Renting Outside the Box

by Cassandra McCullersFebruary 20, 2018

Change the Way You Think About Rentals

When most people think of renting, their thoughts typically turn to large apartment complexes of units all stacked up and ready to occupy. And while this “big box store” approach to apartments certainly has its advantages (offering amenities like a clubhouse and laundry), renters have an opportunity to really stretch their comfort levels when looking for an ideal place to meet their housing needs.
modern apartment building on sunny day.
One of the biggest advantages to renting is that your commitment tends to be lower, in terms of both finances and time. You’ll have less riding on making the “perfect” choice. If a rental isn’t ideal, you’ll just need to stay there through the rental agreement period, often a year or less. Therefore a rental can provide the chance to live somewhere you might not have originally considered, or to consider non-traditional living arrangements beyond the familiar short-term lease or rent-to-own option. Millennials are finding this to be particularly true, valuing the mobility and flexibility afforded by renting over the traditional pursuit of building equity through homeownership. A recent study found that while 18 percent of the American workforce switches jobs at least once every three years, 42 percent of millennials do – and typically a new job means a new city and new housing, often renting.

Consider a New Neighborhood

While considerations regarding distances to work and from local amenities like grocery stores won’t change between renting and buying a place, there are some neighborhood variables that may be more or less important when renting. If you don’t have school-aged children, school districts are obviously not a real concern. While middle-aged buyers might worry about finding a home in a neighborhood that is good for aging in place, renters may have an easier time in finding another location if their physical needs change over time. Use this opportunity to consider neighborhoods that you might not otherwise, like renovated lofts downtown or studios in artist villages.

Consider Non-Traditional Spaces

When weighing your options in renting, don’t forget to think about residential opportunities that go beyond the boilerplate apartment system. Homes make popular rentals and give a family more space, but also offer more responsibility like mowing the yard. Parts of homes may even be for rent if you just need one room or even a renovated garage space. You may find an opportunity for a studio above a place of business, or even rent an RV and live on the road a while! Don’t be afraid to check out vacation rentals in your area; some of them may be downright affordable for a person willing to stay more than just a week in the off-season. Just be sure to check with local restrictions on what is allowed for residential spaces.
RV caravan at a camp site or RV trailer park.

Consider Non-Traditional Rental Agreements

Not all lease agreements are created equal and while all agreements certainly should follow the local law of the land, there may be a wide range of options in how those rental agreements are crafted. Think about pursuing a work-trade option for room and board – a local farmer or craftsman might have housing space they are willing to trade for doing odds and ends around the property. In some towns, residential internships may also be available. In exchange for a place to stay, you commit to providing some service like working as the property manager for a block of rental properties or tending to horses on an estate. If you have a place of your own and local ordinances allow it, you can also look into property swaps or time-shares, allowing others to occupy your home for a set period of time while you live in theirs.
A week working on a communal farm in Vermont a person is seen bent over feeding chickens.

Another option growing in popularity, particularly among millennials, is the concept of co-living. Co-living housing is like college dorms, but specifically designed for adults, and some even sub-specialize by catering to singles or specific ages. Co-living housing gives renters their own private spaces (either a bedroom or bedroom with en-suite bathroom) with access to inviting communal spaces and a large well-equipped kitchen. It’s typically cheaper than living alone and affords the benefit of having a ready-made community to join.
Happy multiethnic friends or collegaues in casual clothes sitting on sofa in living room and talking.
As with any contract, a rental agreement is a legally binding document that can have a significant impact on your credit score if not executed properly. Be sure to read the entire document and don’t hesitate to ask questions to a licensed real estate agent, if anything is unclear.

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About The Author
Cassandra McCullers
Cassandra is a writer with a background in engineering, enjoying the rural life in the Virginian Appalachians. When not working, she enjoys writing fiction, running a blog, camping, working in the garden, and tending to her flock of chickens! In addition to writing, she has a passion for art and graphic design. Her interests include disaster preparedness, homesteading, landscaping, cooking with natural ingredients, history, and animal husbandry.