Rent or buy?

This is probably one of the most often asked questions and at the same time one that almost never has a clear cut answer. Our lives differ and what makes it even harder to answer this question is that everyone looks at life through their past experiences and biases.

When our clients or prospects ask us this question here is what we say…

Do you enjoy making your house your home?

Owning a house comes with great freedom of making it your own. While renting, the most you can ask for is probably paint change, but don’t expect to be presented with choice other than white, gray or beige. No landlord will agree to blue, green, red or any other non bland, neutral color, for fear of not being able to rent it again when you leave. Would you like to plant a raised bed garden? Install a play set with slide for your kid? You can forget about it when you rent.

Nobody will kick you out or increase your rent!

Owning a house means that your life is protected. You won’t be surprised by landlord changes, sudden rent increases or outright refusal to renew. No maintenance visits either. How would you feel if somebody regularly ‘inspected’ all your closets or bedrooms?

Uncle Sam prefers home owners

Yes, it is rare that uncle Sam is favoring one group over the other. Yet when it comes to owning the house the government clearly prefers that you own your home. To incentivize you to buy they allow you to deduct interest you pay on your mortgage from your taxes (as always, we are not tax professionals so please ask your tax preparer for details).

Your home can be your retirement fund or savings account

We all know how hard it is to save for the future. There is always this or that expense that gets in the way of regular contributions into your savings account. How about your house? Every single one of your monthly mortgage payments contains growing principal portion. Your equity is growing every month. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate this and am relived that my net worth is constantly growing.

And it brings interest!

Real estate traditionally is the safest way to conservatively grow your wealth. Properties appreciate on average between 5 and 10% every year. Not only does your equity grow because you make monthly contributions. It also brings interest!

One more thing – monthly cost in most cases will be lower

When you rent you not only have to pay for somebody else’s mortgage payment on the house. They also need to pay their property manager, accountant, build some nice maintenance reserves, pay business insurance and in the end, bring a profit. This all usually adds up to about 15% premium over what you would pay as an owner on the same property.

Is it all roses then, right?

Of course not. Sometimes it makes sense to rent. Here are some arguments for renting:

Are you planning to live in the place for at least 4-5 years?

As fun and rewarding as owning a house is, selling it comes with a cost. In addition to our commission you will have to credit the Buyer with prorated property taxes, in some states provide home warranty and title insurance and probably pay for some maintenance, upgrades or repairs requested by the future owners. On average you have to budget between 8 and 10% of your selling price as your cost of selling. Considering that in the beginning your monthly payments cover mostly interest it pays to wait few years before selling to build equity and let the house appreciate. If you plan for short stay, better rent.

Can you do small fixes on your own?

I’m not talking remodeling your kitchen or replacing roof, those are best to be left to professionals. Yet there are many small things (like replacing light bulbs, smoke detectors, cleaning dryer vent or cleaning siding and windows that are normally handled by the owner when you rent). All those are typically included in rent (see the mention of the own maintenance reserves) but if you can do them on your own in your house it will cost you only pennies on the dollar and will greatly lower your cost of ownership. On the other hand if you can’t tell which side of the screwdriver is the business end – better consider renting. The owner will have properly trained crew on call that will take care of those issues efficiently and quickly.

Rent vs. Own. There is no right answer. Only you can make that decision. No matter which way do you choose to go, we’re here to help. Let us know if you have any additional questions or comments, we’ll be happy to help!

With over 20 years of experience in software development under his belt he started his real estate career in 2014. Specializes in seeing forest through the trees and making sure that all i’s will be dotted and all t’s will be crossed.

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