These Homeowners Decided to Rent Again

After living in his father’s antiquated brick, midcentury home in Maplewood, NJ, since 2014, Michael Ghee is relishing the newness of new construction. “Everything is just so clean and neat and shiny,” said Mr. Ghee, an IT project manager at Rutgers University. By contrast, the house where his parents had lived since 1965, and where he had spent the past eight years caring for his aging father, had not been touched in decades. “It was out of date. It was worn,” he said, “I just got tired of looking at it.”

And so, in January, he looked at the Maplewood housing market and decided if he wanted to sell the house without renovating it, he should do so quickly. If there was ever a time to cash in on a fixer upper, early 2022 felt like the moment. Within three days, he had 19 bids, selling the three-bedroom, two-bath house for $710,000. He had listed it for $525,000.

But Mr. Ghee wasn’t ready to own again yet. He’d spent most of his adult life worried about his responsibilities, first for his sister who had schizophrenia — he had assumed he would eventually become her caretaker, but she died in 2012 — and later for his father. For the first time in his life, his path was uncharted. “I’m free, I’m free as a bird now,” he said. “I definitely miss my family like crazy, but at the same time it is kind of exhilarating. I’m starting my second stage of life here.”

In search of a rental where he could live for a few years, he first looked in Maplewood, but with rising rents, the area was out of his budget. In May, Mr. Ghee, 60, moved to Citizen Linden, a new development in Linden, NJ, paying $2,150 a month for a one-bedroom. “It looks like a freaking hotel. It’s unbelievable,” he said. He’s looking forward to next winter when he won’t have to shovel snow off his car now that it is parked in the building’s garage.

He might one day like to buy a townhouse, he said, as he bristles at the building rules, like guest parking restrictions and a requirement to subscribe to cable television even though he prefers streaming services. “It’s different going from living in a free environment to a corporate-owned one,” he said. But for now, he’s enjoying the lack of commitment. “It’s a new fresh start for me living here,” he said.

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