The conventional wisdom in the US and the UK is that ‘renting is a waste of money’. We have had a look at what owning looks like in Arizona, and I’m not so sure that’s true here. We recently had a look around some a housing community. They were very nice and you can get quite a large house for a reasonable price. That said, although they have pools, community clubhouses and so on, it did not appear to work as well as it does in an apartment community context. In our current set up, we are right next to a shared pool, a gym and a club house. As a reminder, the clubhouse is an area where your mail will be delivered if you aren’t in, with a nice coffee maker, some nice outside and inside seating and free wi fi. It also has the leasing office in it.
We went to a large housing development in Gilbert, the city next door. It did have all these things, but as they were houses and not apartments, I reckon that the person who is furthest from our the pool in our large apartment community is still closer to the pool than whoever is closest to the pool at the housing community. Part of what we love about where we live is proximity to useful things. I mean, most people could move somewhere with a short drive of a pool and gym if they did some research. These places looked like they would be at least bike rides or short drives to shared amenities. This is exactly what we don’t want. I mean, everyone is a drive from a pool. It’s just a question of how long that drive will last. Being a short walk is definitely an advantage that keeps us using what’s good about our community and the Phoenix area.
This is the community pool of the place we had a look at. It didn’t look too different from ours, though it didn’t have a hot tub:
You could potentially have your own, but it would be quite a lot smaller most likely. This was their sample pool in one of the show homes: You can have an equally tiny golf course should this be your kind of thing 🙂
We also have a wonderful maintenance staff that I would really miss is we owned our own place. Since the apartment community owns 80% of what is in our apartment, if it goes wrong, they are happy to do everything from changing a light bulb to fixing our air conditioner. We spoke to someone at the pool who owns in Chandler, but has a family member living in our community about this. He had to admit that you were never going to get someone out to your house as fast as they sent José to fix our broken a/c a few months ago. Even being out of hours, he was here within an hour at 6 AM. The community rental structure allows for very fast services on emergencies and still quite quick service on more minor things like changing filters or fixing the ice maker. It also means it’s already budgeted for it and we just use their two systems to get things fixed rather than needing various forms of insurance or to do it ourselves. They have a non-emergency system online where you just submit a form. The emergency system is a phone number for out of hours or going to or calling the front desk if it’s during office hours.
It means it’s mostly someone else’s problems and after 10 years of owning for Chris and 5 for me in England, this has honestly been a big relief. It brings together most of the repair services into one service, so rather than dealing with many different providers occasionally, we mainly deal with one more regularly. As a result, it’s possible to get to know the staff and be on more comfortable terms. We also know they are competent. If you deal with several services but only from time to time, it can take an annoyingly long time to spot the pattern that they are just terrible.
For instance, the people who provided our boiler insurance in England kept sending us the same incompetent man over and over. This man failed to fix our boiler properly on no less than four occasions. He just kept changing the same thing that wasn’t broken. We finally had to pay someone not covered by the insurance. It turned out something had actually disintegrated but the first guy didn’t notice. Our boiler didn’t work consistently for nine whole months until we paid a lot more. I feel like there is much less chance of that happening here due to one good unified organization being in charge of most of our appliances.
Even the clubhouse and being so near to it has benefits I had not foreseen. It means during business hours, there is always somewhere secure and air conditioned for our mail to go. It also means that we don’t need to own a printer, which is nice as neither of us really ever enjoyed the experience of owning one. It’s nice to have access to it without it being our problem if it goes wrong. We basically only need to print plane tickets and Amazon return labels. As such, we’ve never had a 6 AM printing related emergency, so having it in another building during office hours is fine.
More than that, I think our bit of the area is stellar. It is all just an accident of wanting to leave near Chris’s previous employers, but it has a great balance. Many of the large housing communities are further way from shopping and restaurants. The community we looked at in Gilbert seemed to be about 4-6 miles from anything other than schools or other housing communities. We are about 1-2 miles from many useful things including several grocery stores, a mall, a cinema and a Target. At the same time though, I don’t think we miss out on tranquility. Our community manages to insulate us without being far away from the rest of civilization. I like that we have the real option of walking, biking or driving to most useful shops. Nothing we regularly want to go to is inconvenient.
Basically, even we don’t own anything in this country other than bikes, books and Lego, I feel like the services we get definitely make renting worth it. They make many aspects of our daily lives work better and keep them more in line with what we want them to be. It feels more like an investment in our ongoing happiness. 🙂
Here is a video of two show homes and the club house at the housing community looked at: