“To buy or to rent?” That seems to be the question lots of people are wrestling with these days with interest rates still near historic lows and the housing market continuing to gain strength in most communities.
Recent graduates, thirty-somethings, relocating professionals and even current homeowners have probably considered both scenarios recently. While each option has its pluses and minuses, the decision to purchase a home as opposed to renting is a complex one and really depends a lot on your individual circumstances.
According to a recent survey conducted for the National Association of REALTORS®, nearly eight out of 10 respondents believe buying a home today is a good financial decision. But the question that remains is whether or not now is the right time for you to buy.
For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial decision they will make in their lifetime. Here are just a few things to consider when deciding between renting and buying:
- Do you have a steady income? Buying may be a sound financial decision for those with documented income and a good credit history. A steady income can provide a strong basis for the initial down payment and future mortgage payments. Lenders will look at your ability to repay the mortgage and how positive your credit history is when deciding if you qualify for a loan.
- Can you cover the other expenses? When you own a single family home, you – not your landlord –will be responsible for all of the maintenance and repairs, everything from a leaky faucet to replacing a roof. Will you have enough money left over in your budget each month (after paying the mortgage, property taxes and insurance) to cover any repair issues that may pop up?
- How long do you plan to stay in your home? Although homes often appreciate over time in most areas and many owners build equity through monthly mortgage payments that go towards the principal of the loan, values can go up or down during any period of time. Generally, the longer you plan on staying in your home, the more likely that buying may be the right move for you.
- How much will your rent increase in the future? Obviously no one knows for sure what the future will bring, but a recent study by Trulia found that rents on average are increasing faster than home prices. In fact, homeownership remains 38% cheaper than renting nationally, and it’s less expensive in all of the 100 largest metro areas studied by Trulia. But each neighborhood and each home are different, so it’s important to do your homework.
- How do your other options compare? For renters, calculating month-to-month housing expenses is as easy as inquiring about the monthly rent and average utilities. The calculation gets a bit more complicated when considering the monthly cost and benefits of owning a home. Buy-versus-rent calculators, which are available on websites such as ColdwellBanker.com, offer a good start in comparing the two options.
There is a lot to consider when weighing the pros and cons of buying a home, and you’ll likely have a lot of questions. The best thing that you can do before making a decision is to do your homework and become better educated on your options.