Kat Hudson

Kat Hudson
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
May 16
Kathryn Hudson has been a writer for most of her life. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, she currently calls Baltimore, Md., her home. As an award-winning journalist, Ms. Hudson spent several years as a newspaper reporter. She is currently raising a beautiful daughter on her own as a single mother along with two obnoxious cats (they are probably both French-Canadian). In her free time she writes. In her regular life, she juggles a cute infant along with a job in sales, blogs, and short films about everything. She welcomes new friends and correspondence, especially from befuddled new parents like herself.


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 6, 2010 4:03PM

Is renting the new 'American Dream?'

Rate: 30 Flag

My apartment windows are wide open and I can hear the leaves kicking around the parking lot outside my window. I wish I could relax and enjoy it more, but today is not that kind of day. My apartment building sent notice to me on Monday night that they’d be sending an exterminator to our building today. It left me with less than 40 hours to clean out my closets, remove things from my cabinets and basically endure chaos to accommodate this order. I am wiped out and my back aches.

One of the things I miss about being a homeowner is the freedom to do almost anything I want whenever I want. I also miss not having to do a landlord’s bidding at a moment’s notice just because they said so. Yet I am mostly happy as a renter these days. With so many of friends on the brink of losing their houses or surrendering them to the bank, I feel like I’m sitting pretty, even if I have to put with an occasional inconvenience. Whatever happened to the so-called “American Dream” of being a homeowner?

A few months ago, a friend of mine confided to me that he’d been struggling under the weight of his mortgage. Newly-divorced, he had been forced to take on the debt of his ex-wife along with his own. After deciding to declare bankruptcy, he made the painful decision to let the bank reclaim his house. I am so happy not to be in his shoes.

When my ex-husband and I decided to divorce, I knew one thing for sure: he could keep our house. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the three-bedroom townhouse with three decks overlooking a pretty bay on a river; I loved that place beyond words. I just knew that keeping that roof over my head meant more than paying a mortgage every month on time. It also meant upkeep, manicuring and constant vigilance over disaster.

Not so long ago, much of our waterfront community suffered major damage during Hurricane Isabelle. Boats landed on streets, river waters converged in basements and first floors of many homes and many people were displaced. I remember watching in fear as the sliding windows on our home bowed in during the most vicious parts of the storm. It was 3 a.m. and I feared what I might lose. Relief came at dawn when the storm had finally subsided and our house remained mostly intact. I said a prayer of thanks. Others weren’t so lucky.

From the moment we came to the decision to divorce, my husband insisted on keeping the house. He believed himself to be more entitled to it because during much of our marriage he insisted I play housewife while he went to work. He’d put more money into it than me, he said, and he didn’t care what happened to me as long as he kept his “dream home.” Who was I to argue? With a much smaller income, I knew it would be a struggle to keep the place. Instead of feeling sad about what I was losing, I learned to let go and see things in a different light.

I don’t love the constant struggle of making rent. I am still unemployed and sometimes those bi-weekly benefit checks arrive a day or two after rent is due and I have hold my breath as I write a check I hope I’ll be able to cover before it reaches my account. I enjoy the freedom of calling my maintenance guys when something goes wrong. I have a locked parking garage. There are security cameras everywhere I turn. I don’t have to mow a lawn.

It may fly in the face of everything we’ve been taught as Americans, but I don’t mind being a renter. I don’t feel like I’m losing anything by renting. I feel more like I’ve gained a peace of mind.

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I agree. I rent also, and I have no desire to own a home. Others say it's really important, but I've been happy with the way I live, and fortunately I don' t hear from the management enough to cause me to even think a second thought about it.
peace of mind comes in all shapes and sizes, Kat.
I sold my house when I began to feel like a slave to it. Renting is freedom.
Kat, if we can have some peace in our minds then that is really what it is all about . It is not about 'stuff'
Rated with hugs
My brother-in-law and his wife life in Germany, where there is little government incentive to buy, and a vast majority of the population rents. As a result, there are a lot of laws to support renters. Many people rent for their entire lives, and put down roots in buildings. There are laws about playgrounds (buildings with more than so many families must have a playground, of a specific size per number of units, and with specified play equipment). Renters bring their own kitchen appliances like stoves, fridges, and dishwashers. Renters bring their own wardrobes. Renters paint and remodel interior walls.

Talking with them made me realize that our perception of renting vs. owning is a construct of the mortgage tax credit. If we didn't have that, what would be the advantage?

I dream of renting. I hate being a slave to my lawn. Gotta paint the trim. Bleah.
I'm on the other side. My ex kept the house and I miss the privacy and freedom. What I really miss is the yard. We had 1.5 acres which I loved. I enjoyed the mowing...it gave me brain dead time each week. And I loved planting bulbs every Autumn.

In your case, you were wise. When my alimony ends, in a few months, I think my ex will find herself "House Poor". No money from me to fund it, and a down market having wiped out the equity.
We rent a home for now and every time a friend has to shell out $3k to get a new air condition, I quietly congratulate us on that choice.
This penetrates. I too am a renter, having sold my house some years ago to pay for catastrophic health care.

There are good things about it, but like you I hate struggling to make the rent.

Nonetheless, having a house is NOT the only definition of the American Dream. Good post.
I love being a renter. I believe the 'benefits' of home ownership are vastly over stated. And I so agree with Sarah K. Renting is freedom. Smoke alarms need batteries? Call management. AC on the fritz? Call management. It is my american dream. I don't care if I ever 'own' again. I think home ownership needs to be redefined. If you are in debt for your home, the only thing you own are the taxes and maintenance. In other words, all you own is the problems associated with a house. No thanks. Ask Trig Palin how much of his home he owned. He didn't own shit, the mortgage company was the owner!!!! Again, No Thanks.
I own a house which I rent and now rent a house. Worst of both worlds. Fine thoughtful post.
I will be soon to join the renters. Sigh...

My home is worth, possibly, half of what is owed.. in other words about what I paid for it. Re-fi'd to the hilt for real-estate investments now gone sour. Real-lationship gone sour... yes.

Enjoyed reading this
I wish I had remained a renter 5 years ago, instead, I invested in real estate to protect cash funds from a hammering in the stock market. hahahahahaha! I'm living in my house for as long as it takes for some bank somewhere to catch up with the fact I'm not paying the mortgage. So far it's been 4 months, not a peep. I reaping a return on my investment. Finally. Maybe squatting is the new American lifestyle.
I rented for many years thinking I would never afford a house. It eventually happened, and we struggle with the mortgage. It's not as bad as in the States as banks in the island are a lot more conservative than in the mainland. But one is always afraid to lose the house. Because it can happen. Renting, in a way, is very much like freedom from that type of worry.
I lost my house and I'm happy as a clam. If anything goes wrong, I make a call and the guy is here that night. My water pump quit the other day. It was fixed by dinner time. I will never get an ulcer again worrying about paying a bank on time.
We bought in eighteen years ago, before the boom and bust, when housing prices accurately reflected a financial snapshot of the community. If we were entering the market today, I'm not sure we'd be able to afford a home like we have. It makes me sad for my children, although we did luck into a very modest home for our son and helped him buy it. You make an excellent case for renting.
Didn't Forest Gump tell us we should rent everything, even our shoes?
Great post...I am current on my house payment but I definitely live paycheck to paycheck. Unless the economy in Michigan rebounds, I am stuck here, unless I want to take an absolute bath...I would be lucky to get what is owed on it. I am thinking about retiring fairly soon and the only option I see at this point is to take in roommates. I had always planned on going somewhere warmer, but I don't see that happening now. So yeah, the American Dream of home ownership isn't working out so well for me!! But I know I'm way ahead of many folks in Michigan, and I most grateful to have what I do have.
I AM grateful for what I have, even.... :-)
Well-said. The so-called American dream of home ownership is not for everyone. You are wise to see the upside even when you're in the midst of a difficult times.
I had terrible experiences as a renter in the Silicon Valley during hte 90's boom...every year, a massive rent increase (the biggest was $400 a month for 1 bedroom that had been about $1000 - a 40% increase). I moved so many times during that period I can't even count. Every one of my landlords stole my deposit money, even if I cleaned the place to a professional standard. Finally I got kicked out of two places so they could convert them to condos. Altogether, I moved 10 times in 10 years in the same metro.

Perhaps some folks have better experiences in the slower economies of other parts of the country, but I was pretty miserable. Now I have a townhouse in the midwest, where prices have been lower, and I haven't moved in five years. I don't mind that. I really don't. That's how I found my peace of mind.

Renting could be a great thing if renters had enough protections - but really, a renter is at the mercy of their landlord. If you're lucky, it can be great. But lots of times, it's not so great.
I also agree, and never thought I would rent, but so glad that I do. I've scaled down to a wonderful minimum and can't imagine going back to ownership in more ways than one.
I am blessed to have friends who owned land (free and clear) in a rural community. I bought myself a trailer and pay a modest rent to live on their property. I've never been so happy in my entire life. Eventually I hope to buy something, but it will meet my needs and be easy to pay off. No more financial risks, no more unnecessary debt.
When my ex and I split, he kept the house and I moved into my apartment, which is the upstairs unit in a cool, old house. I love apartment living and don't particularly miss owning a home. At any rate, I don't know what the American Dream is anymore or if it is attainable. I'm surviving but live very close to the edge.
I know a lot of us are hanging on by a thread, but honestly, if I had pay taxes (that mid-year kick in the gut that comes with home ownership) and all the big and litter repairs, I'd go nuts. I suppose if I had a lot of money, it would be different, but it's still tough to suck up.

There are days I long for a play to put my hands in the dirt and plant something and watch it grow. That's why I'm joining a local community garden co-op. I don't need to be the only managing a yard which often happened when I was married. It was fun, yet thankless work (until the lavender blossomed).

If my rent goes up, I always have the option of moving, although I've negotiated a few times to keep it down. The last time I did this, I got free garage parking thrown in just to keep me from leaving. It's been a pretty good renter's market in Baltimore the past two years.

Thanks for all the comments. Life isn't always easy, but having less responsibility in this economy at least frees my mind.
Funny, I just blogged about having to get a new oven, dishwasher, have electrical work done and then get saddled with a major redo of the septic system all costing thousands. I made the comment that if I was renting I'd still be waiting on the landlord to return my call. Turns out many renters have responsive management companies that handle that. If we did not have the income tax deduction for mortgages it would be hard to argue for being a homeowner. Most of the time you are a "homeowner" the bank really owns your home.
Good post. When I relocated to Ethiopia last year, I put four boxes of stuff in storage in a friend's attic, and whatever else I couldn't fit in two suitcases and a carry-on bag, I left for the janitors. People think they own their possessions, but at what point does it turn out to be the other way around?

One of the emblematic novels of the 1950's was The Man in The Grey Flannel Suit. At the end of the novel, the protagonist decides to accept a lower-paying position with less responsibility with his company, in order to be able to spend more time with his family. Obviously, there was no question in the mind of the author (or of the readers) that he would always be able to afford a nice home for his family (on one income!). There was no question about his being downsized and hired back as a consultant at one-third of his original salary, or of being out of work for years and years, having his home foreclosed, etc., etc. How times have changed.

I often scratch my head when I hear people who have bought houses they couldn't afford claim they were just trying to find "security." The only security comes from calm acceptance of the fact that there is no security.
The house next door to ours was rented when our neighbor, unable to sell the property for anything close to what she had paid, had to move to another part of the state for work. She rented the house to a very nice young couple. My wife and I talked with them the day they moved in and they told us in no uncertain terms that they had no plans of ever buying a house. Both of their parents had been seriously burned here S. Florida in the real estate collapse and were clinging to property they could no longer afford. Since that time, I have heard several people say the same thing. When my wife and I were married in 1979 and living in an apartment, I can't count the number of times we were asked when we were going to buy a house and have kids, as if one were dependent upon the other. We didn't get around to actually buying a house until about ten years ago when we were in our mid-forties - of course now with the market in shambles we couldn't sell the place if we wanted to. But, on the other hand we are just 15 mins from one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, and the winters are great here. Gotta look on the bright side. Good luck to all!
I'm a renter in my early forties and don't plan on buying a house. I love travelling and can get up and go wherever I want w/o worrying about selling. That, to me, is freedom.
There is nothing wrong with adjusting the 'American dream'. For so many, renting is ideal! R
Interesting to read of your experience, Kat -- as a first time home buyer last year, I'm just learning the other side of the coin, but I had put up with landlords for so many years, all I could think of when signing those documents was the freedom from powerlessness against an owner's/landlord's whims...
I do miss not having someone else do repairs : )
Nice post.....I'm sorry your ex was an ass about the dream house, finances aside...
I'm 45, I've never owned a home, and I like the freedom of renting. I tend to move alot - there is always something new and different. Plus I never have to pay for the plumber, gardener, washing machine repair guy etc.