Being a member of the Winfield Village Cooperative, I’m technically a home owner and not a renter. In fact, more then technically: I’m actually a home owner.
On a day-to-day basis, living at Winfield Village is a lot like being a renter. I pay a monthly housing charge that feels a lot like a rent payment when I pay it. There’s an office staff that shows units to prospective new owners, and a maintenance staff to fix things (plumbing, appliances, etc.), and keep up the grounds—all very similar to what you could expect at an apartment. But there are differences, and most of the differences are luxuries.
There are a few differences that are financial. For example, I’m entitled to deduct my share of the property taxes and mortgage interest that Winfield Village pays.
One that I hadn’t thought of before was made especially apparent to me a few weeks ago, when a friend mentioned having to sign the next-year’s lease for his apartment, and I was reminded what an annoyance that always was.
Every year when we used to live at Country Fair, we’d get a call from the office asking if we wanted to renew our lease for the following year. Every year the rent went up a little, which was just to be expected.
More annoying was that every year we had to read the new lease. Most years it was the same or nearly the same—the office staff would go through and indicate changes—but we still felt like we ought to read it, because we’d still be agreeing to any changes that the office staff failed to point out. I think twice there was a complete re-drafting of the lease, so we had to read it all the more carefully.
Even years when it was still (mostly) the same, after we read it we then had to go through the whole thing with the office staff, because there were a dozen places we had to initial specific provisions, and then we had to sign three originals.
Although it was just an off-hand comment, my friend mentioning his lease re-signing brought up a whole bunch of stressful memories, such as deciding how to deal with the provisions that were so badly drafted as to require us to do preposterous things. (One I remember was a provision intended to reduce the chance of pipes freezing that seemed to require that we leave a trickle of water running anytime the temperature was below freezing, which would basically be all winter here in lovely central Illinois.)
There are other ways in which we are owners. We can repaint. We can buy our own appliances, or make other upgrades to our kitchen. (But we don’t have to. If our stove or refrigerator fails, maintenance will come fix it, or replace it if necessary.)
Until my friend brought it up, it hadn’t occurred to me that I haven’t had to go through the whole stressful lease-signing process for three years now! Instead of a lease, I have an occupancy agreement. That agreement hasn’t changed in three years, so I haven’t needed to re-sign. The housing charge hasn’t gone up either. And because it’s a co-op, I’ll have a vote on any major changes that do come up.
Ah, the luxury of ownership.