These owners have decided to rent again

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Having lived since 2014 in his father’s outdated brick house in Maplewood, NJ, since 2014, Michael Ghee is relishing the novelty of new construction. “Everything is 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 for decades. “It was over. He was worn out.” he said, “I’m just tired of watching it.”

So, in January, he looked at the Maplewood real estate market and decided that if he wanted to sell the house without renovating it, he should do it quickly. If there was ever a time to cash in on a fixer upper, early 2022 was the time. Within three days, he had 19 offers, selling the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home for $710,000. He had listed it for $525,000.

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But Mr. Ghee was not yet ready to become an owner again. He had spent most of his adult life worrying about his responsibilities, first for his sister who suffered from 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’s kind of uplifting. I am starting my second stage of life here.

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Looking for 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 bedroom. “It looks like a goddamn hotel. It’s amazing,” he said. He looks forward to next winter when he won’t have to shovel snow from his car now that it’s parked in the garage of the building.

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

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