Thursday, October 4, 2012

This Old {Rental} House

Oh, the perils of renting. 

For the last (almost) two years we have been renting a 1952 brick Colonial in a historic Norfolk neighborhood.  We have a love-hate relationship with this house.  My husband probably has more of a like-hate relationship.  But this post needs to serve as a big frying pan to whack myself over the head with when, in a few years, I inevitably want to rent a charming historic home again.

There is a big difference between buying a charming historic home and renting one.  We own a 1942 home in Norfolk.  We loved shining that house up like a pretty penny.  It has great old detail and sweet modern amenities.  And importantly, when something wasn't quite right for us - we changed it.  A quick trip to Home Depot and *voila*, my amazingly talented and handy husband would whip up a fix that was both aesthetically pleasing and practical. (why we don't live in this house now is a long story, but can easily be summed up by two words: too small).

Not so much in a rental. 

When we moved in, it was clear that the house "needed a hug".  There were basic things that were just wrong about the home and should have served as a red flag that our landlords might not be the meticulous homeowners that we are.  But we were charmed by the neighborhood, the great molding, the big rooms, and the size.  Plus, "it's just a rental" is something I'm sure most of us have said a thousand times to keep from going nuts.

Nothing has gone drastically wrong over the past two years, but there are grating issues (a leaky roof, no bathroom on the first level, some layout frustrations, very expensive oil heat pared with old windows and crappy insulation) that we will be thankful to say goodbye to in December.

But overall, I think the biggest problem is that we are honestly not good renters.  We own two homes -  one in Norfolk and one in Maryland.  We love the freedom owning gives us.  The freedom to renovate, decorate, and improve.  With renting, you are walking a tightrope between your own comfort, and dumping your money into someone else's investment.  So learning how to decorated a rental is a bit of an art.  Which is where my friend Karen comes in.

Karen at A Lease to Decorate writes about how to turn a rental property into a home without spending a ton of money.  She discusses the art of cohesive furniture, projects that you can do for very little money, and features different rooms that renters submit.  Last week, she did a write up on my living room.  I felt a little bit like an impostor because I don't love my living room and it is nowhere near perfect.  If we owned this home it would be different.  But I do think I did a relatively good job with giving it a dual, functional, and still aesthetically pleasing look.

But as a military family, I think Karen (an Army wife) is on to something.  It is important that we feel at home when we are changing our locale every few years.  And since nobody is getting rich in the military, learning to do it on a budget and with some creativity is important.  Reading her blog has made me excited about moving into a new blank slate of a house in a few months.  Even more fun?  The Army is going to decide whether I get a brand new home or a historic one.  We are living on base, and our house will be luck of the draw.  Leavenworth has homes just like the one we are in, and new ones similar to the one we own in Maryland.  So stand by on that one ...

There are some things I will really miss about this old Norfolk charmer.  I will miss watching Connor use Kate's hair barrettes to unlock the old keyhole doors.

Connor using my keys, but he prefers hair accessories

I will miss the moldings, I will miss the creaky hardwood floors where you need to learn exactly where to step late at night to not wake the babies, I will miss our gorgeous staircase.  I will miss having a huge dining room that encouraged us to use our formal dining table almost every night.  I will miss being so close to the water and being able to put my kids in a stroller and go places like the library, school, playgrounds, and even Old Dominion University.

I will not miss the tiny closets, the small bathroom that our entire family shares (one sink, no cabinetry), the fact that to get to our guest room/office you have to walk through Connor's nursery.  I will not miss potty training a two year old without a bathroom on the main level of the house (unless you count the old "help" bathroom in our garage that is currently a storage closet).  I will not miss the pine trees that drip sap on my car and make it so we need to rake 365 days a year.  I will not miss being only a few houses away from a major road.  I will not miss feeling like I can never get our floors clean.  I will absolutely, totally, completely not miss the cockroaches.  This waterfront neighborhood is notorious for them and

I cycle between wanting new and old.  We own an old home in Norfolk, and a new home in Maryland.  As much as we love the Maryland house, it was almost too quiet.  It was like that perfect preppy girl who has a dry personality.  No pizazz.  So while I lived in boring newness, I missed the flare and adventure of an old home.  So we swung back the other direction into a home with a lot of character.  Now, after two years, I secretly hope that the Army gives us a plain Jane predictable house with windows that are easy to open and a dishwasher that isn't so loud that I have to leave the kitchen.

We should find out what personality our next house will have mid-November.  My true opinion and feelings will probably break through when we receive that news.


roxminaj said...

This building is looking like villas and people always have interest in getting best house in affordable rate. property on rent can give many benefits.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment on your future home...get one with a basement.. Not to scare you but....The midwest is know for its tornadoes. Also the midwest loves fall and Christmas too so I know you will come to Love it!

Marvin Rowe said...

Ohh Really looking very good for rent.

Property Management Companies Coquitlam

Von Madison said...

You’ve already had your fun with a historic house, so I guess it really is time for you to move into a new one. There was also a phase in my life where I enjoyed rental houses since I was able to move to different styles of homes. But, of course, nothing beats having a house of your own. Anyway, how is your new house?

Von Madison

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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