Monday, July 19, 2004

Remember the perks of being a single renter

Writer Jessica Yadegaran tells how her friend Sarah, a reporter in South Carolina, recently called to tell me some great news. She was standing on a plot of land in Columbia surrounded by beefy construction workers about to break ground on a Victorian dream house.

Her dream house.

Mind you, Sarah is 28, single and makes the same salary as the average SLO poke. Her house will be two stories, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace and hardwood floors where she can delight her cat, Dobby, with the finest toys and tuna that money can buy.

She was frazzled, of course, what with having to go over the blueprints on her lunch break and all.

While Sarah signs away $148,000 for a brand spanking new home, we singles here on the Central Coast wrestle with a far fatter number, one that must have some glandular disorder since it can’t seem to stop growing. As of last month, the median price for a home in this county was $422,660 — a daunting reality that screams, “You’re going to rent for the rest of your life you sorry-ass-I-want-to-save-the-world reporter!”

Don’t get me wrong. Like many young singles here, I have a great situation in the most gorgeous cottage, and my landlords are among the best people I’ve come to know in this county. But as Reba McEntire says in that tear-jerking Habitat for Humanity commercial, “Everyone deserves to own a home.”

Reba’s right. I want to know what it’s like to pick out cabinet knobs, build a deck and pack insulation. I want to record minutes at a homeowners association meeting, talk track lighting and tie one of those cute red hankies on my head as I fill the holes in my walls, brushing grout dust from my bangs.

Alas — it may never be. Unless a bunch of us helpless, $40,000-or-less-a-year dreamers get together, pool our money and buy a place in Cholame. It could work! We’ve all had roommates, right? It would be like a hippie commune, except we’d be clothed and our purpose for living together wouldn’t be free love but 20 percent annual appreciation. The American Association for Single People, a group that lobbies for the legal and financial rights of singles, would surely approve.

Of course we would be tied down. That’s the double-edged sword of the M-word. If someone spilled Two Buck Chuck on the carpet, we’d freak out instead of laugh it off. Maybe there are benefits to renting after all. Sure, you’re not building equity, but you can also split — run off to Europe — in 30 days if you’re getting bored. You don’t have to give your money to The Firm (read: homeowner’s fees) every month. And the amount of cash you’re coughing up annually to put a roof over your head isn’t enough to feed a small African country. Just a village.

So buck up, single renters. The next time you’re feeling down, throw a huge party. And invite your cool landlords.