Outside the bubble
Even if you’re just a renter, you can still have (more) fun creating a home
Woo-hoo! The bubble’s bursting! I have no idea what that means! Why am I yelling?
The fact that I don’t really know what the bubble is, nor what the ramifications of its possible burst are for those of us who cannot currently afford a home, is probably part of the reason why, at 36, I am still (sigh) a renter. No matter. Though it took a few years for the reality of the situation to sink in, the wife and I eventually concluded that we could still create a comfortable and fun space to call home, even if a bank wasn’t in on the plan with us.
It’s pretty simple really. In fact, there are just three important things to remember when you’re feeling the renter blues.
1. The treasure hunt
Any noise you may have heard about not hanging stuff on the walls of a rental lest you risk losing your security deposit is just that, a bunch of noise. When you move out, other than unpaid rent and any necessary cleaning, your landlord is only allowed to withhold security deposit monies to pay for damages “other than normal wear and tear.” Unless you have fancy wood walls or something, any scuff marks or nail holes—even large nail holes (as long as you spackle ’em closed)—that can be covered with a fresh coat of paint are absolutely considered normal wear and tear.
So don’t limit yourself to just the family hand-me-downs and lamps from Target. Get creative and make your own space. Then remake it. If you did miss out on buying a home in Chico before the 21st century, think of your rental as a testing ground for that far-off day when you finally will own your own home.
Stay away from the pricey stuff for now. Remember, you’re experimenting here, so stick with the dozens of local second-hand stores—thrift, antique, whatever—and build up your own personal collection. The ARC Antique Mall at 1900 Park Ave. is great, as is the Salvation Army’s Elite Repeat shop (700 Broadway)—both are kind of a cross between a thrift store and an antique shop, so a lot of the junk has been weeded out for you. One of the best ways to find your style, though, is to buy original art, and Chico has a decent selection of artists and craft folks [see sidebar] making inexpensive and/or one-of-a-kind items. And visit new art shows during the opening reception to get first crack at the goods.
Three last tips: 1) No waterbeds—renters are liable for any water damage. 2) Renter’s insurance: approximately 150 bucks a year for $20,000 coverage. 3) Take advantage of the “initial inspection” when you move out. It’s a pre-walk-through, and it’s your right. It gives you a chance to address any repairs or cleanup you may have missed.
2. It’s not your job
The renter never loses a weekend to insulating the garage or cleaning the gutters. The renter either sleeps in on both Saturday and Sunday or leaves the premises altogether for entire weekends at a time.
There was a day when even renters had to do the yard work, but many rental agencies employ full-time landscapers to keep your mongrel lawn in check every other week. Now is the time to read a book, be a thespian or even start a band, while you still have the time. Before you can say “depreciation,” your datebook will be overflowing with swamp cooler pad replacements, root rot and weed pulling.
3. Save it for later
Once again, if you don’t own a home, this may be a tough one. But it’s never too late. If you do want to someday have that one little plot to call your own, the more you save for the day, the better off you’ll be. To fight off the first-of-the-month depression that hits when you pay your rent with money you wish was going toward your own house, make a second payment. This one goes to you. Come up with a fixed amount (something that fits your budget—don’t get all excited and shoot yourself in the foot) and make your own version of a monthly mortgage payment. Even if it’s just $100 a month, after one year you’ll have socked away $1,200 to put toward a down payment.
Besides, you don’t have too long to wait. The bubble’s bursting, like, tomorrow anyways. I mean, what are you home owners waiting for? Sell, sell, sell!