Is It Better to Buy or Rent?
By Brian Kelly
The market is ripe for buyers right now. Interest rates, although slightly higher than this time last year, are still at an all-time low, and the National Association of REALTORS® predicts that 2006 will be the third all-time best year in real estate. So naturally you should be telling your landlord goodbye and saying hello to your dream home, right? Not so fast. Certainly, owning your own home has its benefits. But, is the dream of homeownership really one you should pursue? It all depends on your circumstance and needs.
Buying a home is such a large investment, possibly the largest purchase you’ll make. So, careful deliberation should be made when deciding which is better for you: rent or buy.
The advantages to being a renter is that your monthly costs are fixed. There’s little to no responsibility for maintenance of the property. And, it’s easier to pick up and move to another location. However, the disadvantages are your rent typically increases each year and there is no guarantee that your lease will be renewed. In addition, you don’t earn any equity nor will you reap the tax advantages of owning.
As a homeowner, you have the benefit of security and stability, as well as the freedom to decorate and remodel. Your property also builds equity and you get the tax benefit. However, when the central heating unit breaks or the roof needs replacing, the repairs are your financial responsibility. And, there is always the possibility of losing on your investment if property values go down.
One tool you can use in your analysis is a Rent -vs- Buy calculator that you can find on Web sites such Prudential.com. These calculators allow you to compare the costs of renting and buying. In some cases the amount you spend in rent may be about the same or less than you would pay on a mortgage. However, the tax benefit from owning the home may provide significant savings.
You also need to decide if can you really afford homeownership. If you are on a tight budget it may not be wise to have the added pressure of maintenance costs, property taxes, and insurance. If your credit rating is in need of repair, or you have a high debt to earnings ratio, now may not be the time to purchase a home. Although you may find a lender, your loan may be at a much higher interest rate using a sub-prime lender. You might be better off taking another year to build your credit score and decrease your debt.
Besides costs, another factor to consider is how long you plan to reside in the home. When you purchase a home, there is a substantial initial investment including the down payment, closing costs, and renovations. It typically takes between five and seven years to recover your initial costs. And depending on your loan payments, it may take a few years before you begin to see a return on your investment.
Your lifestyle also makes a difference for whether you should rent or buy. Will you be able to afford the type of property you want and continue to enjoy the lifestyle you have? Are you starting or changing careers or perhaps you are in a job that requires you to move frequently?
Although homeownership has its benefits, make sure it’s the right fit for you depending on your financial and personal situations.
Brian Kelly can be reached at 845-986-6666. Prudential Rand is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity