Horse-hair plaster and other arguments against renting

by verypersonalfinanceblogger

The other night, a well meaning friend tried to discourage me from even thinking about ever buying a home.

I don’t live in one of the Canadian cities with the toughest real estate markets (Toronto or Vancouver), but I do live in Montreal, where, according to a recent MoneySense article, homes rate D for value.

This is particularly true for us. We live in a downtown neighbourhood, Mile End, were it’s not uncommon for a family of four to spend well upwards of $300,000 for a 100-year-old apartment, with only 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, in need of urgent repairs.

After 17 years in the ‘hood, my husband and I find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of being renters who have been out-trended by the neighbourhood.

So move, you say.

But we are rooted here. Our children, 7 and 10, are in school. Their friends are nearby. Not to mention our own.

When my daughter first started walking to the store on her own, I knew that a whole set of neighbourhood eyes was watching her, checking to make sure that she looked both ways before crossing the street.

And I’m not sure where we would go.

It occurs to me, as I contemplate real estate, that I’m not so much a Montrealer as a Mile Ender. I feel at home here.

But the apartment where I have lived for the past decade is falling apart. The plaster walls are cracking to reveal the horse-hair binding used a century ago. This is a health as well as an aesthetic problem, since my husband is so allergic to horses that he can’t even set foot into Old Montreal, where carriage rides are one of the main attractions. The only solution, we are told, is to gut the apartment. But this is not something that we can instigate as tenants.

Water has leaked from the upstairs neighbour’s into our bathroom, leaving an ugly black mark and a recurring case of mildew.

A month ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to an unwanted present from my cat: a live mouse deposited on my leg.

Worse yet, one of our windows is broken. Our landlord has assured us that a replacement has been ordered, but that is has to be custom made, and, therefore, will take time. Until then, he has taken the astonishing measure of stuffing a sock in the window to protect us from the elements. A sock in the window? Ack!

For me, home ownership means a degree of control, the ability to phone up the window company myself, to negotiate repairs to the bathroom wall, to follow up on the inside and outside on the mice issue.

The question is not, should I buy a home, but how will I get there?

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