The proportion of income that may be set aside for rent depends on what that payment covers. In a steam-heated city flat with complete janitor service, for instance, the rent at $40 is really no higher than the $25 suburban house, for heat and water rent are included. With the former, perhaps as much as a third of one's income could be spared for the fixed charge of rent; but in the country the proportion cannot with safety be greater than a fifth. Few satisfactory suburban houses can be rented under $35, and to this must be added the cost not only of coal and water, but of maintenance. On the whole, we are pretty sure to decide that it is better and cheaper to buy than to rent.
There is some advantage in being able to secure a lot in a square already built up. If present conditions are satisfactory we may feel reasonably sure that they will remain so. We know who our neighbors are to be, the sort of houses and other improvements that will affect the sightliness and value of our own property, and the surroundings that should in some degree govern the style of our abode. There is little of the speculative in such a choice, but we shall have to pay something extra for our assurances.
In a well built-up town, however, we are likely to find a more eligible natural site at less cost if we are not too insistent upon being close to the railway station. The best sites in the older sections are already occupied or are held at a premium. If we have an eye for location and the courage of our convictions, we may chance upon an excellent lot that can be had for a comparatively small price because of its detachment. It may be so situated that the approach is through the choicest part of the village, affording us much of the charm of suburban life without additional cost. Provided sewer, water, light, sidewalks, and paving are in, a little greater distance from the center may be well repaid by the beauty of the site, and after the family becomes accustomed to it the distance is scarcely noticed. Where there are telephones and local delivery of mail and groceries, occasions for going uptown are not frequent.
The lot should have at least 50 foot frontage and be from 150 to 200 feet in depth. Many subdivisions are now platted without alleys, which are not desirable unless scrupulously maintained. The site should, if practicable, be on a plateau or elevation that gives an outlook, or at least makes natural drainage certain. A lot below street level means expensive filling to be done.
There can be little question as to the special desirability of an east frontage. With this exposure the morning sunlight falls upon the living room when least in use, while the afternoon glare finds the principal work of the kitchen accomplished. The indispensable veranda on the east and south is also usable for a maximum portion of the day, while the more solid side of the structure, being opposed to the prevailing winter winds, makes the heating problem easier.