Renting is often for the short term and always low-maintenance. (Flooded bathroom? Call the super!) So what’s to regret about it? Lots, actually, if you aren’t careful to nab a property that really suits your needs. Or if you plunk down that security deposit for a place that winds up being an enormous and unforeseen hassle.
Take it from people who’ve been there and got real with us, sharing what they wish they’d known about their place before they signed the lease.
Sure, a wretched rental isn’t a lifelong curse, but it can make your life hellish while you live there. Learn from these stories and, hopefully, you’ll save yourself some drama.
Don’t rent a walk-up with hopes of losing weight
“I seriously regret moving into a building that doesn’t have an elevator or laundry,” says renter-turned-homeowner Abby Featherstone of Brooklyn, NY. “I live on the fourth floor, and while I thought the stairs were a great way to keep in shape in the beginning, as a 40-year-old with bad knees, it’s not ideal.”
And don’t even get her started on how hoofing up those flights could burn fat.
“It hasn’t really helped me stay fit at all,” she gripes. In fact, the prospect of going up and down those flights of stairs prompts her to stay inside more. “I’ve gained 10 pounds in the last three years,” she adds.
Don’t believe that pretty is perfect
“The third apartment that I rented was a great space and had fantastic light,” recalls New Yorker Dennis DeGraeve. “But a few months into living there, the air-conditioning engine in the back of the building started making a maddening high-pitched sound—around the same time that one of the pipes in my own living room wall began vibrating so loudly that it woke me up at 5 a.m. every day.”
Eventually, the cacophony cracked him. DeGraeve, who, in other apartments, has endured roaches, dishonest landlords, and even a building being built right in front of his window for a year, gave up and moved out to get some peace and quiet.
“The lesson I learned is that when it looks too good to be true, it generally is. There is a lot you can’t assess in two visits.”
Don’t visit the place at only one time of the day
The first time Jeannette Dye saw her Queens, NY, apartment, it was gorgeously sunny. Unfortunately, all that light wasn’t always the norm.
“Being on the courtyard side, unless it’s superbright out, it’s actually always pretty dark inside,” says the homeowner. As a result, she warns aspiring renters to “see a place at different times of the day.”
Don’t forget to factor in street traffic
Elise Alexander and her husband swapped their one-bedroom apartment in the rear of their building in Santa Monica, CA, for a two-bedroom unit in the front after their son started crawling and they needed more space. The only trouble was, instead of moving up in the world they literally moved down.
“We had some hesitations about renting an apartment on the first floor, but the former tenant assured us that there were no noise issues,” she says. Lies! “Lo and behold, homeless people get into street fights on a nightly basis, right outside our window,” Alexander laments. “Not a great environment for our toddler, who frequently wakes up from the noise.”
Don’t cave in to crooked landlords
“I most definitely regret not knowing my rights as a pet owner,” confesses New York City renter Beth Anne Macaluso. “I had to move because they claimed I wasn’t allowed to have a dog—even though I was. And when I realized that they were trying to get rid of me, I went so far as to get emotional support documentation for my dog.”
Unfortunately, Macaluso’s management company ignored the filing. “They still served me papers, which is illegal,” she marvels. “I should have fought back, but I just didn’t have the money to get a lawyer.”
Don’t forget the neighbor factor
Bargain hunters beware! “When we first looked at our apartment, a 50-something guy was pacing around outside with no shirt on talking loudly on his cellphone,” recalls Matthew O’Neill of his budget-friendly home in a six-unit building in Los Angeles.
“But everyone has some degree of loud and/or bad neighbors, so we overlooked this and quickly snapped up the place.” Once he settled in, though, he discovered that his bedroom shares a wall with that neighbor’s kitchen. “The walls turned out to be very thin, so I hear everything,” says O’Neill, “including his couch-surfing brother’s arguments with his ex-wife. I had no idea these guys would be part of my life.”
Don’t underestimate how long you’ll be there
The trek to Astoria, NY, renter Kathleen Kelly’s fourth-floor walk-up is a stairway to hell, she says.
“It’s a real pain in the neck lugging groceries and other things up the stairs. Sometimes I have to make several trips to get everything home, which is so annoying and tiresome.” But when Kelly picked the place 10 years ago, she wasn’t thinking about the long term.
“In hindsight, especially seeing how long I’ve been living here, I should’ve rented a place either on a lower floor or, preferably, with an elevator,” she admits. “Of course, that would’ve added to the cost, but it would’ve been money well spent.”
Watch: Is It Smarter to Rent or Buy?
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