A case for renting over owning a house

A lot of people will tell you that renting your home or apartment is throwing your money away, but that’s not always the case. Just because you’re not ready to buy a home doesn’t mean you can’t get some great perks as a renter.

In Some Areas, Renting Is Significantly Cheaper Than Buying

Buying a home is a good goal to have, but depending on your area, buying a home could actually be a bad idea. Sethi says that buying a home makes sense in certain parts of the country, but for a lot of busy metropolitan areas it’s a much different situation. Being able to afford a $1,000 monthly rent in a city doesn’t necessarily mean that you can afford a $1,000 mortgage there. There are “phantom costs,” like taxes, maintenance, and insurance, that can shoot up that $1,000 a month mortgage to around $1,500 a month. A rented apartment or house might be just as nice as what you can buy for the same amount, and it gives you a chance to save up some money for the future.

Personal finance blogger Mr. Money Mustache suggests you consider the commuting costs as well. A house in the suburbs of a big city could be 40 minutes away from your work, costing you gas and vehicle maintenance if you don’t have a public transit option. It probably wouldn’t be too difficult to find a rental closer to your work that could save you money on housing and commute costs.

Cities are expensive no matter what you do, but property within cities is at a premium because there isn’t a whole lot of it. Apartments and rentals, on the other hand, are in abundance. With some savvy searching, you’re bound to find an apartment for a decent deal. There’s no reason to rush into a buying a home until you know you can afford it. If you’re not sure, this calculator from the New York Times can help you determine whether you’re ready or not based on home price, down payments, and how long you plan to stay there.

You Don’t Have to Worry About Your Home Losing Value

Lots of people will argue that when you buy a home, you’re building equity in that home-after all, eventually, you’ll pay it off completely. But remember that you can lose some of that money, too. If the housing market takes a turn for the worse and you have to sell, you could be out thousands of dollars. When you rent, that’s the landlord’s problem, not yours.

Also, if you think buying a home is a way to force yourself to save money in the long run, J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly explains that’s not the case at all:

…if home buying is like a savings plan, it’s probably the worst savings plan on Earth. Would you voluntarily sign up for a savings plan where well over half of the money you deposit in the first 20 years simply vanishes, and from which you can only withdraw money by relocating and paying a 6-9% fee (not on the amount you have “saved” mind you, but on the total sale price of the home)?

If you want a savings plan, just save money on your own. As a renter you can take what you would be paying on property taxes and maintenance costs, then stick it in a savings account that will net you usable, liquid funds you could put toward whatever you want (even a down payment on a home).

You’re Not Responsible for Major Home Repairs

Landlords can be difficult to deal with sometimes, but when something at home breaks, they’re the ones that have to fix it. They pay for the repairs, they have to deal with the handyman or exterminator, and they have to worry about the general upkeep of your building. When you own your home, that’s all on you. That can add up to a lot of work on your part, or a lot of money-or both.

Your Budget Is More Predictable

Speaking of repairs and maintenance, those kinds of surprises can eat away at your budget at the least opportune times. As Craig Ford at Cash Money Life points out, home ownership lacks any sort of real predictability when it comes to your personal budget:

You do not know when the hot water heater will break, when termites will infest your home, or when your foundation will crack. Each of these emergencies require money to fix. When you rent you pay a set dollar amount every month.

That money you saved to go on vacation? Now it’s going toward fixing the sink. That landscaping project that was only supposed to cost a couple hundred bucks? Whoops, now it’s looking like it will be well over $1,000. As a renter, you pay the same amount every month no matter what needs to be repaired. That consistency makes it easier to save money.

You’re More Flexible

Owning a home makes it tough to be flexible with where you live. Michele Lerner at Money Crashers explains that renting makes it a lot easier to move, which is important if you think your career might cause you to relocate any time soon. (After all, it can be good to job hop when you’re young.) Steve Repak at the Equifax finance blog agrees:

I think back to my time in the military, when I had to pick up and move every three to four years. If you’re in a profession that requires you to move often, like I was, renting could easily be a better choice. Buying and selling a home are expensive endeavors, and getting involved with either one could wind up being a losing proposition, depending on how long you will own the house, the housing market in your area, and current interest rates, among other things.

Renting lets you move into a month-to-month situation most of the time, and you just can’t do that when you own a home. You should also consider your lifestyle. If you like to travel a lot for pleasure, renting gives you more funds for that and less things to worry about back home.

You Can Get Access to Certain Amenities

Last but not least, rental apartments and other communities usually have perks built right in. Sure, you could buy equipment and setup a gym in your home, or you could use the gym built into your apartment building. A pool would be nice in the backyard, right? Or go for an apartment complex with a pool and staff to clean and care for it. Not every rental has access to cool amenities like gyms and pools, but perks like that can make renting look a lot better than buying.

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