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Should you rent or buy your next home?

There is no simple answer to this question. But 2 important considerations are time -- how long you plan to live in the home -- and money.

By Stacy Johnson Mar 27, 2013 2:12PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News


Money Talks News logoOwning your own home: Many people consider it the American dream, but no dream is one-size-fits-all.


While owning a home can increase your net worth, there are potential downsides as well -- additional labor, hassle and cost, to name a few. In many cases, renting makes sense.


How can you know which is best? Here's what you need to consider: 

1. Time

House for rent in the middle of winter © David Joel, PhotographerThe minuses of homeownership: Owning a home is a huge time commitment. When you rent, maintenance is someone else's problem and repairs are solved with a phone call. When you own, you're the maintenance man and gardener. When something breaks -- and it will -- it's on you to fix it or pay someone who will. 


Homeownership also limits flexibility. When you buy, you should plan to keep the house at least five years, because transaction costs -- agent commissions and other sales expenses -- are high. Sell too soon and you won't recoup those costs. 


The pluses: One of the joys of homeownership is investing time to make it yours and make it worth more. What you can do to customize a home you own is limited only by your imagination, budget and local zoning restrictions.


The bottom line: If you want to stay mobile, if you don't enjoy home improvement projects, and you don't care that much about expressing yourself with your surroundings, rent. If you're staying put and watch a lot of HGTV, buy.


2. Money

The minuses: If you rent, you'll pay the first month's rent, a security deposit, and maybe a pet deposit. Buying means a down payment, closing costs, and other major expenses.


For example, I rent my house. Here's the breakdown:

  • First month's rent -- $750.
  • Security deposit -- $750.
  • Pet deposit -- $150.
  • Total -- $1,650.

If I bought a house for the average price in my neighborhood -- $185,000 -- Zillow's Closing Cost Estimator says I would have paid:

  • Down payment -- $37,000 (20%).
  • Closing costs -- $6,822.
  • Total --  $45,822.

The calculator says my monthly payment would be $990, or $240 more than I pay now. And that doesn't include homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance or improvement.


According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2010 the average annual homeowners insurance premium was $909. Property taxes vary widely depending on where you live, but run from hundreds a year to thousands.


The pluses: When you pay rent, you're making your landlord richer. When you grow equity by  paying off your mortgage, you're making yourself wealthier.


You have to live somewhere. Paying monthly on your mortgage means you'll eventually own your home free and clear. How much will renters be paying every month 15 to 30 years from now?


Owning a home generally offers inflation protection and the opportunity to own an appreciating asset. Granted, our nation is still recovering from a housing crash, but declining home prices are the exception, not the rule.


Uncle Sam also helps offset the higher cost of homeownership. Mortgage interest and property taxes are tax-deductible.


The bottom line: If you don't have the money and/or credit score necessary to buy a home, the question is moot. But if you can afford to own a home in a desirable area with an expanding population, you'll probably be rewarded financially.


Can an online calculator help with the decision? One way to run the numbers is to use buy vs. rent calculators like those at The New York Times or But I wouldn't waste too much time on them. While certainly helpful, the answer you get from a calculator will depend on the information you provide -- some of which you can't possibly know.


For example, among other variables, most calculators will ask how much the house you're buying will appreciate annually, as well as how much equivalent rent will increase over time. If you know the answers to those questions, you don't need a calculator; you need a job on CNBC.


Buying? Don't get in over your head

Leaning toward buying? Keep these thoughts in mind:

  • To lower the risk of homeownership, buy only what you need, not the most expensive house you qualify for. The average house in 1950 was less than 1,000 square feet. Today it's more than twice that. Remember that whatever you buy, you're going to have to furnish, heat, cool, insure, clean and maintain it.
  • If you have bad credit and only qualify for a high-interest mortgage, it will cost you tens of thousands of extra dollars over the life of your loan. 
  • The more you put down, the less you borrow and the less risk you take.
  • Finally, if you decide it's time to buy, hope for appreciation, but don't count on it. However, if the community you're living in has both expanding employment opportunities and population, prices are likely to rise over time.  


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Apr 18, 2013 4:50PM
Where are you renting a house valued at $185,000 for $750 per month?  Either you are renting from relatives or in rent-controlled housing.  Something doesn't add up......
Mar 30, 2013 6:28PM

After years of renting in the lower-mid priced rental market in mid-west, I can say home ownership is a sanity saver as long as one runs things with an emergency fund and has extra money every month to contribute to investing/savings. So many of the landlords offering low to mid-priced rentals are running with a 'slum lord' mentality of milking the house/apartment building for as much rent as possible while doing barely minimum (aka almost no) maintenance. As a result, these rental situations turn into decayed tenements before the landlord ends up in bankruptcy or dumps the property due to condition and another investor takes over, finally making necessary corrective repairs to keep the health department at bay. After suffering through these rental situations for several years, I found home ownership to be a relief -- everything repaired correctly the first time and on-time, no shared walls with accompanying noise & bug issues, no pet deposits and no restrictions on any changes I could make to improve the property. Home ownership is a win-win for a moderate income purchaser whose intention is to stay in the area long-term. There are many programs available through the city, state and federal governments, USDA rural housing, charities and even lenders themselves to assist with this goal.

Apr 18, 2013 10:39PM
I owned a house for 15 years.  By the time I sold it, I lost about $100,000 and that doesn't include all the time and labor of cutting the lawn, shoveling the snow, and raking the leaves.  I now rent, and take my extra money and put it in my IRA. What a pleasure !!
Apr 18, 2013 4:58PM

Easy answer rent.   I bought a starter 3 bedroom 1300 square foot brick house in 1997.   I looked at selling it last year and based on agent asking price that after inflation I had barely a one percent return.   Now it needs a roof and will soon need new appliances, new furnace and new A/C.   So much for the one percent return.  The city made it illegal to park in front of my suburb house for a bike lane further hurting resale.   If I rented I would have moved.  No way in hell I will ever own a house again.   Huge money pit that traps you in that house.

Apr 18, 2013 5:41PM
A big minus the writer left out is that you can lose money when buying.  Many people who bought in 2008-2009 are still dealing with that.
Apr 18, 2013 6:15PM
Was Pretty much a no brainer for me rent for a 2800sqft house $1560.00 a month Purchase a 3200 sqft house $1070.00 a month. I do have to do yard work but I had an inspection and bought a home warranty plan to help with the maintenance costs. It really depends on were you live the age of the homes and what makes the most sense for you.
Apr 18, 2013 8:13PM
.......the decision to rent vs own would be based on the type of lifestyle you have or would like to have. These decisions do not have a right answer. These decisions are based on individual or family preference.
Mar 31, 2013 7:13PM
Home maintenance is the most overlooked aspect of the buying vs. renting conundrum. At any rate, HomeSpot HQ provides a good cloud tool for automatically generating maintenance checklists with reminders.
Apr 18, 2013 7:01PM
I'll never "own". Last thing I want is an anchor.
Apr 18, 2013 7:34PM
Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we're going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time.
Apr 19, 2013 1:15AM
If you're buying a home and have a good agent, you get the seller to pay all the closing costs.  My agent got that for me when I bought my home.
Apr 12, 2013 4:39PM
If you are looking for houses the maintenance of its present status is important. You don't want to end up with a huge problem like a plumbing situation because someone tried to just duct tape a few pipes together. Getting a home inspector would be ideal. They are professionals that know what to look for in the stability of the house so you don't have any problems in the future. They let you know what all would be wrong with it. Check these guys out, they have alot of resourceful material <a href=""></a>
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