It’s Better to Buy a House than Rent

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The debate is ongoing about whether it’s better to rent a home or buy one. Which is best?

To start, identify your goals. This includes short-term goals and long-term goals—anything relevant to your living situation or your finances. Are you someone who likes to move around and explore new areas, or have you put down strong roots in a specific location? Are you planning to raise a family? Is that family going to grow over the years? Do you plan to build up wealth? Are you aiming to retire a few years early? Work these things out as best you can. You need to know where you’re headed.

Beyond these life considerations, there are some specific facts about homeownership that typically make buying a house a better choice than renting one indefinitely. Specifically, you’ll save money in the long run if you buy a house. Studies have shown that if you plan to remain in a residence longer than five years, you’re better off buying than renting. Here’s why.

Equity. When you own a house, every dollar you put toward paying off the principal of your mortgage is actually going right back to your pocket in the long run. A house itself is an investment—it is a thing that holds value and, in fact, often gains value over time. It’s almost like a savings account. When you put money into a savings account, it stays there. Sure, you don’t exactly have access to the money, but it’s still there and, in the long run, it’s still yours. You don’t gain this value when you’re renting a piece of property. The money you pay out is simply gone.

Value. As mentioned above, a house, like any other financial instrument or investment, can actually increase in value over time without any effort on your part. Sometime property values just go up. Historically, in fact, just about all property gains value in the long run—often significant value. Real estate is a very popular form of investment even separate from the fact that it provides your family with a place to live. Even with a mortgage, the ultimate return you can get for your money is typically very good, especially if you’re able to find the best mortgage rates when you enter the loan. Renting doesn’t give you this opportunity to someday capture increasing property value.

Stability. One of the most appealing perks of home ownership is the consistency of payments month to month. If you have a fixed rate mortgage, your monthly payment is locked in at a certain amount for the next thirty years or so. This can be extremely comforting for some people and extremely helpful when it comes to budgeting long-term. When renting, prices may fluctuate from lease to lease, or you may move from one place to another and constantly have to readjust your budget and lifestyle. Also, mortgage payments on a house will, at some point, end. When those thirty years are up, chances are you won’t need to make any payments toward your house beyond property taxes from then on. Renting, however, never ends. You’ll never truly have a place of your own.

Despite the strength of these three facts in favor of home ownership over renting, the choice is ultimately one that must be made by individuals and families. Everyone has different long-term goals, and those goals must be identified first. But make the decision wisely. From a financial perspective, home ownership is the better of the two options long-term.

Update:  I just realized I didn’t include the link to the Festival of Frugality that included this post.  That’s fixed.

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