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Old 12-13-2010, 05:17 PM   #1
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Apartment living

DW and I are thinking there will be a housing change in our lives in the next year or two -- if not a relocation at least a down-size. For the first time since our 20s we are thinking about renting an apartment rather than buying. We've met several retirees in the same boat.

We were wondering about the non-obvious aspects of that choice (that is, excluding the well-known issues of rising rents, noisy neighbors, sluggish landlords, freedom from exterior maintenance, etc.). We were thinking of apartment developments rather a private house rental.

We are both biased toward owning our own home, but maybe it's time to reconsider. Has this worked for any of you? Any heads-ups or tips?
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:26 PM   #2
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Rich, it has been 35+ years since I've lived in an apartment so take this for what it's worth.

The noise factor you mentioned would be a big issue for me - at least for a few more years until my hearing goes from "not-so-hot" to "did you say something?" How about a trial rental of a condo apartment for a month or so for a 'test drive'?
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:31 PM   #3
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I can't comment from experience Rich, but just wanted to add that DW and I are keeping the concept of apartment living in mind too. We know three couples who have sold and are now living in high tier complexes. Two are suburban, one is in a downtown highrise. All have indoor parking and comfortably sized 2 bdrm, multi-bath units. The suburban folks pay in the upper teens per month. The downtown folks pay about $2k. When I look at my property taxes, higher than apartment utilities, opportunity cost of money tied up in the house, etc., those prices don't look too bad.

We wouldn't make this kind of move yet. But in a few years if current hobby interests and need for the room decline, it's a real possibility.

We're not interested in condo ownership due to the reduced flexibility.
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:35 PM   #4
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About 10 years ago we rented a town home in Alameda Ca. I am not sure I have ever seen a project like that one and would not hesitate to rent there again. Each buildings living area was separated from the others and only the garages were joined. I was beautifully landscaped with winding paths and a waterway snaking through the project. We never heard any of our neighbors. I guess the other nice thing is there were not too many kids running around.

Anyway, I think I would look at town homes rather than apartments. You get the advantages of the apartment i.e. low maintenance, and no upstairs neighbors. You also generally get a small back yard to cook out. I know in Houston many apartments do not allow you to cook on the balconies.
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:36 PM   #5
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I have my house up for sale now and am holding an apartment in another town hoping to get the house sold soon. I have owned my homes for 35 years and no longer want the responsibility. My costs for utilities, insurances, taxes, etc are equal to the rent I'll be paying and I don't have to maintain the place. I will be renting in a building that is managed by a company not an individual landlord. The building is new and very well soundproofed. Haven't moved yet but am looking forward to it ASAP.
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:46 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa View Post
DW and I are thinking there will be a housing change in our lives in the next year or two -- if not a relocation at least a down-size. For the first time since our 20s we are thinking about renting an apartment rather than buying. We've met several retirees in the same boat.

We were wondering about the non-obvious aspects of that choice (that is, excluding the well-known issues of rising rents, noisy neighbors, sluggish landlords, freedom from exterior maintenance, etc.). We were thinking of apartment developments rather a private house rental.

We are both biased toward owning our own home, but maybe it's time to reconsider. Has this worked for any of you? Any heads-ups or tips?
Apartments are like women. Some are really wonderful; others best to just say there was not a good fit.

I really like my building, like my resident manager, like the neighborhood, like the other tenants. If I move, it would only be to nail down some part of my housing costs, and it would never be to a SFH. There are some really long term residents here- one middle aged woman with trust fund has lived here 35 years. Most of the 20 somethings come and go- but there are lots of long timers over 40. No kids, no pets, no smoking. There is nothing like a barking dog or a colicky baby to change one's experience of a building. Or cat pee in the hallways. It helps if most or all of the units are let to well to do empty nest couples, or singles, as you are not likely to smell some really exotic dish every time you open your door. My building has a lot of middle aged divorced men. Often not the happiest individuals, but usually well behaved.

I learned a lot about where to look by striking up conversations in coffee houses in the neighborhoods I thought I wanted to live. "I wouldn't go there, too many junkies..." Also I found middle aged women to be good information sources. They care about security, cleanliness, responsiveness of management, etc., and they notice more about whatever.

Another thing to consider is what are the adjoining rooms? Is your neighbor's bedroom or bathroom abutting yours? I have one shared wall, and that 2 bedroom apartment has been leased to a couple and now to a single man who use the room adjacent to my bedroom only as a den/storage area.

Also, in the right apartment there are real opportunities to make some friends.

Ha
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:47 PM   #7
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My previous house was 1900 sq. feet maintenance free with a community pool ,clubhouse & tennis courts . That to me is the ideal . You still have your own place but none of the hassles . Of course my dream is to live walking distance to the beach & that would definitely be a short term ( one year ) rental.
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Old 12-13-2010, 06:06 PM   #8
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Due to a move I thought might be temporary or 8 years at the very most, and would also be seasonal, I tried apartment living. I hated it. Don't discount the noise factor, and also that YOU may feel constrained about making noise as well. People don't even realize how much the bass on a stereo thumps through walls and floors.

For the typical apartment, parking in a lot means your car may get scraped or broken into, and it's inconvenient to haul groceries in. You can get a garage in many places, but it may be way detached. Getting an attached one is more rare.

After nearly 3 years, I bought a small house, and enjoyed it a lot more. I don't mind yardwork and the occasional maintenance, and I did hire a lawn service for mowing for the time I was away. I came out way ahead selling it 5 years later, but that's not a given by any means.

What if your neighbor is careless and falls asleep smoking in bed? The whole building could go up.

There was an apartment in my kid's college town where a party was going on in the 3rd floor apartment, and the floor collapsed from the dancing and went through the 2nd floor to the ground level. Not that you'd be renting in such a place, but you also never know about young professionals. I rented 3 different places, going up in price and quality each time, but at each place there were people who I just hated having as neighbors, and living in the same building I couldn't ignore them like I could in my own house, though barking dogs were a bigger issue at the house than any apartment.

Leases seem to be harder to get out of. I don't recall the details but it seemed like you basically had to give 60 days notice to have a chance, and it seems like I had to make a decision at end of lease time earlier than I expected. I could be wrong about that.

It may be for some people, but it wasn't for me at all.
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Old 12-13-2010, 06:15 PM   #9
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Rich, it has been 35+ years since I've lived in an apartment so take this for what it's worth.

The noise factor you mentioned would be a big issue for me - at least for a few more years until my hearing goes from "not-so-hot" to "did you say something?" How about a trial rental of a condo apartment for a month or so for a 'test drive'?
It's been 8 years for me. I dealt with the noise factor by renting a two bedroom apartment, and then if there was a lot of noise going on above my bedroom I could sleep in the other bedroom. Also, I rented in an older complex with very thick walls. They are a lot easier to tolerate than new ticky-tacky apartments with thin walls.

Rich, be sure to get an apartment with a washer and dryer or at least hook-ups. Lugging laundry to a common laundry facility gets really old, really fast.

Also, speaking of lugging things, it is nice if you can be assured of a parking spot near your apartment entry. Remember you might be lugging groceries in, week after week, sometimes during rainstorms and other inclement weather.

You can listen to your music or TV at high volume with the simple help of a pair of headphones. Most apartment residents know this but don't think of it until their neighbors complain.

I prefer apartments with professional property management onsite. At least, the ones like that which I rented tended to take care of reported maintenance problems correctly and very quickly, and were generally less likely to be a PITA. And they were always THERE in the office so I didn't have to track the owner down if there was an issue.

Services like Fedex would not leave anything on my doorstep in an apartment. If I didn't see the Fedex man (and he normally sneaked up to quickly put the notice on my door without knocking), then I had to go down to their facility after 5 PM to get whatever-it-was every single time.
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Old 12-13-2010, 06:41 PM   #10
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We were wondering about the non-obvious aspects of that choice (that is, excluding the well-known issues of rising rents, noisy neighbors, sluggish landlords, freedom from exterior maintenance, etc.). We were thinking of apartment developments rather a private house rental.
We are both biased toward owning our own home, but maybe it's time to reconsider. Has this worked for any of you? Any heads-ups or tips?
Right now I can look out our familyroom windows to enjoy the wildlife gamboling about in our yard, see the clouds boiling over the Ko'olau, and watch awesome sunrises/sunsets. The fruit is ripening on our tangerine & mandarin orange trees. Gentle tradewinds blow through the open windows. I can barely tell that I have neighbors.

When we travel to other cities we frequently rent condos through desperate landlords VRBO.com. In almost every case we've been living in a (hopefully soundproofed) box high above the ground, unable to enjoy nature except for the weather passing over the skyline, listening to neighbors coming & going in the hallways at all hours, and hostage to the elevator for grocery bags or any other hauling.

Hopefully you'll find one of the former residences and not the latter.

I think it would also bug the crap out of me to be paying big rent (and possibly a big HOA fee) to watch Mow, Blow, & Go Landscape Maintenance. A friend of mine has a rental condo in a development big enough that she has to listen to leaf blowers five days a week between 9 AM and 4 PM.

I don't particularly enjoy yardwork and home maintenance, but I'm beginning to see it as a life sentence of occupational therapy for the privilege of enjoying my castle.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:12 PM   #11
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Rich,

We moved to apartment living 6 years ago as it was something we were considering for retirement. We needed to downsize from a very large house anyway and figured that we'd sell the house, move to an apartment and if we didn't like it then buy a smaller house.

If has worked out fantastic for us. We have never had a problem with noisy neighbors in any of the 4 places we've rented. (We started in Louisiana, moved to Texas with work, back to Baton Rouge after 4 years then back to Texas 2 years later as retirees).

The second place we lived in was more what one thinks of as an apartment. The buildings were 3 stories high, and we were on the 3rd. You had to walk along a corridor past other doors to your place. It overlooked a big courtyard with big oak trees, and had a balcony. Very pretty and very peaceful. (no noise problems at all).

The other 3 apartments are what we prefer. They are arranged about 6 apartments per 2 story building, arranged so that the common walls are mostly in the stair case, bathroom, utility room etc. Again we prefer the upper floor (no noise from above), the living rooms have lots of windows overlooking the lake around which the complex is built. All apartments have the entrance at street level, and we also chose to have one with an integral double garage. Cost for a 2-bed, 2 bath double garage apartment here is $1,300 / month. But, no State income tax and no property tax so we are happy enough with the value.

We spend lots of time away, so it is great to just tell them at the front office "We're going out of town for a few weeks, please have someone go in once a week to check on the place."

There are also small flower beds around the front door so DW can indulge in planting flowers and vines.

If you have the opportunity, then I recommend that you try it out first but do your research to find a place that you think might work for you in the long term. (cheap apartments may well disappoint).
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:18 PM   #12
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Hmmm...will you have a good selection of apartments to choose from since you have a RV? Gotta put that puppy somewhere.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:21 PM   #13
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For the majority of the past 12 years we have been in the US we have lived in apts. We are currently renting a house. However, I have to say I prefer apt living. The key is getting into the right complex.

Always check out to see what the mix of tenants might be. I would recommend staying a long way away from anywhere that has a lot of college students as noise and students goes hand in hand. Our other rule is always rent on the top floor then you never have to put up with noise above you.

As Ha suggested, it is helpful if you can talk to some existing tenants, especially those who are of a similar age group. Don't be sucked in by a nice foyer and a fresh floral arrangement. We have always rented our apts. thru organisations such as Shea Homes, you tend to pay more, but attention to maintenance etc. seems to be a lot sharper.

All apt. complexes are not created equal so tread carefully.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:38 PM   #14
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Hmmm...will you have a good selection of apartments to choose from since you have a RV? Gotta put that puppy somewhere.
It has always been relegated to a storage lot, so it won't know what it's missing.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:42 PM   #15
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The subject of post retirement housing is on my mind much of the time. We plan to spend a substantial amount of time, perhaps 6+ months/year traveling around the U.S. by RV. We're not sure if we want to be full-timers since we have a lot of friends and family here and would certainly come back to visit frequently. It might work best to leave the RV in Arizona for the winter and drive or fly home. It would be good to have a home base rather than a motel or staying with relatives. We love 'em but we want each family unit to have their privacy.

I like Rustic's suggestion about renting a townhome. A garage-to-garage configuration might be just the ticket.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:43 PM   #16
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Before today, I wouldn't have thought of apt. living as a possible option for us. But today, with an outdoor temp of 6 degrees, as I waited all day for the repairman to come repair our furnace and restore the heat, I must say the idea is suddenly appealing.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:59 PM   #17
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I don't particularly enjoy yardwork and home maintenance, but I'm beginning to see it as a life sentence of occupational therapy for the privilege of enjoying my castle.
This month I was finally able to persuade my lawn guy to become my lawn guy and gardener. He takes care of all the yardwork now, and I do.... none of it. And y'know what? He does a lot better job trimming the bushes than I ever did. They look positively manicured.

I also have a handyman who takes care of the "honeydo" kind of stuff around my house. He is extremely capable and also knows his limits and has buddies that are licensed electrician, plumber, and so on if they are needed. The last time he was over he even noticed that my kitchen drawers weren't perfectly aligned, and my side door tended to stick, and he fixed the drawers and door for free.

All in all, my expenses (in a paid off house) are not high. Once we move, I am planning to buy another house and I will try to find a lawn/garden guy and handyman that are as reliable as these two.

I think that one advantage of an apartment is the lock 'n' leave quality. Another advantage is being able to pick up and move across the country on a moment's notice.
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:07 PM   #18
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And y'know what? He does a lot better job trimming the bushes than I ever did.

This thread is USELESS without pics...
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:11 PM   #19
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Before today, I wouldn't have thought of apt. living as a possible option for us. But today, with an outdoor temp of 6 degrees, as I waited all day for the repairman to come repair our furnace and restore the heat, I must say the idea is suddenly appealing.
While it's true that the apartment manager can be the one to let in the repairman, or perhaps they have someone on staff to do it, there's no guarantee that you won't come home at the end of the day to find that your heat is still off.
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:19 PM   #20
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Once we move, I am planning to buy another house and I will try to find a lawn/garden guy and handyman that are as reliable as these two.
... and a snow shoveler
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