Should I buy a home? The debate over renting vs. buying—especially for first-time buyers—tends to focus on how much financial sense it makes. But don’t forget to consider whether home ownership fits your lifestyle.
Questions to Decide Whether to Rent or to Buy
If you’re stuck on renting vs. owning, here are four questions that can point you in the right direction.
1. Are you expecting any major life changes?
Getting married, having kids, changing jobs—these are all things that could affect your decision between renting vs. buying a home. For example, if you currently rent and may soon have kids, does your rental offer room for a family to grow? Or might you want to swap your 2-bedroom apartment for a house with a yard in a better school district once you do become a parent?
And there’s your career to consider. Can you see yourself moving to a different city for a new job? If so, would that be in the near future? To gain perspective on whether renting or owning is the right move, consider those big picture questions—both the immediate future and the long term. And if you do decide to buy, keep an eye on the housing market so you know how quickly you could sell your home if the need arises.
2. Can you get a better deal by owning a home?
Rent prices have been climbing for the past few years, and in some places it can be cheaper to own than rent. So especially if you’re hoping to free up money in your budget to pay down student loans or other debts or even save for something fun like travel, be sure to compare the cost of renting vs. owning.
One thing first-time buyers tend to overlook is that owning a home comes with additional costs beyond paying your mortgage. You have to factor in property taxes and insurance among other expenses. You may find that your utility costs are more expensive when you own if you buy a place with more space to air condition, for instance. Get an idea of which option may leave you with the most cash to spare—run the numbers through one of our mortgage calculators to help you weigh the financial benefits of renting vs. buying.
3. Are you the hands-on type?
One of renting’s nicest perks is that when something breaks, your landlord is usually responsible for fixing it—whether you’re happy with the fix and how long it takes to address it is between you and your landlord. When you own a home, on the other hand, there’s no landlord to call if the water pipes burst. One exception to this rule is if you live in a condo with an association that employs a handyman to take care of repairs and maintenance.
If that’s not the case, what you have to consider is whether you’re comfortable handling repairs on your own. If not, you may want to have funds set aside to cover these types of expenses as they arise.
One upside to owning your home, though, is that you get complete freedom over your decorating choices. When you’re renting, you may need to secure your landlord’s approval before you can paint or even hang pictures. As a homeowner, you’d have no limits when it comes to making upgrades or improvements to really make your home your own.
4. Would you be comfortable changing your routine?
Moving from a rental into a home of your own sometimes means making adjustments in your daily routine. For example, if you’ve been living in the city but are trading out your apartment for a home in the ‘burbs, that could add time to your daily commute. And, as with any move, you may need to change where you grocery shop, get gas and work out.
If you’re on the fence about whether to take the leap into homeownership, use these questions as a guide to decide which better suits your lifestyle. Buying a home is a big—and probably exciting—step, so make sure you’re comfortable with everything it involves before you commit. Decide whether you’re ready to become a homeowner by taking time to explore the possibilities that buying may offer and comparing that to what you do or don’t like about renting.