Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In Today's Economy Is It Better To Rent Or Buy A Home?

Again we find ourselves facing another financial dilemma: should I rent or should I buy? And just like many other financial quandaries, we have seen the example of our parents and perhaps friends but have little true professional knowledge to base our decisions on. We get a lot of advice from those around us, which is VERY tempting to listen to, but should we? For me the answer is "Don't ask a butcher how to bake a loaf of bread!" It's a good idea to listen to everyone you meet in your life, but it's an even better idea to consider who is giving the advice when you're faced with a decision.

A good adviser takes into account several factors to help you come up with sound financial decision. One, he must consider your individual situation; and two, he must be experienced enough to back his claims with solid evidence. Since no two people have exactly the same predicament and your case is unique from the others - it is crucial to weigh the costs and benefits of buying versus renting. As the co - author of the book Equity Happens (Russell Gray) puts it, "Do the math!"

With that being said, I'm not going to try and tell you which option to choose. I cannot possibly do that because I don't know your particular situation. I will tell you some numbers to think about and I will say that for many people, right now is an amazing time to purchase a home. You can start with monthly expenses. In the case of renting, add up your rent plus any additional fees and the utilities you must pay.

For ownership expenses it's a little trickier. You must add together more items and might need the help of professionals to determine what the expenses will be. The main expenses are commonly abbreviated with the acronym PITI. This stands for Principal (the amount of money you pay toward the principal of your loan), Interest (the amount you pay toward the interest of the loan), Taxes (property taxes you must pay), and Insurance (both property insurance and mortgage insurance, if applicable).

Owning a home also covers utility expenses plus other maintenance outlay aside from the PITI. In the case of renting, while it is compelling that you only pay the same amount on a monthly basis; you can go back and determine what your previous payments could buy you a home for. Monthly monetary costs are important aspects in deciding what to choose between owning and renting but it is also equally significant to look at the long-term benefits.

The majority of these long-term benefits often lie on the side of ownership. After many years of renting you will still have title to nothing and you will continually be paying higher rents. After owning for many years your payments will remain basically the same as when you first purchased the home (except some costs like utilities, insurance, etc. that rise with inflation, your main costs will not change). And, what's even better, you will have the wonderful thing called equity from all the payments you've made towards owning the home. If you choose wisely in an appreciating market (not hard to do!) you will also gain the value of appreciation of your home....it's like free equity!

There is a good chance your choice shifts according to your personal feelings and opinion. Simply put, making the best decision towards renting or owning a home involves your subjective feeling. What can be more fun than having a house you can call your own, and enjoying the independence in creating changes with it however you like it! On one hand, you might favor the side of renting if you will give emphasis on other concerns such as having no lawn to mow, or other maintenance issues.

Often, financial consideration plays a big role but also brings into mind subjective feelings over the argument: to buy or to rent a house? To be more specific, purchasing expensive appliances no longer bothers you when you have huge savings from renting instead of owning. Or maybe, the freedom to do whatever you want with your own house appears inconsequential if you will note the massive expenses you shed off just to purchase your home. Either way, the dictum "numbers do not lie" proves that the former is still weightier than the other.

Concisely, this article wants to present two major points: always consult a professional in weighing out your options and calculating your expenses; and look beyond the immediate gains of ownership or renting. The benefits from both sides will not be evident unless we set our eyes on the long range that will not be apparent on a monthly cost comparison. In a buyers market that we are in, ownership is favored over renting.

Alexandria P. Anderson is a licensed Minnesota Realtor that helps people to find and purchase Plymouth Townhomes as well as Plymouth Lofts in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.