Should I Buy or Rent is a common question people ask themselves, this article will provide the answers to the age-old question of houses vs apartments. In the United States, an estimated 82.8 million people live in owner-occupied homes, a 2.1 million increase from just a year earlier. There’s no doubt many Americans are jumping on the bandwagon to chase the American dream and become homeowners, but before you make the commitment to buy a house, you want to be sure it’s the right thing for you. Are you ready for the responsibility of being a homeowner? Does it make more sense for you to be a renter for a while longer?
Let’s tackle the great houses vs apartments debate. Which option is best for you, in your life situation, right now?
Read on as we tackle what to consider if you want to buy a house and when it might be a better option to rent.
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What to Consider When Weighing Buying Vs Renting
While there seems to be a big push for both the young and the old to buy a house, it isn’t really always the best option for everyone. Sure, there are a host of benefits to homeownership. But anyone who owns a home will tell you it’s also a lot of responsibility.
The truth is there are some benefits to renting too. Sure, you lose the investment side of the equation, but you also gain some flexibility too.
So, as you’re trying to decide, what should you consider between buying and renting.
There are a variety of ways to consider cost in the rent vs buy debate.
On the one hand, to buy a house, you need to be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, and taxes. You also need to have enough money for a down payment and to cover closing costs.
You need to be prepared for the costs of homeownership once you get into the house too. Can you handle maintenance and repairs on your own, or the cost to hire them done?
In today’s competitive housing market, it costs more money to get into a home. Yet, interest rates remain low.
When you consider renting, you won’t have to worry about maintenance costs as that should be a part of your rent. Yet, you still need to have upfront cash for security deposits.
When you look at cost, it’s likely less costly to get into and stay in an apartment. Yet, your monthly rent payment isn’t growing equity like it would in a house purchase.
Maintenance and Repairs
This consideration surely leans more towards renting unless you’re one of those people who loves to fix things and putter around the house.
Sure, the idea of working in your own yard or even giving your dining room a fresh coat of paint might sound exciting. You also need to be prepared for the more costly kinds of maintenance.
What if your furnace dies or the roof springs a leak? As a homeowner, you need to have assets set aside, so you’re prepared for when your home needs those repairs.
As a renter, you should be able to call your landlord when something needs fixing. Yet, you lose a certain amount of control over what kinds of things you can and can’t do to the space when you’re renting.
Flexibility to Move or Make Decisions
This consideration seems pretty evenly divided between houses vs apartments.
When you buy a house, you have the flexibility to paint your living room orange if you want or put up wallpaper in every bathroom. You can choose to tear out the carpets and learn how to install new wood floors. As a homeowner, you have the autonomy to make those decisions about your home.
As a renter, your flexibility comes in another form. You are not tied to one place. You haven’t made a huge investment. If you live in your apartment for a year and decide you don’t like it, you can pack up and find someplace else the next year. Where you lose the flexibility is what you can change in the apartment.
Amenities From Your Living Space
Amenities might come down to what’s important to you.
An apartment complex can offer a state-of-the-art workout room, a pool, tennis courts. But not often, when you’re a renter, do you get outdoor living space or an abundance of storage.
As a homeowner, you might get a garage to park your car or a yard where you can plant a garden, or your kids can play. Homeowners typically have more storage space and room to spread out compared to renters too.
This is another area where you need to consider your preferences.
Maybe you love living in the city, close to restaurants and activities. Maybe you travel for work and don’t spend much time at home. Maybe you have no interest in working on your house on the weekends. You probably have more of a renters lifestyle.
If the idea of more space and yard sounds appealing to you, you might be ready for homeownership. The idea of learning new skills and fixing up a home that you own might also sound exciting to you.
Ask Yourself These Questions
As you consider whether to continue to rent or it’s time to buy, ask yourself these questions.
Will you get pre-approved and qualify for a mortgage? Most people can’t save enough cash to buy a house without a mortgage.
Consider your credit score and whether you can get approved for a mortgage. How will your income and credit history impact your interest rate? If they’re not good, maybe you continue to rent while you fix your credit.
With the median home price in the US being a whopping $329,100, you need to save significant money for a downpayment. You’ll also need to be prepared for additional costs like insurance and closing costs. Closing costs run between 2% and 5% of the home price. This means you’d pay between $6,582 and $16,455 in closing costs on that median-priced house.
How long do you plan to live there? Buying and selling a house can be expensive if you aren’t going to be in that home for long. If you only plan to be in an area for a few years, renting might be better.
How important is it to you to make changes in the place you live? Are you prepared to handle the needed maintenance? The answers to these questions should help you to figure out if you’re ready to go into homeownership or better suited to continue renting.
Should You Buy a House?
Sure, buying a home and having it as your own is exciting. It’s fulfilling that American dream. But with it comes a host of financial responsibilities. You want your financial house to be in good working order before you ever take on the responsibility of paying a mortgage and taking care of a home.
First, consider your debt. How much debt do you currently have? Debt will impact whether you can even get a mortgage. Your potential mortgage lender will consider your debt to income ratio. This is all of the debt you have (including your mortgage payment) divided by your gross income (pay before taxes are taken out).
Lenders won’t lend to anyone with a debt-to-income ratio above 43%. The truth is that the less debt you have going into homeownership, the better.
Another consideration is your savings. Of course, you need to save for the down payment. But could you pay your bills for several months if you found yourself out of work? A lender will want to know you have savings in reserve for any unexpected emergency.
You’ll also need the downpayment. To avoid paying the extra PMI insurance, you’ll want to try to have a 20% downpayment of the house’s purchase price.
Another consideration is how long you plan to stay in one area? If you know your job will move you again in the next few years or you hope to move to a different city or state in the next few years, it might not make sense to buy. Once you buy, it costs too much to sell again if you’re not in the house for at least several years.
Pros of Buying a House
There is no doubt there are some real positives, besides that American dream thing, to owning a home. These include:
- Your monthly payment builds on what you own
- Real estate usually appreciates over time
- Tax advantages like writing off interest and property taxes
- You can renovate, personalize and make it your own
Homeownership offers more privacy than renting and being super close to neighbors. There’s something highly satisfying about owning your own home too.
Cons of Buying a House
There are a few considerations on the negative side too. You, of course, have more financial responsibility when owning a home. You lose some of your flexibility in moving and even taking off to travel since your home will always need care. (That lawn doesn’t mow itself!).
You also are solely responsible when something isn’t working right. You can no longer call the landlord and complain when the air conditioner isn’t blowing cold air.
Should You Opt for Renting?
There’s the old adage that paying monthly rent is a waste of money. The thinking is that you’re not building equity. Yet, when you pay rent, you’re getting a place to live in return.
Sometimes renting is the better option if you need the flexibility to move or you’re not ready financially. You might choose to stay in a rental while you work to get better financially prepared to be a homeowner.
Pros of Renting
There are a few advantages of renting to consider.
Renting offers more flexibility to move. If you’re not completely set on the town or even state where you live, renting might be a better choice.
The other big advantage is that you don’t have to do the maintenance yourself or pay for it either. When there’s a problem with your unit, you call, and someone else comes to fix it without a big bill after the repair is done.
Cons of Renting
Of course, there are a few negatives to staying in a rental. You do lose almost all flexibility to renovate your unit. Some rentals will not allow you to paint a wall. You can now add removable wallpaper for a quick fix. Beyond that, though, you need to live with the fixtures, flooring, and overall design as is.
While you are getting a place to live for your rent money each month, you aren’t building equity over the long term, and you lose the ability to write off property taxes and interest on your income taxes. Often you reach a point in life where you need those write-offs.
You also have to be mindful that the landlord can raise rents. As the housing market tightens, so too does the rental market. At the end of each lease, your landlord can and probably will raise the rent.
More Housing Considerations
There will be someone who thinks to themselves, I’m not quite “ready” to buy, but I’ve found the perfect house. Should I go ahead and buy it and find a way to make it work?
The practical answer is no. Buying a house is a big financial responsibility, and you need to be ready for it. For many young adults, they reach a stage where some friends start to buy houses. Does that mean you should buy one too?