The renter is kind of like the cowboy of the real estate market: Wild and free. (And wearing a cool hat.)
Not to imply that renters don’t want security, or longevity. They just retain the right to move. Like, say, if the house suddenly becomes haunted, or a ’90s grunge revival band moves in next door.
And that’s the beauty of renting. Sure, you may not have equity, but you also have a lot more freedom.
When it comes time to move, the average renter spends 10.4 weeks searching for a home, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report.
Finding just the right rental takes effort, so once they’ve found a place, most renters (61 percent) sign a 12-month lease, the report found. However, only nine percent of renters commit to a lease term longer than 12 months, meaning that the renewal question is one most renters face frequently.
In celebration of the beautiful real estate bachelorhood that is renting, here are four major reasons to strut away like Beyonce when it’s time to renew your lease.
No surprise here. “Nine out of 10 times, [renters move out because of] the landlord unfairly raising the rent,” says Sydney Blumenstein of The Corcoran Group in New York City.
Blumenstein is basically real estate royalty: Her parents were in real estate for 25 years before she joined up, so she knows what she’s talking about. “Generally they’re [raising rents] with an intention to sell the building, or for an opportunity to renovate and command more rent.”
Candy Hung was living happily in a cozy six-floor rental situation in New York City’s Greenwich Village when she got word of a rent hike – the kind with a capital H.
“It was a total surprise,” says Hung. “We thought they might increase the rent maybe $100 or $200, but not $500!”
Adding insult to injury, “they sent us the letter only about three weeks before the lease was due to be up.”
Bye, bye, lease.
Life (it happens)
Another huge – and one hopes happy – reason to end your lease: life. Like, actual, human life!
Longtime broker Peter McGuire of Smith Hanten Properties in Brooklyn builds his entire approach around it. “People want to say real estate is about location, location, location. [But] real estate is about change,” he says. “It’s about where you are in life. If you get married, if you get divorced, if you have a baby – all these things will force a change in your real estate life.” The trick is moving with the change, or even staying a bit ahead of it.
When Brad Coyle found out he was going to have twins, he kind of had no choice but to leave his Waltham, MA duplex apartment of eight years. “Rent was really cheap for what it was. It had off-street parking, a little back patio, and central air,” says Coyle. “But we knew our family was expanding. We needed more space.”
Ideally, we’re all on good, even great, terms with our landlords.
“Oh, an unexpected fruit basket and you’re fixing the leaky shower? Tremendous!” Not always the case.
In fact, for Coyle, that was another not-so-small reason to pull himself out of an eight-year rental relationship.
“She was really good about fixing the small stuff,” says Coyle. “If it cost a couple hundred bucks, she was on it. If it cost a couple thousand” – i.e., something essential – “she was not responsible.”
Leaving is actually easier
Whether it’s wear and tear due to landlord neglect or the total impossibility of affording the new terms of your lease, sometimes moving is the simpler option.
Candy Hung was absolutely surprised by that $500 rent hike, but maybe more pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to find an alternative.
“It wasn’t too hard to find a place,” she says. “It was November,” a good season for renters, “and we decided to change neighborhoods” to one with less tenant competition. “I’m sure if we’d wanted to stay in the Village, it would have been harder.”
For Coyle, moving into a big enough place meant a rent hike – in the $1,000 territory – but he had something he hadn’t had in (most of) the prior eight years: an extra income. “It absolutely helped absorb the cost.”
Not all of these reasons may apply to you. And you may love your place so much that rental hikes, a leaky roof, or having to carry a triplet stroller to a fifth-floor walk-up seems worth it.
Renting is certainly an unsteady game, but it also allows renters to respond more flexibly. “It’s all relative,” says McGuire. “It’s about where you are in life.”
- America’s Most Competitive Renters: Why Many Are Choosing to Rent
- “You’re Throwing Money Away” and Other Myths About Renting
- Two Ways to Compare Renting vs. Owning a Home