make yourself at home

Hi, guys! How are you? Make yourself at home and, at the same time, strive for fluency in English? Let’s have a look at the words and best expressions to talk about renting and buying flats and houses!

1.To Buy or Not to Buy; That Is the Question!

Deciding on a place to live isn’t always easy. Although the traditional American Dream has typically included buying a house with a yard and a white picket fence, world economies don’t always consider traditional dreams. People need to weigh their options when deciding whether to rent an apartment or buy a house.

There are many things to consider, and both options have their pros and cons. Probably the biggest advantage to renting is flexibility. Although you’ll need to sign a lease agreement, this can be for a short term— sometimes less than a year—which is handy if you think you may be relocating soon. Remember to read the fine print on that contract! It will probably include rules about keeping pets and how much advance notice you need to give the landlord before you move out. You’ll need to put down a security deposit, which is usually equivalent to one month’s rent. Sometimes utilities are included in the rent, but you may need to pay those separately. Very often the utility companies will charge a hookup fee. Of course, you’re on your own if you want cable TV and high-speed Internet connections.

A big consideration for renters is parking. You’re usually out of luck if you choose a big apartment building in a city. However, some apartment complexes in the suburbs provide parking areas. Be careful: this could be a hidden extra. The biggest advantage to renting is that if anything goes wrong, you’re off the hook—it’s the landlord’s responsibility to fix it!

Part 2

Buying a house is always a tempting choice. The upside is that instead of paying money to a landlord each month, you pay off the mortgage and own your own home. Of course, the downside is that you’ll need a big chunk of change for a down payment. In addition, you’ll need to pay closing costs and realtor fees, as well as buying homeowners insurance. Is renting starting to look better and better to you? Most towns have rules about what you may do with your lot.

For example, you’ll need to get a permit to put up a fence, and there are rules about how high the fence can be, and where on the property line it must go. And let’s not forget what American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said: “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Ah yes, another good reason to rent: no property taxes! Although towns provide convenient services like trash collection and recreation, they get the money for these services from a homeowner’s property taxes.

DIALOGUE – Home, Sweet Home!

ALAN: Hey, Lia, what did you think about the apartment you looked at this morning?

LIA: Oh, boy. I was pretty disappointed.

ALAN: Really? I’m surprised. I thought you’d love the neighborhood.

LIA: Yeah, that was the upside. The neighborhood is away from the city, so the yard was beautiful. But here’s the downside: there wasn’t a subway anywhere near the place! It would take forever to get to work.

ALAN: Could you take a bus?

LIA: It wasn’t on the bus route that goes to my office. And besides, there weren’t any appliances. The building had a laundry room in the basement, but I really wanted one in the apartment. And I couldn’t believe it didn’t even have a microwave! How would I zap my popcorn every night?

ALAN: You could always rent appliances or even buy them secondhand.

LIA: I guess so. But anyway, it had only one bedroom. We have three kids, so that’s just not enough space. There were just too many downsides for me to rent that place.

ALAN: What’s that old proverb? “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I guess you’ll just have to keep looking to find your dream apartment.

Chores are small household tasks done in the home. These include doing laundry, washing dishes, cleaning, and taking out the trash.

Errands are tasks that are done outside the house. These are things like going to the bank, going grocery shopping, going to the post office, and going to the dry cleaner.

USEFUL VOCABULARY

advance notice: telling someone about something before you do it

appliances: large machines for household chores

chunk of change: a large amount of money

consider: think about

down payment: the money required to begin the buying process

downside: disadvantage; con

equivalent: about the same as

flexibility: ability to change easily

Founding Fathers: the men who formed the country and wrote the Constitution of the United States

handy: convenient

hookup: connection

lease agreement: a rental contract

lot: the property

off the hook: not held responsible for something

options: choices

out of luck: don’t have a chance

pretty: as an adjective this means attractive; as an adverb, it means rather or quite

property line: boundary

pros and cons: advantages and disadvantages

realtor: person whose business is to help people buy and sell homes

recreation: activities for fun and relaxation

relocating: moving

secondhand: used items that can be purchased inexpensively

security deposit: money kept in an account in case the apartment is damaged

short term: for a small amount of time

take forever: take a very long time

tempting: makes you want something

typically: usually

upside: advantage; pro

utilities: electric, water, gas, and cable

weigh one’s options: think about choices

white picket fence: a painted wooden fence with small slats

you’re on your own: it’s your responsibility

zap (also nuke): cook in a microwave oven

Remember to join your phrases. Prepositions are not usually stressed. Chunk of change will sound like chunka change. Out of luck will sound like outta luck.

make yourself at home

2. City Life or the ’Burbs

Before you settle down in any new place, you need to take a look at your lifestyle. Are you a city person? Do you like to be within walking distance of everything you need? If you enjoy a quick walk down the block to buy a newspaper and coffee, and you like being with lots of people, then urban life may be for you. The upside of life in the city is convenience. It’s nice to be close to all the things you enjoy: museums, shopping, movies, libraries . . . and work. And the mass transit system in a city makes it simple to get around.

On the other hand, life in the suburbs is often part of the white-picket-fence American Dream. Suburbs are areas just outside the city where homes are usually larger, and there’s more open space. Instead of stores within walking distance, there are shopping malls you drive to. Homes often have large yards or flower and vegetable gardens. Many houses have patios to enjoy outdoor living.

Part 2

Apartments in the suburbs are usually larger, too, and there are often areas for playgrounds, parking, and cooking out. Suburbs, where there are many commuters who travel to jobs in the city, are sometimes called “bedroom communities.” People work in the urban areas, but they return to their suburban homes to sleep. The upside of suburban life is the space and privacy from nearby neighbors. The downside is that people often need a car to get around.

If you really want to get away from it all, you may decide that life in the country is for you. Picture the rolling hills and miles of farmland. Listen to the sounds of birds. Ahh, peace and quiet! But unless milking cows is your idea of the dream job, you may want to think carefully about living in the country.

Dialogue – Home, Sweet Home!

ALAN: Lia, since that apartment in the ’burbs wasn’t what you’re looking for, have you thought about trying to find a place a little closer to the city?

LIA: I really think that’s what I need to do. The suburbs are beautiful, but there wasn’t one store nearby. The kids couldn’t easily walk to a friend’s house— we’d have to arrange play dates. And I think getting to work would be a huge headache.

ALAN: Yeah, the city really is great for kids to make lots of friends. They just walk outside! We didn’t worry about play dates when I grew up in a big city.

LIA: It would be nice to have a big garden, but there are too many downsides to the suburbs.

ALAN: I think you’ve decided already. You’re a city person!

LIA: Yeah, I think I am.

ALAN: I guess this means you haven’t thought about life in the country with mooing cows and clucking chickens?

LIA: Well, you never know what kind of neighbors you’ll have in a big city apartment! Because kids in the suburbs often can’t walk to a friend’s house, their parents arrange a specific day and time for a visit. It’s considered polite to take turns hosting the kids: One week it’s her turn, at her house; the next week it’s your turn, at your house. (We know which one we prefer!)

Each language has its own way to describe the sounds that animals make. In English, onomatopoeia is the term used for writing a word that is the sound it makes (for example, cluck, moo, and buzz).

USEFUL VOCABULARY

burbs: suburbs city person: someone who is most comfortable in a city

country: an area with farms, few homes, and lots of open space

get away from it all: leave responsibilities and relax

headache: something complicated and annoying

lifestyle: the way people choose to spend their time

mooing and clucking: sounds made by cows and chickens, respectively

open space: land in its natural state

patio: an area outside a house, often paved, for relaxing

peace and quiet: a calm environment

play date: an arranged play time fo children

rolling hills: an area of small hills and fields

settle down: become established, start a new normal life

specific: exact

urban: having to do with the city

within walking distance: easy to walk to

3.Nothing but Bills!

No matter where you decide to live, one thing is certain: you’ll be paying bills—lots of bills. Big bills and little bills. Bills, bills, bills! The mailboxes may look different, but what’s inside is the same everywhere. If you’re lucky, there will be some fun mail—a letter or card from a friend far away. But if you’re like most Americans, you’ll be opening. . bills!

It’s great to move to a beautiful new place, but everything has a cost. In English, we have a saying: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

You’ll need to pay for gas, electricity, water, telephone, Internet connection, and cable or satellite television service. It seems the list of bills goes on and on. Most companies send a bill every month. It’s important to pay on time—late payments can affect your credit rating. Most places encourage you to pay bills online. That means less paper (and less mail). And although a landlord is responsible for repairs in an apartment, as a proud new homeowner, you’ll have the fun of paying those expenses for your new house.

Don’t forget the dreaded Murphy’s Law! Sometimes it just seems that everything is on a timer to break at the same time. One poor homeowner moved in one year, and the next year the washer, dryer, stove, and dishwasher didn’t work. That’s Murphy’s Law! (Some days we’re just happy to get junk mail.)

Dialogue – Home, Sweet Home!

LIA: Anything interesting in the mail?

ALAN: Just the usual: junk mail and bills, bills, bills!

LIA: Uh-oh.

ALAN: What’s up?

LIA: The credit card bill was due yesterday . . . and I didn’t pay it.

ALAN: Don’t worry about it. You still have a grace period before you get slapped with a late fee.

LIA: I guess so. But I may need to buy a car next year. I want to make sure my credit rating is good.

ALAN: You shouldn’t have a problem if you pay it right away. Haha—I didn’t think you’d need a timer to remind yourself about bills!

When people move into a new home, they often have a housewarming party. Friends will bring a gift for the house as a way to wish the new homeowner good luck.

You can remove your name from junk mail lists by sending a letter to the Direct Marketing Association. Don’t fill out contest entry forms at the Direct Marketing Association. Don’t fill out contest entry forms at the mall. Often these are just tricks to get new addresses!

USEFUL VOCABULARY

bill: a statement of how much money you owe

credit rating (also called a credit score): an evaluation of how good your credit is, based on your payments

dreaded: worrisome, not wanted

due: expected (and sometimes required)

grace period: a time period after the due date when you can pay a bill without a penalty

junk mail: advertising and papers that you haven’t requested

late fee: money the company charges if you don’t pay on time

Murphy’s Law: a famous saying: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

on time: when it’s due; not late slapped with: charged for

timer: a small device that buzzes after a set time has gone by.

MORE FUN WITH IDIOMATIC EXPRESSIONS: The House

on the house: something given for free by a restaurant When the waiter realized it was my birthday, he said dessert was on the house.

hit the roof: get really angry Lauren hit the roof when she found out her brother borrowed the car without asking her.

drive someone up the wall: drive someone nuts/crazy The Smiths make noise late at night. Their parties drive the neighbors up the wall.

bring down the house: have an audience become very excited It was a good concert from the beginning, but when the band played its biggest hit, they brought down the house.

go through the roof: become very high in value When the new mall was built in town, prices of homes went through the roof.

Hope now you can express yourself with confidence and find your dream home! Go on learning about the Use of English and about passing your First Certificate Exam with flying colors!

Likewise, check my FB page or my TeachersPayTeachers store, where you will find all sorts of pieces of advice and resources.

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