Life in a suburban house vs. downtown apartment?
August 8, 2020 1:10 PM   Subscribe

After more than two decades of downtown apartment living, I've sold my condo and am moving with my pug to a rented house in the near suburbs. I haven't lived in a house since the last century, and I'm sure there are things I haven't thought of. What do I need to know about the differences between life in a suburban house vs downtown apartment?

My rental agreement covers gardening, lawn maintenance, and snow removal as well as all the standard repairs etc., so I don't have to worry about that. I also have a car and am prepared to use it to run errands etc.. Please share your advice on things to buy to make life easier, common pitfalls/dangers, dealing with the neighbours, etc..
posted by rpfields to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Keeping track of the trash/recycling/green waste pickup schedule vs having on-site on-demand trash accumulation is one thing that comes to mind.
posted by janell at 1:29 PM on August 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Up the liability coverage on your renter's insurance.

Now that you will (presumably) have a yard that you will (presumably) let your dog into off-leash, and you will (presumably) have doors that open right out into the world instead of into a shared hall or lobby, it's going to be much easier for your dog to get out and into trouble in the vicinity of your property. Even if your dog is sweet and friendly and well behaved. This can include things like excitedly bolting out of the house and tripping a jogging neighbor, jumping up to greet a toddler and knocking her down, or getting suddenly territorial about the neighbor's cat and damaging their fence.
posted by phunniemee at 1:33 PM on August 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would make sure you have some rock salt on hand in case you want to not trip on ice before the snow removal happens to take place, or in case it's packed down in a path to your car.

Keep an eye out for mold -- we lived in a rental house that had mold growing under the tub and in the crawlspace, and it eventually started creeping up into the baseboards and walls (ah, youth). So, knowing what the crawlspace is like, and thoroughly investigating problems, is helpful.
posted by amtho at 1:54 PM on August 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

my parents have a baby gate at the front door for their greyhounds
posted by brujita at 1:55 PM on August 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

The nighttime noises are different, so you may have some getting-to-sleep issues at first.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:05 PM on August 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

Living in the city and working in suburban neighborhoods, I found that many, many suburb-dwellers are extremely upset if they don’t get to park at the curb directly in front of their house. Many of them seem to feel that they are entitled to never have to walk any distance whatsoever, which, if you are accustomed to urban parking, is pretty comical. Try not to laugh at them directly.
posted by corey flood at 2:14 PM on August 8, 2020 [27 favorites]

Best answer: Long time house renter here. The first thing I do on move-in day is put in the protective stuff that makes my life tons easier when I move out:

Oven Liner
Sink Mats/keep stuff from falling in the disposal (opt1 - rigid, easy to knock caught bits out of, stands up in dishwasher; opt2 - floppy, maybe you like it more) and divider cover, if applicable
If gas/electric stove, remove and store original burner pans and put in my own
Leak detector under sinks, behind toilets, next to the water heater. You do not need a fancy networked data-snooping system, these are plenty.

I use a free-standing dog gate (my large dogs are too uncertain of it, because it's wobbly, to try jumping over; should be totally sufficient for a pug) around my front door, because there's no entry hall. But I have also nearly killed myself tripping stepping over it, so if you have an entry hall I strongly recommend a pressure-mounted gate and USE THE WALL CUPS because it will 100% punch through drywall.

We now do a video walkthrough of the house with the landlord on move-in day, audibly noting and pointing to any existing problems, but also during that walkthrough ask questions about how stuff works, what routine maintenance you're supposed to do (see below), is there a specific product they want you to use for X, are there any known issues with plumbing/certain weather/vermin. It's super helpful to have that to refer back to later.

Talk to the landlord about those maintenance tasks, and what their general level of "you deal with it" versus "let me do it/I'll arrange a professional" expectation is. People who've only lived in maintained residences sometimes have unusual expectations of the landlord's responsiveness to what are generally considered You Problems in a house - he's likely not going to come plunge your toilet, or drop everything and come over immediately if you see a mouse. Private landlords are often very cheap and will inconvenience you immensely for what ought to be a simple solution; most of mine have either been their own terrible handyperson OR they engage the most terrifying human being they can find, so I ended up making an informal agreement with the current one that if I have a problem I can get solved to my liking for less than $150 I will just get it done and we'll agree after the fact on splitting that cost, or if it's more than that I'll get my own quotes and let him choose, after his horrible handyperson did the world's worst job fixing the shower faucets.

(You may be renting from one of those private equity firms that own whole neighborhoods; they usually have contracted property management and maintenance services but still ask about stuff like HVAC filters, pest control, hot water heater maintenance etc.)
posted by Lyn Never at 2:40 PM on August 8, 2020 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Depends on the suburbs but people may take an interest in the exterior of your place. This can include things like

- whether you take your trash/recycling out too early or bring it in too late (and sometimes what is in your recycling). Also where you store your trash/recycling bins. Also if you are allowed to compost on your own property or do your own gardening.
- who else is parking in your driveway or in front of your place. If you have a car and there is street parking and you don't drive much, it might be a thing. Agree with corey flood, people can get odd about the space in front of their house
- make sure you know how snow removal works, like do you need to park in the garage (if there is one) and will you need to dig out a snow berm possibly made by a street plow? If you park on the street, what do you need to do for snow removal?
- what's halloween like in your location (COVID rules may make this totally different for now, but knowing if people decorate or do not)
- Your neighbors may all have RING doorbells now, or they may not, but worth knowing that
- there may be a trash fire Nextdoor list, you can decide how to deal with that
- window shades are generally your friend for street-facing windows
- if there are things like oiutdoor spigots, make sure you either know how to winterize them or know that it's someone else's job
- you are more likely to hear the parts of your house that you didn't before (furnace, HVAC, water pump) etc. Worth getting to know those.
posted by jessamyn at 2:44 PM on August 8, 2020 [8 favorites]

Get used to loud lawnmowers at the crack of dawn, especially on weekends. Find out from landlord if you are responsible for keeping lawn mowed, etc.
posted by mareli at 3:18 PM on August 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

The parking in front of your own house thing can be real! My elderly across-the-street neighbor left a surprisingly mean note on our car telling us not to park in front of her house (never mind that we were parking in front of her house because when we parked in front of our own house she repeatedly came within millimeters of grazing our car while backing out of her driveway).
posted by mskyle at 5:06 PM on August 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some people also hate it if you’re on a walk and deposit a dog poop bag in their trash can, even if it’s stored by the curb / you aren’t trespassing. Don’t do it! It’s neighborly to pick up trash in your sidewalk / curb strip, follow the prevailing norm on tidiness.
posted by momus_window at 6:14 PM on August 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

Think about package delivery! If you’re used to having a front desk person to sign for things or even just a safe spot for delivery people to leave things, you’re in for a change.
posted by MadamM at 7:15 PM on August 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you have a basement, knowing about the sump-pump or if there might be some leaks to lookout for if there is heavy rain.
posted by chiefthe at 7:51 PM on August 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Specifically related to trash pickup: ask somebody/figure out if your trash pickup is done by actual sanitation workers or a truck with a robot arm that grabs the can and empties it into the truck. The former means you can probably put out an extra bag or two that won't fit into the can, and the guys will pick it up and toss it in the truck. The latter means only stuff in the can makes it into the truck.
posted by mccxxiii at 8:04 PM on August 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Know where the water meter is, because that's where the water shutoff is, if a pipe bursts. Places I've been, it's in the ground under a metal cover somewhere near the street.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:52 AM on August 9, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Ask how often the power goes out and why (blizzard versus hurricane versus tornado). Is there any source of emergency power? Candles? Keep ice blocks of some kind in the freezer to save your food if the power is out for long stretches.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:40 AM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: > My rental agreement covers gardening, lawn maintenance, and snow removal as well as all the standard repairs etc., so I don't have to worry about that.

Mine does too, but the property management company thinks the gardeners are supposed to maintain the irrigation system. They don't have the materials, tools or time (a lot of houses to mow & blow in a day) to do so, so I'm watering with hoses & sprinklers for now. I expect an apartment building with an on-site manager and more tenants to complain about decrepitude would get fixed much faster.
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 8:11 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ask about electrical circuits. Where is the breaker panel if a circuit gets flipped? You may not be able to run the dishwasher and microwave at the same time, for example.

When/how/how often to change the furnace filters. (We use some that are 4" thick that are changed once a year. Some are to be changed every 3 months.)

Depending on the street you live on, you may be looked down upon as the 'renter' in the neighborhood. Some people can be extra-critical of people they see as not being invested in the neighborhood. Not much you can do about this, but just something to be aware of.

Definitely ask how to shut off the water for the house, and possibly natural gas, too, if applicable.
posted by hydra77 at 9:06 AM on August 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, all of your answers have been super-helpful. I've marked a few as "best" if they contained info that had not been on my radar before.
posted by rpfields at 6:47 PM on August 10, 2020

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