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Seeking advice on whether to move to a new apartment

Edit: I appreciate everyone's feedback, which was generally in favor of staying, partly because leaving a satisfactory home for a new one entails unknown risks with regard to neighbors and/or the building, and partly because my hypothesis that spending more money will be motivating is suspect. Because I have real life friends who reads this website, I have removed the more identifying and/or financial specifics from the original post, and will not disclose which path I ended up taking. Thank you all again!

I have a decision due in about 14 hours, and I'm hoping to benefit from the community wisdom before then. I apologize that my thinking is a bit unstructured here, and it's very possible that I'll benefit more from critique on my thinking in general rather than feedback on the specific decision to move or stay.

Background:

[Redacted] I've been at my apartment for close to [Redacted] years now. It's a great building, I have a great unit, I pay a reasonable price, and I have virtually no complaints. Last year, they increased my rent by [Redacted]% (they originally asked for more but I negotiated it down), which I thought was very reasonable. This year, however, they are raising it by [Redacted]%, and that's after negotiating it down from a much higher original renewal offer. While this is higher than I'd like (I was hoping for something closer to the 8% inflation rate), I'm ok with this.

Spurred by the initially much higher renewal offer, though, I'd looked around and am considering upgrading to a nearby building. Moving there would actually mean my rent going up by [Redacted]% over the renewal rent, or [Redacted]% more than what I pay today. I know that sounds a bit silly given I was looking because my apartment is raising rent, but the move would be a quality upgrade. The building is [Redacted] years newer, the amenities maybe [Redacted]% fancier, and my unit will be [Redacted]% larger. There are also more intangible benefits--it's almost certainly a bit safer by virtue of the higher price point, the residents are probably fancier people (which may not be everyone's cup of tea; I think I have a moderate preference for living among neighbors who are higher socioeconomic class rather than lower), the unit will be a nicer and more convenient place for friends to gather and dates to come over. I also don't go out much and so fully enjoy my abode (as opposed to people who travel for work every other week or go out every other night, for example).

So nominally, the perks seem commensurate with a [Redacted]% premium. Two major drawbacks:

  1. The [Redacted]% premium is after factoring in a bunch of aggressive new resident promos. Once that expires at the end of a [Redacted] month lease, rent goes up by another [Redacted]%. In case all the percentages are confusing, imagine I currently pay $100. Staying means paying $[Redacted] next year at the same apartment. Moving means paying $[Redacted] for the first [Redacted] months at the new place, and $[Redacted] thereafter. Yikes.

  2. Moving costs money and time. Not included above is something like $[Redacted] in various one-time fees, and maybe another $[Redacted] or so in movers. Even with movers, all the packing/unpacking/cleaning/changing addresses etc. will likely lose me a week of time. One of my exes used to happily move once a year to experience new architecture and neighborhood etc., a mindset to which I cannot relate. So while I could just move again after the new resident promos run out in [Redacted] months, it'll be a substantial pain in the butt.

Note that I did look at other buildings. But because my current place is perfectly satisfactory, and because moving is a major hassle to me, none of the other buildings offered sufficiently of an upgrade or discount over my renewal to warrant a change. So I've narrowed down to just two options, pay [Redacted]% more to stay, or pay [Redacted]% more to move (and expect to pay [Redacted]% more after [Redacted] months, or else move again).

One more important factor: I am in a comfortable financial position. [Redacted]

[Redacted] I worry that by staying in my current place, I would be taking a (financially and psychologically) conservative path that allows me to remain less productive than I'd like to be. I'd like to work harder because I do like my work and would appreciate all the perks of great success--more money, prestige, fulfillment, better dating odds, meeting inspiring people etc. I wonder if by moving to the pricier place, the higher rent will light a bit of a fire under my butt and result in faster progress in my work that ends up paying more dividends on a net basis. That might even be true after the first [Redacted]-months when rent will [Redacted].

My worry however is that this is all fanciful, motivated thinking. What if I remain just as unproductive as I am today after moving? Since I won't be homeless anytime soon even after upgrading, any metaphorical fire can be easily rationalized away. And then I'd just be living larger than I need or deserve with nothing more to show for it, plus I'd be volunteering for unnecessary stress associated with moving, when I'm perfectly content with my current place. This may sound silly, but by staying, I could enjoy Black Friday deals on new furniture and appliances, whereas if I move, it wouldn't really make sense to buy stuff only to have to take it apart and move it a month later.

I know I've shared only a sliver of all the possible factors in making an optimal decision, given space and privacy constraints. But I constantly find people here surprise me with their unique perspectives, so thought there is nothing to lose and maybe a lot to learn by posting my thinking and welcoming critiques over the next 14 hours or so. Hope this wasn't too boring.

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So, what did you do?

Go rent an nice airbnb in a nearby area for a month and treat yourself to a staycation to see if a change in environment is really gonna help you before you decide to move.

Moving is always a big risk. I moved from a dump to a nicer place only to find out that the nicer place had pipes in the wall that would become loose in the winter and rattle intermittently all night long. Also my neighbors are constantly fighting, screaming and blasting reggae music. Moving to a different dump this month to get away from the noise.

Aside from other issues multiple people already addressed, it seems to me like you're ignoring many of the risks associated with moving from an apartment that's a known quantity, where you have no complaints, to a brand new one that looks better on paper.

The fact that the other building is marginally newer doesn't guarantee that the infrastructure is better. (And three years' difference is meaningless, unless you're comparing a building that was just built to one that's 3 years old, in which case I'd go for the 3 year-old one every time, a brand new building means all the mistakes or oversights made during construction haven't been fixed yet. Both very new and very old buildings are a super's nightmare...) One building could have a persistent problem with the boiler despite being newer that you have no way of knowing about, which means frequent shutdowns of hot water, and brown crud running out your taps after restart. There could be recurrent issues with one of the elevators you didn't see when you were being shown the place. Etc.

And then there's all the other stuff you might miss when viewing a place, like the mildly annoying (in isolation) things the neighbors do that you didn't notice when you viewed the place or didn't seem like a big deal in the middle of the day with a lot of city background noise. But that will make you want to murder them as you listen to it lying in bed at 1AM.

If all of your neighbors are tolerable, stay.

Retain current apartment, set aside the entire increased budget as "Increased Motivation" to be split between therapy if necessary, social events with other entrepreneurs, gym budget, and some for credit improvement/condo down payment in a year or a few to avoid fickle landlords increasing your rent indefinitely.

Personally I don't think you've laid out a good case at all for moving, but you're the only one who can judge. In my experience apartment amenities are not something I care about, so 30% nicer amenities means nothing to me. And I don't think that being in a more expensive apartment means you'll have better neighbors at all. And @Kevin_P already nicely put why your thinking about "oh it'll help keep me motivated" is silly.

If it were me, I wouldn't move based on what you've said. There's no upside to it. But you have to decide for yourself what you value as far as the pros and cons, we can't really give you advice on that score.

Too late to do it in 14 hours but have you considered buying, possibly in a years time? Early to mid thirties seems like a good time to consider it and it seems absent in your analysis.

Another way of looking at the problem is through opportunity cost: could you invest the money you saved into more important things? It could be index funds, or EA charities, or a trip to see a long missed friend.

Money could also be translated into time: is there something you'd rather do instead of moving and making the money you need to pay for the move + increased rent?

Something to meditate on perhaps.

Looks like you have already substantially analyzed the pros and cons of moving. One additional possible cost of moving (depending where you're at): the deposit.

In California, my experience is that renters can kiss their deposit goodbye. The standard renting procedure is to pay upfront first month's rent, last month's rent, a deposit for the keys (a couple hundred dollars), and an additional deposit in the amount of monthly rent in case you leave the place trashed once you move. My experience with renting is that there is a high chance that the landlord will by default not return that deposit, even though I always clean up the place before moving out. The times I have asked for itemized list of what that deposit went towards fixing (which they are required to provide upon request), the list included carpet cleaning, repainting, and other stuff that is about sprucing up the place after normal wear-and-tear.

Once, that list included carpet cleaning for an apartment with no carpets. I did get that portion back, but only after making a credible threat to sue.

In other parts of the US, however, I got my deposit back without such problems. So I recommend considering the norms regarding deposits where you're at, and if the norms are for those deposits to go to upkeep for normal wear-and-tear, then adding both your deposit for your current place and your deposit for the other place as part of the moving costs.

It's always blown me away whenever people talk about having to pay last months rent up front. What kind of fucking asshole landlord is demanding such a thing? I've never had to do that, and any place that asked for it is a place I would never rent from. I'm not gonna pay rent for the future, fuck that noise.

Though your experience about the security deposit is spot on with mine. I've gotten some of it back most of the time, but I've never gotten all of it back. And it's for bullshit reasons too - for example, the last place I rented from sent pictures of the carpet where it was indented from furniture and held back part of my security deposit because of that. That was so scummy - like guys, that is unavoidable normal wear and tear when someone lives in a place for two years. What did they want me to do, not have furniture? But I had bigger fish to fry then fighting it out with them (I had just bought a house), so they got to rip me off.

Your experience with deposits is interesting. I've also lived in California (South SF Bay) for a while, and I easily got my deposit back at both my apartments (I own now). There may have been $200 deducted of cleaning fees and miscellaneous items that were overall justified, but the rest of the deposit (equal to 1 month rent) was promptly returned. Of course, I had a FAANG job and was renting apartments from corporate landlords that were above the bottom of the market (although not particularly fancy or near the high end - these apartment complexes were decades old and had appliances, kitchens, floors, and the like reasonably up to date, but still definitely builder grade). So I wonder if you were a student, renting from a small landlord or at the lower end of the market, or just in a different area of the state.

That's a reasonable guess, but doesn't apply to me. My experience renting in California is during the time that I had a reasonably-paid and very steady full-time employment. When I rented from corporate landlords at "luxury" apartment complex, I didn't get my deposit back two-out-of-three times. When I rented from individual landlords, I didn't get my deposit back one-out-of-two times. At each of those locations, I cleaned the apartment after all my stuff was moved out, prior to handing back the key during the inspection.

By now I give at least even odds that I won't get my deposit back when I move.

I'm not going to tell you to move or not to move. If you have the money there's nothing wrong with spending it on something that will improve your quality of life.

But this:

I wonder if by moving to the pricier place, the higher rent will light a bit of a fire under my butt and result in faster progress in my work that ends up paying more dividends on a net basis. That might even be true after the first 15-months when rent will basically double.

... is wishful nonsense, as you seem to have already figured out based on your following paragraph.

You can use the same logic to justify any sort of spending, not just housing. And other things too - eating that extra dessert is actually good for my diet, because gaining weight will make me more focused on exercise tomorrow.

Ironically the motivation trick will probably work better in the opposite direction. Tell yourself, "if I put in the extra effort over the next 12 months, I'll treat myself to a nicer apartment this time next year". That way you're linking the effort to the reward in a much more direct way.

Like I said at the beginning, this doesn't mean you shouldn't move. If the nice apartment is worth the extra cost then go for it, you don't seem to be hurting for cash. But don't justify it based on second-order effects that will probably never happen.

Also you can simplify the two short-term financial effects you mentioned. A $x discount per month for 15 months plus a $1500 one-time cost is pretty much the same thing as a discount of $(x-100).