It’s no secret that I kind of hate where I live.
Nearly 10 years ago, my now husband and I moved into a rental townhouse where we started our lives together as a new couple. Within 3 months of moving in, however, we discovered mold. And since then, we’ve discovered mold numerous times and in numerous places.
Our property management company has been, to put it nicely, complete crap. We’ve seen multiple managers and maintenance workers come and go. We’ve had our floors replaced – twice. The first time we couldn’t use our living room for almost 9 weeks. And then they had to do it all over again a few years (and many many complaints) later.
They made us temporarily move out of our place with only a day’s notice and put us in a disgusting, poorly-ranked Airbnb – which they also managed. When we moved back in, they broke the wheel off our brand-new portable dishwasher and scratched the backs of both our loveseat and couch. It took them over 6 weeks to address these issues and only did so after I sent a letter stating I was taking them to the tenant’s board…
If you’ve ever been in a living situation like this – or worse – I’m sure you can relate.
And I know what you’re probably thinking.
If I hate where I live so much, why don’t I just move already?
And trust me, I’ve spent many many hours contemplating the same thing. So what’s the problem?
More specifically, the lack of alternative affordable places to live.
Housing affordability is a real, growing issue for both renters and homeowners. People often end up stuck in the cheapest places to live because living costs are increasing but our income is not.
High Rental Prices
Rental prices have skyrocketed over the last few years, and will only continue to do so. If you’ve been renting the same place for a while, you’ve probably been priced out of similar units. Particularly if you live in a rent-controlled property, or in provinces or states where laws regulate the amount rental prices can increase each year.
For example, the monthly rent for the unit we live in now is $715 more than we’re paying.
The median household income certainly hasn’t increased that much!
Downsizing might be an option – but it might not help, either. You’re likely to end up paying a little more for less space. If you are also struggling to make ends meet and live comfortably as it is, trying to find another $200+ a month in your budget could be out of the question.
The Real Estate Market
If you own your home, selling it and buying a new home is an option. But it’s not an easy one. It can be a long, expensive process with a whole lot of hassle and a high potential for making mistakes.
Although real estate is usually seen as an investment, housing costs fluctuate. Sometimes a lot. Remember the housing market crash that happened in the mid-2000s? It could happen again.
In small towns and small cities, selling your home can take years. Especially if the community has been hit economically and has high unemployment rates.
If the market isn’t in your favor and home prices are lower than the actual home value, selling right now might not make any sense. I don’t think anyone wants to sell their house at a loss (or can afford to do so), no matter how much you hate it.
If it’s the neighborhood you live in that you don’t like, you might not be able to afford to relocate to a neighborhood that you do like. Particularly if it’s considered one of the best places to live in, such as an in-demand or up-and-coming affluent area.
Moving is Expensive
If you do decide to move, the move itself is another, potentially large expense.
For renters, if you can find another affordable place to live, in most cases you need to have the first and last month’s rent available. And possibly a security deposit, too. For most of us with an average income, trying to save $2,000 or more can be incredibly tough.
For homeowners, there are lots of hidden costs involved with buying and selling. Home inspections, appraisal fees, taxes, warranties, insurance, legal fees, renovations and repairs. It doesn’t take long for things to add up!
And then you still have to physically move.
This could mean hiring a moving company, renting a U-Haul, or bribing your friends with beer and pizza (like we did). It can be done for cheap, but if you have a lot of furniture or are moving far away, it probably won’t be.
Then maybe you’ll want to repaint or decorate. Maybe you’ll need different furniture or appliances to fit the new space. Maybe you’ll have to set up new utility accounts. Or have to keep things in storage. All things that also come at a price.
What Can You Do If You Hate Where You Live, But Can’t Move?
Whatever situation you’re in, if you hate where you live but you’re unable to move somewhere else, there are things that you can do to make your home tolerable until you are able to find something better.
What Works In Your Current Home?
There’s got to be something about your home that you like. Something that made this the best place to live when you first picked it. (Assuming that you did choose to live there, that is.)
Think back to when you first saw your home. What made you excited to move in?
I remember loving how light and bright our place was. And then we painted the living room walls a dark color, added dark black-out curtains, and complained about how dark it was. So when our landlords were in to fix the mold issues, we asked them to paint our walls white again. Between that and a new set of curtains, it made our living room that much better.
There is probably something similar that you can do to make your current home at least a little bit more livable.
What Doesn’t Work in Your Current Home?
This might be easier to answer than the last question, but take some time to really think about it.
Keep a mental list (or hey, why not an actual list?) of the things that make you hate where you live and what you want for housing in the future.
Instead of saying, “this layout sucks” – be specific. What sucks about it? Is the bathroom too far away from the bedrooms? Maybe there is no room to move around in the kitchen? Or the storage room too inaccessible (or in our case, non-existent)?
Maybe it’s the livability of the neighborhood or the size of the community that you don’t like. You currently live in a big city, but would like to settle down in the suburbs, where there is a low crime rate, a better school system, and lower property taxes. Or you live in a small town and want to live in a walkable metropolitan area with better job opportunities, a lower unemployment rate, and public transportation.
You may not be able to change these things in your current place, but when the time comes for you to move again, you know exactly what you’re looking for and what you’re not. Hopefully, this will help you avoid getting stuck in yet another place that you don’t want to be in.
Change What You Can
Not too long ago I was given the advice to “focus on what you can control”. I’ve tried to keep that in mind ever since because it’s the exact thing I needed to hear and is something I am constantly reminding myself of.
Since you can’t move, focus on what you can do to make your home work for you.
Is it your daily commute that you loathe? Talk to your manager to see if there are other options, such as working from home or adjusting your hours so your not getting up early every day to beat traffic. Or maybe it’s time for a career change? Finding a place to work that allows you to work remotely is much easier in today’s job market.
If you rent and have a good landlord or property manager, they might be willing to work with you to make some of the changes you want. They may even be willing to pay for these changes (or at least chip in).
As a homeowner (and, in some cases, a renter), there are a lot of changes you can make that will improve your space but also increase your home’s value:
- Rearrange the furniture
- Deep clean
- Get some plants
- Add a backsplash
- Change the tiling
- Re-grout the tiling
- Change your shower-head
- Change your kitchen faucet
- Replace the lighting fixtures
- Add more lighting fixtures
- Replace the carpet or flooring
- Add a rug
- Remove a rug
- Hang shelves
- Build a deck or small patio in your yard
- Power-wash your bathtub
- Polish wooden surfaces or stainless steel appliances
- Add something functional and/or visually pleasing to that dark and unused corner
Do something that fits your budget but will lessen the things that annoy you.
For us, lack of storage is one of the main things I dislike about our place. Our spare bedroom has become a dumping ground for stuff because of this. By spending less than $200 on a pair of these ugly, but super durable shelves, a lot of the storage issues were solved. It was an easy fix and is something that we can take with us and still use when we can move.
Don’t Outgrow Your Space
On that same note, we wouldn’t need this storage space if we didn’t have so much stuff to store. Most of it did not move in with us, but has accumulated since.
At least once a year, I get into that spring-cleaning mode (although it doesn’t always happen in the spring). Each time, I donate at least 2 trunk-loads of clothes and various household items that I no longer want or need. I would love to spend a full week giving our place a major declutter overhaul, but every little bit helps.
One suggestion I’ve heard time and time again to help avoid clutter is the “one in, one out” rule. It basically means for every new thing you bring into your house, one (usually related) item has to leave. So if you’re upgrading that old coffee maker, don’t hang onto the old one. Get rid of it! Same goes for any new clothes, books, toys, gadgets, etc.
If you really want to get ahead with decluttering or downsizing, up the number. Get rid of 2 things for every new item instead of just 1. And, of course, only buy or bring into your house the things that you actually need.
Out-Growing Your Space Isn’t Just About “Stuff”
If your family is growing, it may be impossible not to outgrow your space. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to move into a bigger place to raise a family. It is possible to make your space work with a bit of creative thinking (and decluttering).
Think about how you can use those unused or underused spaces in a better way.
Consider smaller pieces of furniture, less furniture, or multifunctional furniture. Mount your TV to the wall instead of using a stand to free up some floor space. Utilize your vertical space (like the top of cabinets) as well as those hideaway spaces (like under your bed). Or convert a closet or nook into an office space.
Keep an Eye on the Market
Even though I know moving is currently out of reach, I still look at the rental listings at least a few times each month. (I also used to want to be a real estate agent and find this stuff interesting.)
But it’s useful to keep an eye on the market – whether or not you’re currently looking to rent or buy.
Knowing the median home price and the average rent for places in your favorite neighborhood will help you determine whether living there is feasible or not. And if so, it will help you set realistic goals when it comes to your budget. You will know how much you will need to save for first and last month’s rent or for a down payment if you’re hoping to buy.
You may also luck out by finding a new place at a price you can afford. It’s only happened once to me, but by the time I reached out to the landlord, the rental was gone.
By keeping an eye on the market you may have better luck than I did and be able to move sooner than you thought.
If you really hate where you live, making some small sacrifices now in order to eventually find a place you love is probably worth it.
I kick myself whenever I think about this. I was unhappy living in our rental right from the start. By waiting longer to move, we can’t afford the prices of what comparable rentals are now going for. Instead, having controlled rent increases is working in our favor over moving somewhere new. If only we had moved after our one year lease was up!
After our wedding, we spent some of our gift money following some of my earlier advice. We changed what we could to make the space work better for us. We bought a deep freezer, because the small freezer in the refrigerator just wasn’t cutting it for us. And we also bought a soundbar for our TV, since we’re homebodies who watch too much TV.
In hindsight, I wish we would have used that money towards moving expenses instead. We could have made do with what we had.
Increase Your Income or Make Extra Money
Yes, another obvious suggestion that’s not always easy to accomplish. But if you want to move to one of the best cities or communities, anything you can do to increase your family income will help!
There are a ridiculous number of different ways you can increase your income or make extra money. Some are easier than others, and of course, the pay varies:
- Ask for a raise
- Work overtime
- Get a better paying job
- Get a second, part-time job
- Do gig jobs
- Sell unused items or have a garage sale
- Make extra money online
- Start a side hustle
- Sell your unwanted clothes
- Use cash-back or coupon apps
- Test websites
- Answer surveys
- Join a focus group or paid research study
I know, I know. Easier said than done. There are probably many other things you need (or want) to spend your money on instead of saving it.
Do some research to get a better idea of how much moving might cost you. And then figure out how much you’ll need to save to make it happen.
For example, if you need:
- $500 to hire movers
- $250 for utility deposits
- $3,000 for first and last month’s rent
Moving will cost you $3,750. If you hope to move within a year, that will mean putting about $315 a month aside.
Putting real numbers (even if they are estimates at this point) will give you a realistic goal to work towards rather than a “someday” goal that may never happen.
If you hate where you live but can’t move, these are just some of the things that you can do to make your space work better for you until you can.
YOUR TURN: Do you hate where you live? What have you tried doing to make it better? Leave a comment and let us know!
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Feature Image Credit: dotshock via Canva.com.
This article originally appeared on mylifeiguess.com.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.
14 thoughts on “I Hate Where I Live! What To Do When You Can’t Move”
Maybe downsizing is still the best long term option. A two bedroom place will always cost you less in the long run. If you truly can’t scrape up another $200 a month what are you going to do when your rent is increased to $1,500 to match the market prices? You know that may be right around the corner, not many smart landlords are going to throw away $500 a month for very long unless there is some rent control ordinance in place.
Thanks for your comment! Yes – I should have mentioned that there is rent control where I live, and in all of Canada, I believe? For example, in Ontario, landlords can only increase rent by 1.8% this year. Which is less than $20 per month for us. So thankfully, a major increase isn’t something we need to worry about.
Well then, you are of course 100% right! Sorry for being pretty uninformed of that. I think some big cities in the US have that too but living in the middle of nowhere Arkansas, renters here are pretty much at the mercy of the landlords. I have learned a ton of interesting things about the UK and Europe and you guys just north of the border but it is obvious I have still a lot to learn!
I don’t hate where I live now (it’s my house), but I definitely had a crappy apartment in Seattle. The price was incredibly low, so I moved. Then the building sold and they increased the rent to something more in keeping with current rents. But I was stuck due to our financial situation at the time (broke and paying off debt). I couldn’t do a lot for physical limitation reasons, but I put up curtains to help cover up the ugly blinds. And I printed out and put up quotes to help cover the ugly wood-grain cupboards. And… I reminded myself that we’d pay significantly more if we moved at that point. Not that we could have afforded the first/last/deposit anyway.
I’m sorry you have to feel that right now about where you currently live. However, I still admire you since you are still contented with what you have right now. I will be saving your article – for future reference. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this!
This is a very good article, thanks for thinking these things out and writing them down!
So my thing is the noise around my house.
Bought 21 yrs ago, the city has grown a lot around here, and my house is now surrounded by 3 major roadways anywhere from 3 blocks away to about a half mile away (ring road).
In terms of location, it’s perfect for commute, shopping, biking, walking, airport, everything.
It used to be much quieter.
I have a huge garden built up over the yrs, get jackrabbits bringing their babies into my yard, I feed wildbirds ….and now I need to wear earplugs if I want quiet time in the yard.
I planted trees and 3 yrs later the city changed out the yellow streetlight for a shockingly bright LED- there’s no nighttime here.
And now!, for some reason the value is going down While taxes alone are almost $2400/yr.
I love my house and garden but now I hate where my house is located!
Anyways, just thot I’d offer a different perspective.
Hi Narda, I feel for you. I also hate those bright led lights they are horrible they have a negative effect on wildlife and us humans too. Ex: we cant enjoy stars anymore. They should be banned. Look into Dark Sky communities and like on facebook to promote awareness. I was wondering we where you live? Jackrabbits are so cool.
I feel your frustration. I keep complaining to my husband that I’m not happy where I live. I hate all the noise pollution. And it’s 24/7… only during holidays and snow days I get some peace and quiet. I want to move, but most of the apartments buildings are built out of wood without soundproof walls. And I can’t afford to buy a house yet. If I win a lottery I would buy a house somewhere in the forest. It might sound crazy but I rather worry about wildlife than suffer from never ending noise pollution. I want to wake up listening to birds not cars. 🙁
Wow! I really appreciated this thoughtful article!! Saving to come back to for all the nuggets! God Bless you!
First time homeowner but hate the neighborhood. Loud neighbors,cars, and sketchy people. Im deep in a hole because i just bought the house overbidding. Its been 2 months and i cant take it. Wish i had a redo.
i wish this could be easy ,, in my case ive to change the whole place and that requires changing the uni am studying in but i can’t
Your article is great
I relate to all yet on top add a violent stalker after you and his paid associates to wreck your life 30 yrs
All the hates in the world
Again up against a move with housing massive cost rise
Saving up plus thinking about the whole picture, as you have mentioned it seems money controls us even in the best of times
Thank you so much for your article. I’ve been feeling isolated in my husband and my position, and reading your article made me feel better and gave some practical tools that I will implement to get through this tough time. I strongly dislike our home- an 800 sq foot manufactured home. It was supposed to be a “landing pad” for us when we moved to our dream town, but then my husband got into an accident and so now it’s looking like we won’t be able to afford to buy and may have to renew our lease in our tiny place. I have to continually look at what works here, and honestly, after reading some of others’ posts, I think we have it pretty good! Funny how we can get stuck in comparing ourselves to others though- when that’s never fair to anyone and just produces discontentment. Thank you again for sharing about your journey! I would love to hear if you are still in the same townhome or if you have been able to make a move yet.
I hear you. As a senior now I’m get so frustrated dealing with problems in apts. management can only do what the owners of the building will fork out to make it better. That in itself is getting much worse. The old saying you get what you pay for is true no matter how high the price goes up. Start looking at what you can do without. That means anything from cable/internet to the food you eat, and don’t forget all the not nessarry health testing. Make your hate work for you by telling others and yourself no to extra costs and yes to a moving savings account. Fight with all your might not to use that savings. Next do some serious searching at the areas and buildings and managements of the properties that catch your eye. Management goes out of their way to polish what you first see while leaving living conditions kicked to the curb. There are good management companies but you must face that they are far and few between. Read the low stars reviews online. Not all are just cranky people spouting out. More often then not these reviews may be true so take advantage of them and take them to heart. Be ready by practicing now how to do without to get the big prize you hope for. Take it from a struggling senior when I say if you are young; save save save…even if it’s just alittle. You may thank yourself when your lease is up and you faced with signing on that line for another year. Make it a place you research well. There’s nothing wrong with happiness in your own little living space….no matter how small or high in price it becomes. If you have to shell out more money it’s only right to expect better living conditions. Use your resources by complaining to city and state govt. Even in apt. living you pay more when taxes goes up sooo be heard. Know that you are not alone…many are not happy because the lack of work done in these places we call home. At least you can feel better and plan through your own efforts by working to find better. when it comes down to it we all need to fight for better. Wishing you a better place ahead.