You get married, buy a house, then you can have kids. That's the way it works, right? Or, at the very least - you buy a house right after having your first kid.
It seems unpopular to rent instead of buy, and certainly after you've married and procreated. Though many twenty-somethings are working towards the financial goal of buying a house, it's not on our radar. We hear that we're 'throwing away money' by renting. That a house is a good investment. That homeownership is an American dream. That Gabe deserves a yard and lots of space. I even heard someone refer to the poorer kids at a school as 'apartment dwellers.' Really?
We are in the financial position to buy a home, but have decided for many reasons that it's not something we're eager to rush into.
Freedom. I once had a friend who got into a great graduate program in another state, but she wasn't able to move because it didn't sell. Aside from difficulties selling, houses (especially here in Ohio) often aren't what they used to be in terms of a solid investment. And since we're not tethered to a mortgage, we are free to easily move if Mike gets a job offer somewhere else. Or if we finally get fed up with winters in northeast Ohio. Or if we want to spend a year in southeast Asia. We also have financial freedom to work less without a large monthly payment.
Built-In Community. We live in fairly close quarters with probably hundred other people, sharing elevators, hallways, mailboxes, and laundry rooms with them. This means our paths and lives cross daily - and we get to know the other residents over time. The little old women who sit by the mailboxes commenting on how cute Gabe is ("Oh, I wish I had a camera!" Every. Time.), the maintenance men who ask about "Mr. Gabriel," the doctor who lives on our floor, and the man who likes to tell us about his own children he raised 40 years ago. I tend to be introverted, so living in an apartment is a great way to force me to interact with others. (And enables a bit of stalking: we secretly want to be best friends with the retired guys who order fair trade coffee beans.)
We're Lazy. We don't have to do yard work, and if anything goes wrong - we just call the maintenance guys and they're here right away to fix it. Literally, right away. The service in this apartment is great! There's no sidewalk or driveway to shovel, either.
Sharing is Caring. Since we share a washer and dryer with the other residents on the floor, we don't need to buy one. And there is an exercise room in the building, so we don't need to buy (or make space for) a treadmill in our apartment. Additionally, apartment living is often seen as a 'green' choice, since more people can fit into less space. It certainly keeps us warmer in the winter, without having to turn up our heat.
Simple Living. We have less space, so we accumulate (or keep) less stuff and less to clean. This apartment is just the perfect size for us. Plus, we don't need baby monitors, because our apartment is small enough that we can just hear Gabe if he cries. And I cannot stress enough how nice it is to not worry about having an emergency fund for home repairs - like a leaky roof, plumbing problems, a broken furnace or water heater, and so on.
Location, Location, Location. Getting a large house out in the suburbs with a long commute is a popular choice, but we opted for less space in a walkable area close to Mike's school. Though we don't have a yard, there are three parks and playgrounds less than half a mile away. Not to mention the public library, a coffee shop, several restaurants, our bank, and a movie theater less than a five-minute walk from our front door. In a world that is increasingly car-centered, it is my hope that Gabe grows up where walking, not driving, to get somewhere is normal, not a novelty (or worse, something to complain about).
So, my friends, that's why we live in our little apartment. (Though our current apartment isn't quite as little as our first itty bitty shoebox.) Sure, there are things I don't like about it - the lack of recycling in our building (and schlepping our recyclables to the recycling center) and there is nowhere to for Mike to put his ping pong table (except our balcony. yep.). Renting isn't the right choice for everyone, but for us, it is.
We choose to rent; we don't have to.