Paying Rent Pays Off When They Go Home

We're renters. A one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in a 12-story building within a gated community. Later this year, we will transfer to a three-bedroom, 2 1/2 bath garden apartment. Yep, apartment; we'll still be renting. And when people find out we'll be renting -- by choice -- they feel the need to share their unsolicited opinions.

Why rent when you can own?

Real estate is a great investment opportunity.

The cost of your rent equals a mortgage.

Now, I do acknowledge that some of these statements -- OK, all of these statements-- are true. My husband and I are both working full time. We are members of the professional middle class, I guess you could say. We could find a home or a condo to own, but not in our current neighborhood.

But some things, like convenience, you just can't put a price tag on. We live 10 to 15 minutes away from our jobs. We work five minutes away from each other. We live two blocks away from a major retail-entertainment complex. We can walk to museums, restaurants and several markets. (Now I sound like I'm writing a real estate ad).

That's actually one of the reasons we live where we do. Location. When we first moved in together, we lived paycheck to paycheck and had no car. We needed to live somewhere close to work, close to the market and close to bus lines.

We now own two cars. But as much as I like our cars (one new, one 17 years old), I don't like them enough to spend hours cooped up inside, commuting on a daily basis. I don't want to worry about SigAlerts on freeways and congestion on surface streets. I want to be able to get home and enjoy being home. And so we rent.

Now, my husband and I can meet for dinner when he's working a closing shift at the store he manages. Now, I can attend my students' performances at the school where I teach, while still having time to go home, water the plants, change clothes and make it back to school before the curtain rises.

And so we rent.

I don't want to worry about leaky faucets or clogged sinks. I call our service department and these problems are taken care of -- free. I don't have to worry about gardeners, trash pickup or roofers.

And so we rent.

On Sunday afternoons, one of my favorite things to do is pack up my shoulder bag with the day's paper and walk over to the park. The park is spacious and inviting, with lots of grass for picnicking and playing. Benches for sitting. A fountain for watching and listening. A little cafe for snacking. It's so quiet I can't hear any cars. Oh, did I mention this park is conveniently located within our apartment community?

And so we rent.

Wendy Kennar lives in Los Angeles.

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