toys, computer components and the like. Have you thought of clear plastic totes? Most dollar stores have them for next to nothing and they can be collected up at the rate of a few each week until the move. Clear plastic totes can be written on in magic marker so that the next move the same things go into the same tote, no muss no fuss. Their contents can be seen in addition to decisions whether to store or unpack made simple.

You’ve reduced your stress regarding moving day by using time management and organization. You’ve packed out what isn’t needed, so all that’s left is what you use every day. Backpacks such as the ones children use for school can hold a couple changes of clothing as well as having pockets for personal grooming items, any medications needed, an MP3 player or electronic games or books, plus some snacks. Clear plastic trash bags could hold linens needed for the move such as sheets, pillows, bath towels and the like. Soaps and shampoos can go into the backpacks.

In the kitchen, a great deal of stress can be tossed out the window by packing out the kitchen while eating off paper plates or ordering out the last couple days before the move. Leaving cabinet and closet doors open allows all to see that they’ve been packed out and some stress is removed knowing you’re not forgetting anything. Plus, ordering out those last couple days is fun so you can laugh with your family and enjoy their company before it’s back to work packing.

Moving Day

Nothing feels as good as the last tote or the last piece of furniture coming off the truck, does it? You’re home. The mountain of totes and boxes in the spare bedroom can be unpacked tomorrow because you’ve won the day by being organized and singing to your iPod during the move. Congratulations, you have rented an apartment, the furniture placed as you want, miles of packing tape to cut through on the totes and boxes, but you’re home. And you did it stress-free.

Apartment living has many advantages over owning a home. Chief among them is the freedom from commitment. Although you might sign a lease to rent, you haven’t signed onto a 15 or 30 year mortgage. Not only are renters free from that long term commitment, they are also not responsible for repairs. Those costs add up quickly. The expense to repair or replace major appliances is typically substantial. But even these big ticket items pale in comparison to structural problems or roof repairs.

Another advantage of apartment living comes from the ability to be mobile. When tenants want a little more space, management is often accommodating. Tenants can easily move into a larger space. Conversely, those wishing to save a bit of money each month can downsize. Those alternatives aren’t possible when straddled with a mortgage.

However, as with any apartment, it seems there is often not enough space. That is usually not the case with a the right strategic planning and a little inside information. Any space can be made to look and feel more open. You don’t need to be a professional home stager or interior design guru to make your apartment look great with out breaking the bank.

Count Your Coins

Before you begin the transformation, determine your budget. Go over it at least two times to ensure your calculations are correct. If you don’t, you run the risk of either overspending or becoming discouraged when the cash runs out. Add up a realistic budget and stick to it. Going over budget will not only leave you short financially, it will be a real emotional downer.

Start With A Blank Canvas

Imagination can be blunted by physical obstructions. The solution is to start with an empty space. Clear out the furniture and take down all decor in your apartment. It should be no more than bare walls and a bare floor, just as it was before you moved in.

Now, let your imagination take over. Begin to visualize an open, continuous space. To get some ideas, flip through some magazines or visit a few sites online. Take careful notice how the furniture and decor is arranged. Generally, you’ll notice a “theme”, less is more. Furniture is not pushed against the wall. Decor compliments the furnishings. Accent colors set off walls. Area rugs serve as “boundaries”.

Get Colorful

Paint is inexpensive. To keep your budget reasonable, start with the simplest transformers. Paint can completely change a space without spending a lot of money. Again, use websites and magazines for ideas. You’ll be surprised what you come up with. Moreover, you’ll be astounded at the results.

Reuse And Recycle

Keeping the budget in check means putting a new face on old furniture. This is as easy as painting a wall, primarily because it is painting. Garage/yard sales, thrift stores and office supply auctions all sell pre-owned furniture. Strip it down with mineral spirits and sandpaper. Give it a fresh coat of paint, stain or varnish for a new life. If paint isn’t your thing, dress up old furniture pieces in slip covers.

Don’t neglect online classifieds and dollar stores. You’ll not only be able to find some bargain furniture, decor abounds within these sources. Area rugs are going to be your best purchases. But don’t ignore wall shelves, sconces and mirrors. Forgo the “too cheap” price tag stigma and look ahead. You’ll find some real deals and it won’t dent your wallet.

Lastly, don’t be above begging profusely. Okay, begging might be too strong a word. Politely ask family, friends and coworkers for items they’ve noticeably outgrown. You can find real visual value in old pieces.

Compose An Arrangement Masterpiece

Now that you’ve got fresh paint on the walls, have some furniture and decor, it’s time to make interior design history. Plop down the area rugs. Place them on the floor as a kind of anchor. Any furniture you place in your apartment will go directly on or around the edges of the area rugs. This will create several defined spaces, while leaving distinct walkways.

Armed with realistic budget parameters and these how-to tips, you’ll be able to redecorate your apartment without having to take out a line of credit at the bank. Keep in mind that new is generally more expensive than better.