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Renting vs. Owning a Home: What’s the Difference? Pros, Cons & Financial Benefits

By Myles Leva

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Last Updated: April 14, 2022

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What's the best choice when it comes to renting vs. owning a home?

Homeownership is a more elusive goal than it once was. However, it’s a goal that most young people still have in mind. Of course, to buy a home and pay a mortgage is to build equity, which is objectively better than paying someone else’s mortgage.

But buying a home isn’t always the better alternative to renting. There are multiple financial considerations that should go into the biggest financial decision you’ll probably make in your life.

In this article, we will look into:

  • The financial responsibilities of renting vs buying
  • Pros and cons of rent vs buy
  • The finer details of homeownership
  • The “rent to own” phenomenon

 

 

Renting vs. Buying a House Pros and Cons

Benefits of Buying a House

The most obvious and important benefit of buying a house is owning a tangible asset. But there are both tangible and intangible benefits to homeownership.

House values change, and while the trend has been a constant increase over time, there are no guarantees that the trend will continue. But regardless, the fact remains that in the end, you gain equity.

 

The Power of Equity

The benefits of homeownership, or even of gaining equity, are immense:

  • Removing reliance on cash for long-term financial health
  • Access to far better loan rates and terms
  • You can add value to your house
  • Multi-generational living options
  • Well-established creditworthiness
  • Better than the alternative (where you own only your personal belongings, not a home)

Comparing Home Equity Loans vs HELOC: Which is Better For You? 

 

Financial (and Physical) Security

Of course, there’s also the emotional comfort of owning your home. While it’s not always apparent, there are many things that can lead to you losing your home if you rent.

This also has immediate financial implications if you are forced to move for any reason. Most glaringly, your landlord can ask you to move out when your lease is coming to an end without needing a specific reason.

The notice they must give varies by state, but regardless, your position when renting is never guaranteed or permanent. This can easily lead to you needing to move, which is an expensive thing to do after just a few years at a place you’ve made your home.

 

Drawbacks of Buying a House

Buying a house is more expensive than many people realize. The benefits of homeownership over renting are definitely better understood. But you should consider the finer details of the expenses of homeownership.

One major drawback is that houses are illiquid assets. The intangible benefits of the stability of homeownership are clear. But your home, being an asset, is also a serious responsibility.

There is no guarantee that you will sell it when you want to. Even if you can sell it, you may end up getting a far worse deal than you’d expect, depending on market conditions. Even in the best of times, there are significant transaction costs when selling a house.

 

How About Total Expenses?

Even when your mortgage is cheaper than if you were renting, the costs of homeownership tend to outweigh the costs of renting. So, you must consider the costs of homeownership that most renters do not need to pay:

  • Property taxes
  • Water and sewer service
  • Trash pickup
  • Pest control
  • Building maintenance
  • Utility maintenance (replacing a furnace, for example, can be very costly)
  • Landscaping
  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Mortgage interest (for the earlier part of your mortgage)
  • Mandatory homeowners’ association fees
  • Mandatory insurance (Such as flood insurance in some localities)
  • Miscellaneous expenses (such as pool maintenance, if you have one)

In some cases, where applicable, landlords can have their tenants pay some of these costs. But in the end, monthly expenses are higher while you’re still paying your mortgage.

Mobility

Lastly, as an illiquid, stationary investment, buying a house isn’t a good financial decision for someone who cannot remain in close proximity. If you move often for work or any other reason, you can’t expect to buy and sell houses on a regular basis.

 

 

How Does Rent to Own Work?

Oddly enough, there is a third option to the rent vs buy question: “rent to own”.

This sounds a lot like paying a mortgage, so what’s the difference?

A rent-to-own agreement is a deal a renter makes with their landlord. The renter commits to renting the property for a set amount of time. The renter has the option of choosing to purchase the home before the lease expires.

These rent-to-own agreements always include a standard lease agreement. The addition of the right to buy the property later is then added on top. You have the right to buy the property when/before the lease expires.

This should not be confused with a lease-purchase contract, which would actually require you to buy the property at the end of the lease.

Rent-to-own agreements all follow the above standards, but there can be minor differences between different agreements. For example, in some cases, a set percentage of your rent will be deducted from the purchase price of the home.

Also, your responsibilities while renting can vary. For example, some agreements hold the renter responsible for maintenance expenses even before they purchase the home.

 

Conclusions

Buying a house comes with tangible and intangible benefits that make it the superior option financially.

However, your life circumstances may make it unwise to take on the financial and physical responsibilities of homeownership. When thinking about renting vs. owning a home, it’s worth considering the long-term investment that buying a home is.

That includes the equity you build over time, as well as the many expenses that are not normally passed onto renters.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

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2 comments on “Renting vs. Owning a Home: What’s the Difference? Pros, Cons & Financial Benefits”

  1. Having a home is great, but it's not good when you continue to change situations. I like to be clear of debt when I am clear of my situation. Debt means you are responsible for the debts, so I do things according to what I have and get.

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