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Rent or Buy? These Simple Questions Will Help You Decide

By Al Twitty | July 10, 2019

It’s always hard to choose between buying and renting. Last year’s housing market will tell you that it’s better to rent than buy. CNBC reports that rising housing prices and mortgage rates have made it cheaper to rent a home than to buy a brand new one. But then again, buying has its own perks as homes typically increase in value and build equity – if you know what you’re doing. So which one should you choose? Here are a few simple questions you can ask yourself to help you decide: 

What can I afford?

Buying or renting depends a lot on your current budget. How much can you or are you willing to spend? To get a quick overview, you can compute how much you make in a month and deduct what you spend on essentials like food and transportation. Certified financial planner Bill Engel explains that a good rule of thumb is to keep a total housing cost at around 30% of your monthly income. "You don't want to bite off more than you can chew.

Plan on having a cash reserve,” he said. You should also consider that when mortgage rates are very low, your buying power is much higher. Our Real Estate Market Analysis for Beginners post can help you understand the market better in terms of the fundamental factors you need to consider. The more you know about the market, the better you can gauge what you can actually afford.

Where will I be five years from now?

You definitely need to look at where your life and career will eventually take you. If you’re not yet sure where you’ll be career-wise, you’re probably better off renting for now. RealtyHop corporate communications analyst Shane Lee says your career trajectory has a huge impact on your renting or buying decision. "Owning a home requires a huge financial commitment, and if your income is going to fluctuate in the next three to five years, it might not be ideal for you to buy.” You might also incur exorbitant home purchasing costs if you’re not careful. A feature article by Yoreevo on whether to rent or buy a property in NYC explains that buying the average apartment in the city with a traditional broker has a total transaction cost of about 10% of the purchase price. Buying and renting can be really expensive if you don’t consider the long term.

Can I afford home maintenance?

Your expenses do not stop after you make a purchase. The most recent data shows that an average homeowner spends more than $200 on housekeeping alone every month. You still need to account for the cost of home security systems, pool and garden maintenance, septic tank pumping services, and trash collection. Being financially prepared for these things can be a sign that you might be ready to buy.

Am I making a decision based on emotions?

If it seems like everyone else in your circle is buying a house, it doesn’t mean you have to buy one, too. Making a decision based on your emotions might do you more harm than good. Don’t let your emotions run your life. Ultimately, you should only buy a house if you know you can afford it and if you’re sure about where you’ll be in the next five years. Always think like an investor whether you’re buying or selling—never overpay.

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