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Jumps of $20 to $35 a month typical in 2010

Matthew Hartig likes the apartment lifestyle.

With a roommate that helps split the rent and a job in Pleasanton that accounts for the majority of his week, Hartig enjoys having a weekend where he doesn’t have to worry about cleaning a garage or mowing a lawn or sweeping a sidewalk.

And while he’s still building the credit that he would need to purchase a home of his own, Hartig says he has no desire to go back to renting a house like he did when he was in college.

“There’s a lot of upkeep that goes into keeping a house looking decent, and since I only sleep there during the week I want to be able to watch football on my days off,” he said. “I’ve got a cool roommate and we’ve got a nice pad put together. We don’t really need the lawn and the garage and everything that comes with it right now.”

After signing an extension on their lease in the fall, Hartig and his roommate were able to secure the same monthly rent rate that they had been paying since they first moved in – something he didn’t expect as most apartment rents in Manteca have inched up between $20 and $35 a month this past year. Since both are single with no kids, Hartig doesn’t see them moving out anytime soon.

Lorrie Husbands, however, felt differently about her time as an apartment dweller.

With two young boys that she raises on her own, Husbands said that she always felt bad that they had to improvise when they played outside – using the parking lot for games of tag instead of a lawn and never getting the chance to run through sprinklers on a hot summer day.

But all of that changed when Husbands got promoted and she was able to move her family into a rental home in town that afforded not only more living space, but also a front and back yard for her kids to play in.

“The apartment was great because it was affordable and it was convenient, but it didn’t give you that family-friendly atmosphere that a house does,” she said. “We’ve got a park down the street they can go play ball in. It makes me happy to see them happy.”

But is renting an apartment actually cheaper than renting or even buying a home in today’s market?

What was once the Cherry Lane Apartments at the intersection of Cherry Lane and Union Road were converted to condominiums at the height of the housing boom and were fetching over $225,000 as an alternative to the homeowner lifestyle. Now they’re selling for a quarter of that price – some for as low as $48,000 –and offering rents that dip below the $800-a-month average price that a 2-bedroom apartment would run.

In the case of Husbands, it was only a mild increase. But Hartig says he isn’t as concerned with cost right now as he is with comfort – knowing that eventually he’ll buy a house when he starts a family.

“I like the way I’m living right now,” he said. “It’s a bachelor-pad thing – come home from work and play PlayStation with the roommate and only have to worry about what I’m going to do for fun on the weekend. I’m going to take advantage of it for as long as I can.”