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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, February 26

Gapers Block

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Andrew Huff / June 29, 2010 12:27 AM

Another repeat, but considering how much the housing market has changed since 2004, it seemed worth repeating.

We own, and by the looks of things, we'll be staying put for quite a while. At least we love our home and our neighbors. I feel for all the folks stuck in condo buildings with overbearing boards or hostile neighbors.

Andrew Huff / June 29, 2010 12:29 AM

Oh, and this isn't a business-driven Fuel question -- we're just talking here, not doing market research. Though the thought did cross my mind. ;)

George / June 29, 2010 7:46 AM

Own. My wife and I just bought our first place together. We love our neighbors (so far) and the neighborhood. She has always wanted her on place and it feels really good to achieve that goal with her.

vise77 / June 29, 2010 9:32 AM

Happily rent, in a buidling that is kept up well and where long-term and decent neighbors live, all for low rent that remains at the same level for a couple of years at a pop. We still have some wunderlust left in us, so we want no anchors around our feet. Also, we cannot figure out a reason to spend a ton of money on a glorified apartment (uh, condo)with the risk of bad neighbors and tyrannical board, or buy a house at our price level in an "emerging" neighborhood--the romance of that faded a long time ago for us. So, if we ever own, it will not be in Chicago, especially with the public schools so wanting and the high cost and headache of finding decent private education.

roderick / June 29, 2010 9:40 AM

Been renting the same place for the last 5 years. Probably going to stick around for a little while because we pay a ridiculously low amount for rent.

flange / June 29, 2010 9:52 AM

renting. i would never own. too many headaches, too expensive, too limiting. i'm paying pretty much market rate for my neighborhood, but my fantastic landlord only raises the rent every other year, and leaves champagne outside my door on my birthday and new year's eve. can't see the city assessor doing that for me.

but even without that, none of the own-vs-rent cost comparisons allow that the price of maintenance is built into rent, but never calculated into owning, which generally just looks at the monthly mortgage/tax/insurance payment.

Mike / June 29, 2010 10:01 AM

I "own," which means I rent from the bank and the City of Chicago. I have good neighbors (only one prick owner who luckily lives in another state). But I feel tied to my place now. And our old pipes and electric and roof and boiler and porches give me nightmares. I'll never own another condo. Next place will be a house ... which means somewhere other than Chicago.

Gemma / June 29, 2010 10:40 AM

Rent. I love my apartment. I'd never be able to afford to buy something like it. Though, one day I'd like to buy something in my price range. It would be nice not to worry about every nail I put in the wall.

Brian / June 29, 2010 10:42 AM

Rent — same place for the last five years. I've got a wonderful landlord, a great apartment, and good neighbors (well, most of them anyway). Sure, there are a few things I'd like to change about the place that, because I'm just a tennant, I can't. But overall I'm happy here.

radioactive_piano / June 29, 2010 11:21 AM

Own. Just bought in February and love the place dearly. The building is small but is still, you know, five other units (so seven+ other personalities). From what we can tell, most of the neighbors are very reasonable...but there is the one couple who is the very definition of passive aggressive. Fortunately, they have a kid who will be school-aged soon, so I foresee them trying to move to a better district/to the suburbs. Unfortunately, they have a mortgage from the top of the housing bubble, so that move might not happen.

The rest of the building is full of like-minded adults (meaning they have no children, nor do they want them -- just like us).

James / June 29, 2010 11:34 AM

Own. I bought last summer. Sometimes I feel like I should have waited, but my location is perfect and I just need to redo two rooms for it to be an ideal condo.

eee / June 29, 2010 11:55 AM

I own now, but I also moved out to the suburbs where I can get more bang for my buck. Sure, it's not a super-fun neighborhood like you'd get in the city, but I have a garage and a little patch of lawn to call my own, so it works for me.

greg / June 29, 2010 1:53 PM

We own, and paid off, a "glorified apartment." The neighbors are fine, and the board is no more intrusive than the rest of our Suburb of Well-Meaning Busybodies. We like the space and neighborhood, and The Plan is to never move.

We made the final mortgage payment less than a year before the economy really took a turn. It's nice to have low expenses during spates of underemployment. On the other hand, we're less portable if the area economy really goes in the crapper.

Carrie / June 29, 2010 5:04 PM


I own a condo, but when me and the mister moved in together, we decided to rent b/c the condo was a bit small. We're now going to move back into the condo though b/c we're hoping to sell her and buy a house next hear. And we want to live there while she's on the market instead of having a renter in there. And yes, my condo is a girl.

(for what it's worth, I'd much rather have my condo neighbors than my current neighbors who are in college and smoke in the enclosed hallway. My condo building is also really small and I realize I'm fortunate that I have really good neighbors)

shechemist / June 29, 2010 9:02 PM

Own. Condo. 6 unit building. I am the president of our oppressive condo board. We are going to be here for a while, at least till I finish up grad school. I like our condo and have few regrets about buying, even when the market went to shit.

I like most of our neighbors. We all have our quirks so I try to roll with it, except for the one that admits that she knows nothing about gardening and yet feels the need to "weed" once a year usually killing something I just freaking planted. She is also on the board. Good times.

fluffy / June 29, 2010 10:07 PM

Rent. I don't want the responsibility of owning, to be honest. Also, I like the option of packing up and moving somewhere new whenever I feel like it. Maybe someday I'll 'grow up' and buy a place, but never in the suburbs.

Leelah / June 29, 2010 11:12 PM

Own. Sort of. I'm moving to San Francisco this week, and since I can't sell, I'm renting it out. I LOVE my beautiful condo, love my neighbors, love my neighborhood, and it's going to kill me to pay so much more for a crappy apartment out in CA.

LaShawn Williams / June 29, 2010 11:26 PM

Own. Been here over 7 yrs. WAY too much work & upkeep for a single gal such as myself; however, I am persevering...

Meems / June 30, 2010 9:19 AM

We both rent and are going to move into together in a few months and rent together. However he also owns a house in Florida, so it's kind of nice whenever we do buy something together down the road he'll have had the experience of doing that already. Owning kinda scares me...

Emily / June 30, 2010 9:28 AM

I own after renting the same place for 7 years (oh, sweet rent control...) and admitting that I won't be leaving Chicago any time soon. I got a great deal on my place and have really great neighbors. I just really like the part where it's all *mine*!

Euripides Trousers / June 30, 2010 10:08 AM

Both. I own but rent out, and pay my unwed spouse rent.

CVAL / June 30, 2010 11:07 AM

I own in a great neighborhood Buena Park . There are some great examples of late 19th and early 20th century architecture here.

Dunl / June 30, 2010 11:36 AM

Renting. Trying to own.

jr / June 30, 2010 11:51 AM

Own. I bought my condo when everyone was buying (2003) and last year almost lost it to foreclosure after losing my job. I'm such a cliche.

Luckily, I was able to work something out with my bank (Harris Bank) and I'm on the road to recovery now that I have a new job.

But I don't regret buying. If anything I appreciate my condo even more since I came so close to losing it.

But I do hate having a mortgage. My goal now is to pay it off as quickly as I can. I'm already 7 years into a 15-year mortgage and I think I pay it off in about 2 more years. (Assuming I can hang onto my job that long...) That would be a huge victory after what I went through last year.

Spook / June 30, 2010 1:09 PM

own, I like to collect stuff, books, masks, rugs, plants etc, etc,etc, and I hated being uprooted
or have my rent jacked up
at a landlord's whim. I also hate the term landlord. My extension of "me" is a condo- also purchased in roaring 2003- but its bare original hardwood basics located in the wilds of Logan Square translated into a super cheap larger-Soviet style unit.
I'll take my large widowed library and full living room and dining room over stainless steel/granit appliances any day. And now with my 4.7% interest rate when I rent it out in two years the rent will cover the mortgage and assessment. Its ironic and kinda sad to see new owners with much less space paying two hundred dollars a month more than I.
I plan on keeping it for a while even though I won’t live in it long term, maybe it will be my summer home in Chicago when Daley’s gone.
Oh and hats off to all condo board presidents. there has never been a more thankless “job”.We should get our own appreciation month!

Tracie / June 30, 2010 1:51 PM

I rent, and probably will never buy. My rent is spectacularly low for my area (my landlord actually once DECREASED my rent for being such a good tenant). I don't think I could afford my neighborhood, but being able to walk to great coffee shops, the farmer's market, being near public transport and the grocery store, and have great bars/restaurants around make it worth living there. My pet peeve is when people who own smugly say that renters are "throwing away" their money. I have a place to live, and a roof over my head. How can that be throwing away money?

John / June 30, 2010 2:33 PM

I rent, and am pretty happy with the situation-- great neighborhood, great apartment, fantastic landlord. I may buy eventually but I'm in no hurry.

@Tracie: I used to hear the same thing from friends about "throwing money" away. Now, one of those friends is paying a mortgage for a condo that he doesn't even live in, and refuses to rent it because he thinks any day now it will sell for the price he paid 3 or 4 years ago. This has been going on for 8 months.

In short, I feel pretty good about my money draining apartment.

Leah / July 1, 2010 7:41 AM


Tried to sell a couple years ago, but two weeks later the economy tanked - maybe some of you remember that... I've owned five years and have itchy feet, but won't be leaving anytime soon.

LaShawn Williams / July 1, 2010 9:09 AM

I am where you are, Leah. (Re: itchy feet/won't be leaving any time soon)

jr / July 1, 2010 9:32 AM

When I was a renter I totally bought into that "throwing away your money" stuff and I couldn't wait to buy my own place.

I don't regret my decision to buy but I can see why renting is sometimes a smarter choice -- especially if you aren't sure you will be living in Chicago very long.

I worked with someone who bought a condo around the same time I did thinking that she would only keep it for a few years, sell it at a huge profit and move to New York. That didn't work out so well.

Vanessa / July 1, 2010 10:48 AM

Rent. I really like where I live and when my LL tried to increase the rent for the new lease year, I asked them not to as I was planning on staying another year. They agreed. So same rent for 3 years is fantastic.

I would, eventually, like to own but because of the way the economy is and such, I'm not in any real hurry. It will happen when it happens. Until then, I am content.

Kim Z / July 1, 2010 11:14 AM

I owned for 6+ years then had to move for my job and returned to renting. Now my husband and I are looking to buy because we have commited to our neighborhood.

Owning only makes sense if you know you'll be in one place with the same spatial needs for a while. Renting isn't a failure of the American dream like some people think. In many cases its a much smarter decision than buying a place that won't work for you longterm.

D / July 1, 2010 11:35 AM

We own a condo -- bought right before the economy went down the toilet. Ugh. Sometimes I wish we were renting instead, because the payment is higher than I'd like, but mostly I'm happy with our decision. We like our place and its location, and we don't plan to leave Chicago. I'm throwing as much money as I can at our mortgage in hopes that I'll have it paid off well before we are retirement age. I have seen what has happened to older relatives who still had a housing payment or rent payment when retired and on SS, and I don't want to end up like them!

fr / July 1, 2010 12:22 PM

RENT in Wicker Park. Lived here for over 10 years. glad I didnt buy in the last few years. could never afford what I have: a house close to the train with a 'backyard' for the dogs. Not even that expensive, for the location. prob b/c the place isnt that nice.

Cheryl / July 1, 2010 2:50 PM

Rent. I see no need to own. I realize everyone's circumstances are different, but for me renting makes more sense.

Jason Moore / July 1, 2010 11:15 PM

Rent. Psychologicallly, I like it much more than owning right now. I enjoy no longer being a slave to my mortgage and I don't fret over the persistent threats of layoffs or "business process outsourcing" as I would if I owned. Living in such a large city, it's nice to think that I can move to a different neighborhood every year if I so choose.

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