- The author, Brynne Conroy, rents a two-bedroom duplex in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
- She scored a good deal on rent by watching the market and turning her bonus room into a third bedroom sans closet.
- She enjoys renting now for its flexibility, but will likely buy in Pittsburgh’s stable housing market in the future.
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About a year ago, I moved my family from our home in the city of Pittsburgh up to the Steel City’s northern suburbs.
I had been relatively sheltered from rent increases by staying put in one apartment over the past decade, so I knew my rent was going to be going up regardless of where I moved. I was moving with my two, school-aged children, so if the place was a two-bedroom they’d just have to share a room.
Or at least that was the plan.
When I went to view the duplex where I ended up living, I was pleasantly surprised to discover there was a fully finished bonus room that was originally supposed to be the garage. It didn’t have a closet, so it couldn’t be marketed as a three-bedroom, but I moved my wardrobe in and claimed it as the master. My children each have their own rooms without me having to pay a three-bedroom price.
For now, I know this is a good fit for us, and although I’d like to buy a house one day I don’t mind renting for three reasons:
We’re living where we need to be right now
As my children aged, it became apparent the school district couldn’t meet their educational needs long-term. I had to move, and because of the way Pennsylvania schools are funded, I had to be very careful about where I moved. Two school districts can be adjacent to each other and have a completely different quality of education.
I knew where I needed to live for their sakes. Besides great schools, the northern suburbs have the best commute in the city, helped along by the only HOV lane in the metropolis. But I also knew the area was expensive. I sat and watched rent trends in the area, and hopped on the opportunity for a two-bedroom under market.
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I don’t have to put all my energy — and money — toward home repairs
There’s also the added benefit of not being responsible for maintenance. I do have to mow the lawn, but when my oven stopped working I didn’t have to foot the bill for repairs. When the HVAC professional had to come over to get the heater working again in the winter, my pocketbook didn’t flinch.
The flexibility of renting suits our lifestyle right now
I moved into my duplex during a divorce. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next as far as life plans even 12 months out, so renting made more sense than buying.
While I greatly appreciate the flexibility that renting presents, I’m not opposed to buying in the future. Pittsburgh’s housing market is one of the most stable in the nation, making housing relatively attainable depending on where you live and how much gentrification is happening in the area.
As in most American cities, we have a housing shortage which disproportionately affects low-income residents, but if you have an income which allows you to save up a down payment, buying often wins out over renting long-term as far as the numbers are concerned.
For right now I appreciate the flexibility renting provides as I figure out my new life. I love where I live, and love not having to deal with unexpected costs when an appliance breaks down. My children are getting the education they need, and I have no plans on leaving anytime soon. When life becomes a little more predictable, I’ll start saving up a down payment for my first home.
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