los angeles apartments

  • Melanie Lockert rents a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, and has no plans to buy a home in the near future — maybe ever.
  • That’s because LA has a high cost of living that makes buying unaffordable, she doesn’t trust that real estate is the investment some people say it is, and renting fits her need for flexibility and convenience.
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When it comes to where you live, there’s always the question: Should you buy or rent?

Homeownership is often considered a part of the American Dream, while renting is “throwing money away.” I couldn’t disagree more and prefer to rent, and I intend to stay that way. Here’s why.

My city has a high cost of living

Like a lot of people in Los Angeles, I rent. Many homes here can easily cost a million dollars. From a purely financial standpoint, renting makes more sense for me. I have a rent-controlled apartment in East Hollywood and pay $1,673.75 (up from $1,625 after three years) for a large one-bedroom with a small patio and parking spot. I rent out my parking spot for $85 per month.

When I moved back to LA after living in New York City and Portland, Oregon, I knew I didn’t want a car. I lived seven years without a car and loved it. This is mostly possible because I work from home, but I also chose a very walkable neighborhood so I could make this happen.

Renting is more affordable in Los Angeles, in many cases. According to data from real estate website Trulia, a comparable one-bedroom condo in my zip code is $549,000 with an estimated mortgage of $2,730 per month. That’s more than $1,000 per month more I’d have to shell out just to own.

I don’t trust the housing market

I came of age during the Great Recession and saw the housing bubble burst. I had always believed that homeownership was a great investment for people who could afford it. But after the Great Recession, my ideas changed. I no longer think that buying a home is the guaranteed investment or financially sound move we were told it was.

I don’t need a lot of space

I’m a minimalist and don’t have a lot of things, therefore don’t need a lot of space. I’m single, no kids, and have two cats. When you buy a home, you typically want to fill it so it doesn’t look empty. That could lead to unnecessary purchases and more stuff. My one-bedroom fits my stuff and still looks spacious. Many people buy a home because they outgrow their current space, but since I’m content with what I have, why change it?

Renting fits my lifestyle needs

Homeownership seems like a ball and chain that I don’t want. I like the flexibility of renting and being able to move on a whim. Since I work from home, I want to keep all of my options open as to where I can live.

There might come a time and place where I move somewhere more affordable. I am open to traveling for longer periods of time. Having a mortgage goes against those goals. If I were to pursue a change in my living situation, I’d have to put my home on the market to sell or find a renter. It would be a production, whereas now I’d just give my 30-day notice and leave.

On top of the flexibility renting affords me, I also like that I don’t have to worry about maintenance or repairs. Yes, I have to deal with thin walls and neighbors, but I don’t have to go into problem-solving mode if there is an issue. The sink stopped working? I call my property manager, who lives on-site and is kind, fast, and attentive. Need a quick repair? It’s not my problem or my money. Renting offers me freedom, flexibility, and is low-maintenance.

Why renting isn’t throwing away money

The idea that renting is throwing away money is crazy to me. You’re paying rent so you have somewhere to live. I don’t understand how having a roof over your head could ever be a waste or throwing money away. I understand that real estate can grow in value and be an investment in some cases.

On top of that, there is more to homeownership than just the financials. It’s all about the lifestyle you want. For people like me who crave flexibility, autonomy, and don’t need a lot, homeownership doesn’t make sense. In no way am I throwing money away because I’m trading my money for a place to live, which — given the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles — I’m very grateful for.

When it comes to deciding to buy or rent, it’s a personal decision that only you should make. Consider your finances, goals and lifestyle and think of the big picture. Whatever you decide, there’s no “wrong answer” in my opinion.

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