To Rent or to Buy? That is the Question

Updated on January 22, 2019
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, blogger at Healthy at Home, and educator. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

So it turns out that we are one again back in the dating game with a home. Our landlord passed away at the last house we had, and though we had made a deal to purchase the home, there was no record of that after her death and we were booted. With a toddler, a newborn, two big dogs, a cat and it being Christmastime, we weren't able to find a place to rent anywhere in our area in Arizona.

Homes were expensive, we couldn't get a loan for enough money, and we didn't have anything saved. It was the absolute worst time to move, but we did it. It seemed our only choice was moving to Colorado closer to my husband's family, but it still took a month and a serious deposit to find a place. Now, we are back in the same place again less than a year later.

This may not be your situation, as you may have carefully planned your time to move, but when it comes time to pack up and find a new place, the battle of renting or buying I think comes up for everyone. You have to start weighing the pros and cons of each, looking at prices, availability, your credit score, your job history, and whether one or the other would be easier. But how do you find all of that info, and filter through it all to get to the optimum end goal; a home that you can call your own that suits all of your needs?

I felt like this was a good place to lay it all out and hopefully help some others along the way do the same for themselves. Let's look at the pros and cons of each first.

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The Pros and Cons of Renting

Obviously a lot of this depends on your housing market. Are houses expensive or cheap right now? Are there a lot of options available to you? But most of the time, many people choose to rent because they think it will be easier. Unfortunately, like in our situation right now, that is not always the case. Let's look at both sides.

Pros:

  • A rental property is just a temporary location. You can move anytime you want without having to worry about your home afterwards.
  • There is relatively little upkeep. When someone else owns the place, and something breaks, they have to take care of it.
  • It's easy to move in quickly because it's essentially an agreement to borrow the space. You may just need a few hands to help you, especially if you end up on the fourth floor of an apartment unit.
  • There's little paperwork to do because it's temporary.
  • There's no large down payment to make, just a small deposit that you will get back. And even this is usually just for cleaning and pets.
  • You don't have to worry about property taxes, homeowner's association fees, or even interest on your home.
  • You can pay only for the time you want to live there. And then you can pay as you go, so when you are ready to leave, you can simply pack up and go.
  • There are usually many options for places to rent, and many different types of rentals to choose from.

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Cons:

  • A rental property is just a temporary location. There's no guarantee that it will still be yours tomorrow. Just like the owner at our rental up and decided to sell before we'd even been here a year.
  • You may have to wait inordinate amounts of time to get something fixed if you want the owner to fix it. There's no rush for them to get your water fixed, or to get you a new front door lock.
  • You can't customize it or make any changes because it's not your property. Even if the floor and cabinets are in dire need of refinishing, you may just have to live with it.
  • Prices are high. Paying a mortgage is usually cheaper than renting because you're paying for convenience.
  • You are not in control of your payment. The owner can raise the rent anytime they'd like, or possibly even lower it for you.
  • If the owner finds damage to the place after you leave, you could be fined or lose your deposit. (Even if the damage was there before you moved in.)
  • You are stuck in a lease. If something comes up and you need to leave, you are liable to be fined for breaking your lease.
  • The owner (or maintenance) can stop by anytime they'd like and do inspections or work in your home. In an apartment there is no insurance that something won't get stolen if someone is there while you are gone.
  • There is no guarantee that you will get any money back. You are essentially throwing it away when you rent. Renting is a purchase, not an investment.
  • Pets may not be allowed, or may come with heavy deposits.
  • You may be sharing a ceiling, a floor, or a wall or two with a neighbor. This means waking up when they are up, going to sleep when they go to sleep, or hearing from them if you are making too much noise.

As you can see, there are many pros and cons to consider regarding renting, and many variables to think about. It may sound easier to pick up, essentially borrow a place for a little while, and move again later with no responsibilities to consider, but those pros can also be cons. Is renting the right decision for you? Let's take a look at buying a place before you answer that question.

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The Pros and Cons of Buying

Once again, the ability or possibility of buying depends on a lot of factors. Do you qualify for a loan or have the cash up front? Is it a good time to buy or will you lose a great deal of money when the market drops? Many people choose not to purchase a home because it sounds so complicated and they are scared of the responsibility of owning a home. However, there are many advantages to buying that renting simply cannot compete with. Let me show you.

Pros:

  • Buying a home is a more permanent situation. When you own it is yours until you decide otherwise.
  • You don't have to worry about anyone else taking it away from you.
  • You can make any changes and upgrades you want when it's yours. You can even add on to your home or change the layout when you own it.
  • When the home is yours, you don't have to ask someone else for permission to do anything with the house.
  • Pets and other animals are for you to decide on, as long as they follow the codes for your city and neighborhood.
  • You can plant a garden or build a playset if you want.
  • You don't have to worry about your payment fluctuating, because you set the payments ahead of time.
  • You can pay off your home and get rid of housing payments altogether if you wish and have the financial ability.
  • Houses afford you large tax deductions, including any money you pay to fix it, upgrade it, and even your property taxes and mortgage payments.
  • You can use your home to make more income for your household.
  • A home is an investment. If you sell it, you can make more money on top of what you paid, and you could even rent it out for passive income each month.

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Cons:

  • Buying a home is a more permanent situation. When you own a home, it is yours, and you are responsible for it until you can sell it.
  • When you own the home, you are responsible for repairs and upkeep. If something breaks, it's yours to fix.
  • You have to make sure to follow homeowner's association rules for your neighborhood, unless you live in the country.
  • You have to make sure to pay your homeowner's association dues and yearly property taxes.
  • If you want to move, you have to consider the house. Are you going to rent it out or sell it? Either one of these options could happen quickly or take months or years to happen.
  • If you rent it out, you are responsible for your tenants and any damage they may do to the house.
  • If the value of your home drops while you are living there and you want to sell it, you may end up paying out of pocket to get rid of it.
  • There's a lot of paperwork to complete and information about your life to provide.
  • Homes in your price range might be limited in your chosen area.

Although the process to get into a home may be a little more complicated, and owning a home does require more work on your part, the extra effort may be worth it for you. There are many pros to buying a home than than renting, and this is the preferred option for many, but that's something you have to decide for yourself.

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When you are trying to decide whether to rent or buy, there are a lot of factors to consider. You have to think about what you want out of your home and how long you plan on staying there, along with what you can afford at the time, and where you want to live.

Buying is not for everyone, but neither is renting. You'll have to sit down and weigh the pros and cons of each to determine what the right decision is for your family. Honestly, we want some land so we can have animals and grow a large garden. We had initially wanted more time to prepare a down payment, but this may just be our chance to take the next step in our journey.

We have been renting for ten years now dreaming of our own place, and with our growing family and host of animals, buying may just be the right decision for us now. We started by applying for several loans just to see what we qualify for, and find out tomorrow what our options are going to be. Cross your fingers for us! Good luck in your home search and I hope this helped. For more information on the ins and outs of buying a home, check out my article on All You Ever Wanted to Know About Home Mortgages But Were Afraid to Ask.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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    © 2019 Victoria Van Ness

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