As a college student, then a young family man in my 20’s and 30’s, I lived in several apartments and rented houses. We all do, unless our names end in “Kennedy” or “Rockefeller,” I guess.
I was never fond of living in an apartment, especially when I was on the bottom floor with someone teaching elephants to tap dance above me. For a couple of years in college I rented a place in a small, five-unit complex in Huntington Beach, and even with just a handful of neighbors in close proximity, there were issues. I was working graveyard shift, the guys on one side were partying about eight days a week, the guy on the other side would listen to these evangelical screeds at all hours. (It was really strange, reel-to-reel tapes about twelve inches across or so, played at slow speed since it didn’t need to be high-quality audio, so a tape could last for days.)
Once marriage and kids arrived we were renting houses for the most part, with one particularly memorable stint in an apartment in Van Nuys that was “nice” (i.e., cheap) at first glance – we met the drug dealers downstairs later. They weren’t always friendly, but the two groups of young ladies on our floor that seemed to be freelancing in the sex trades were always sociable.
When we got the chance to buy the house we were renting we took it. (And by “got the chance” I mean that we were told the owner was going to sell and we should start looking for a place to move to, at which point we desperately begged and pleaded for a shot at buying it and pulled every string we could to get the down payment and financing approval.) It seemed like a good idea at the time, the whole “American dream” thing and all. It must have had some merit – we’re still here over twenty years later.
For the most part it’s been a good financial move, as well as a good way of ensuring stability for our kids. Real estate prices have appreciated well and we’ve used that increase in equity to help put kids through college (and me through my MBA), make improvements, and so on. But…
The down side of owning a house (or condo, or whatever) is that they break, they need maintenance, they’re an investment that needs occasional (or constant) attention.
Today has been one of those days.
The air conditioning conked out a couple days ago. With LA going back into triple-digit temperatures for the next few days, that was not a problem to ignore. The first problem in fixing it was that our regular, big, “national” vendor couldn’t put us on the schedule until the middle of next week. They installed it twenty years ago, they’ve serviced it, but they really dropped the ball on this one. I understand it’s hot, I understand that the demand for service calls will be up, I understand that you can’t necessarily staff for your max demand. I also understand that it’s hot here in SoCal about eight or nine months of the year, so if you can’t staff for that you’re probably going to lose customers. Like us.
The good news was that a friend had a recommendation for the guy who does the work at her house, and he was able to get out this afternoon. Two observations – first, I much prefer to pay a small business owner than a megacorp, and I much prefer to get decent, personal service from someone who knows what he’s doing instead of being a number to the aforementioned megacorp.
The bad news is that a quick $700+ went flying away to get the repairs made. Granted, about half of that was maintenance and parts and service that didn’t address the immediate problem, but did take care of some things that would be a problem sooner rather than later. That’s the right decision because the other issues could have led to needing a $7,000 replacement A/C unit rather than a repair, but $700 is $700.
Okay. We’ll live. We got it taken care of, it should be good to go for a while. A stitch in time, blah, blah, blah.
I let the guy out through the gate when he was done and headed back into the back yard. I noticed a mushy spot in the bushes next to the house. It hadn’t been there yesterday. On closer examination there’s actually standing water there. Not a lot, a gallon or two, but still, what in hell’s going on? Poke at it…and see the water bubbling up from the ground.
That’s not good.
I think there’s an irrigation line that runs there, I’ll have to dig it up and patch it. What a pain in the butt!
I love owning a house. Really, I do!