I've been a renter all my life. The first seven years out of college I lived in New York City, where I dreamed only of an apartment without roommates - no one I knew owned. I moved to San Francisco in the 90s, and was perfectly content with a large studio on the downslope of Pacific Heights.
I met my husband (again, a long story not meant for this blog) in 2000, and he sold his house in Kansas City, Missouri (three bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, double garage, basement, attic - your basic storage fantasy) for $96,000 to move out to San Francisco and be with me. Goodbye studio, hello two bedroom, one bath, one car garage in the Richmond District in 2001. He'd hoped to buy another house with proceeds from the last one, but this was just before the crash of the dotcoms, when real estate was just beginning its dizzying ascent. Renters we would remain.
I got a job in Berkeley in 2003, and the commute across San Francisco was absurd (especially for a non-driver like me). We came to the East Bay and started scouting neighborhoods. We settled in El Cerrito, renting a smallish house with a huge yard full of fruit trees, walking distance from BART. We were happy, our dog was happy - until the owners, who had purchased the house years ago with the idea that they would live there when they retired - decided to retire. Then came the second rental house in El Cerrito, big house with a 70s flair (my brother walked in, looked at the paneling in the living room and said, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!") and a smallish yard covered in Astroturf. We rolled up the Astroturf, planted grass and rosebushes, and have been ensconced here for nearly three years.
We'd look at open houses in our neighborhood, but the prices were just beyond the pale - not to mention that after a Sunday open house, a sold sign would appear by Tuesday. It seemed like we would just have to rent forever.