Sunday, January 27, 2013

Owning to Rent

My great-grandfather's house in Ireland • 8 kids • 2 rooms
My mother never wanted to own a house. She felt it tied you down.

But the rest of her generation, children of immigrants reared in the Great Depression, saw home ownership as a sign that you had made it. They told their kids, “Don’t pay rent; pay a mortgage.” And it made sense. Every dollar paid was a dollar back in your own pocket, a far cry from my coal-miner grandpa, who owned his “soul to the company store.”

My husband and I followed their advice, and proudly bought our first house in our mid-twenties. We pulled it off by joining forces with another couple to buy a fixer-upper duplex. We sold it five years later at a small profit that let us buy our own house. Since then, we’ve owned a series of comfortable houses, each under 2,000 sq ft. As we look to retirement, we assumed we’d sell our house and buy smaller.

But our dreams of retirement are tinged with wanderlust and, more practically, a need to fund our wanderings. At the same time, we like the idea of a base. And we love St. Augustine, where we have lived for over 20 years. So our latest idea is to rent here. It frees up money and gives us flexibility.

And there is more good news. It seems easier to find a small place for rent than for sale, at least in our town. Part of this is because it is common in the historic downtown to find a small house in the backyard of a larger home. Another is the large number of older homes that have been carved into multi-family dwellings. And while we prefer old houses to condos, we’d consider trying one out. St. Augustine is teeming with them, and even has some in historic buildings.

Real estate companies sometimes have rentals, and a search for property management brings up several companies. Small houses are limited, but here is a cute one at just over 1,000 sq ft.
St. Augustine, FL • 1,016 sq ft • $750/mo •
On Craigslist, a quick scan of the last few days plus a search for cottages turned up a few promising rentals, including the one below. If you want to search several cities at once, get the free Craigslist app. And if your town has a grapevine like mine, put out the word to all your friends that you want to rent small. And tell ’em you don’t want to be tied down.
St. Augustine, FL • 500 sq ft • $600/mo • craigslist

If wanderlust strikes, 
theres always Alaska...
Fairbanks, AK • 480 sq ft


Janet Lee Carpenter said...

"Wow, I'm Glad We Grew Up Together!"
Little Yellow

Dawn Langton said...

Me too!