Sometimes renting can really stink

My wife Mary and I rented apartments and even a house before we purchased our first home. It was late 1977 and our first apartment was a ground floor studio in a six-story building on Sutter Street near Van Ness Avenue in our home town of San Francisco. The rent was $175 per month and had a view of a brick wall in the light well of the building, but to us it was really cool to be out of my parents’ house. A year later we moved around the corner to a sixth-floor studio with a great downtown view, but this only lasted eight or nine months. They asked us to move because we constantly paid the higher rent a few days past the grace period and they found out that we had a cat. Our next move was to a really nice one bedroom apartment out on California Street in the Richmond district into a six-unit building. We were asked to leave there after a year because we blasted our Pioneer stereo with Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton and Earth, Wind and Fire – shaking the building just a little too often. The rent being late occasionally and the two cats might have played a role but the loud music was the key factor. I was promoted to branch manager in 1980 for Beneficial Finance Company in Pacifica, just south of the city. We landed a super cool two bedroom place in a four-plex near my office and the landlord was really nice at first when we only had one little baby and one cat, but a couple of years later she was not too happy to see our second child and second cat. She would visit unannounced and even though she was a pretty nice woman, she became a little bit of a pain. She would show up on the first of every month and expected payment even though we had a five-day grace period. I remember giving her a check but asking her to hold it until the fourth or fifth almost every month. Finally in 1984, we purchased our first home in Pacifica. It was a three bedroom, one and a half bathroom house with a partial view of the ocean. It was foggy eight or nine months per year but to us it was truly a dream home. The seller was a school teacher and part-time real estate investor who helped us purchase by carrying a third mortgage for us. It was a buyers’ market at the time and mortgage rates were 12 percent. We assumed his first mortgage with Home Savings at 10 percent and assumed his second mortgage at a rate of 15 percent with Beneficial and he carried a third mortgage for us at 11 percent. Back then you could assume a loan without permission from the creditor. It was called taking over a loan “subject to”. The purchase price was only $103,000 but we owed $120,000 at the close of escrow because I convinced the seller to lend us $17,000 to pay off all my credit cards and auto loan for affordability reasons. I did not let Mary and the kids see the house until I blew off bug bombs for a week and had the house cleaned and painted because the previous tenants were way worse than we had ever been. The house was pretty disgusting and dirty but it was beautiful after the painting and cleaning. We could blast our Beatles music, our two cats were happy and we even added a pretty large dog, Lucy, to the mix. No one complained when we had our two additional kids and best of all, we now had a 15-day grace period on our mortgage payments. We were free at last. We owned the house and the land and no one could tell us what to do or when to do it. Homeownership is awesome and sometimes renting can really stink.