137

Renting: The New American Dream

in Money Basics, Rants

Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

Back in February, I caused a little bit of a stir with the following comment on the Facebook page:

If I had a dollar, for every email I got from someone whom DEEPLY REGRETTED buying a house, I would never have to work again. Just rent, people. It’ll be o.k. ;)

I got called everything from pretentious to a genius. And you know what? That’s OK.

If you’ve made a decision about your housing situation, you’re happy with it, AND you have the life you want – then stop reading here. Go on, you. :)

But if you’re not sure whether to rent or buy… if you’re doing one or the other but are desperately unhappy with your choice… or if you’re in what you think is a good housing situation, but the rest of your financial life isn’t making you happy… then read on.

Here’s the not-so-secret secret: There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

I’ve heard from people – both on that Facebook post and in countless emails – who made home ownership work out well. I’ve heard from just as many who bought their homes but would give anything to be renting. And I’ve heard from plenty of lifelong renters who are thrilled with their choice.

What I can say, though, is that MOST people who decide to buy their homes rush in, lock themselves in, and don’t see alternatives.

Nine times out of ten, housing-related costs are the largest single expense in people’s budget. Yet often, people put more thought into their car or even cell-phone purchases than their housing costs!

I will also tell you this straight up: I’m personally a HUGE fan of renting.

I see far more advantages in the flexibility that comes from renting than I do with buying a single home. (This should be fairly obvious for people who’ve followed the journey a while).

Now, let me add that I’m not anti-home-ownership. I’ve spent a couple years of my life in the real estate industry. Courtney and I have owned an 8-unit apartment building in the past.

I even love the potential of owning a home someday. And most importantly, I understand buying a home is more important for some people than the prospect of flexibility.

But I’m sick and tired of it being the default choice for the “American Dream.” It’s silly that we culturally view this as a must – and that we almost always jump the gun as a result.

First, let’s talk costs here…

I’ll start you off with a (far-from-complete) list of expenses that come up when you’re a homeowner.

  • Property Taxes
  • Remodeling Projects
  • Homeowner’s Insurance
  • Regular Misc. Maintenance
  • Air Conditioning / Furnace
  • Furniture / Home Decor
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Outdoor Tools
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Lawn Care
  • Water Heater
  • Water Softener
  • Sewage
  • Water
  • Trash
  • Landscaping
  • Installation Fees
  • Pest Control
  • PMI
  • Association Fees

Anyone else who has owned property of some sort could probably think back and add a few dozen bullet points to this list (yikes!).

You may or may not incur these costs when you buy (or during the time that follows), but many, many people do. And, once again, as a culture we rarely plan and budget for these expenses.

Do not stop at PITI, which stands for Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance. 

Many people do their calculations based on PITI (even in the real estate and investing industries), without considering much else. This will backfire… big time.

Slow down – and think about everything you are signing up for.

This is life changing. Likely the biggest expense you’ll ever have in your life.

Slow. Down.

What I don’t love – is the myth that owning a home is a *must* or a *smart move*.

I don’t love the MYTH that owning a home is a smart investment.

Real estate can be an investment in some cases – but viewing your personal residence (where your family eats and sleeps) as an investment is a mistake.

Your primary residence should not be viewed as an investment, plain and simple.

The view that owning a home is an investment has led us to a huge bubble that has put millions of Americans in cages made of underwater mortgages. I don’t have to tell many of you this – I’ve heard your stories loud and clear.

One of the most interesting things I learned on our RV tour was the cost of homes across the country. Courtney’s mom bought a four-bedroom, 3000-square-foot home for under $100,000 in Indiana.

In Asheville, you won’t find nearly as many structures under $100,000 (very few). In Burbank, CA, most two-bedroom bungalows (1000 square feet) sell for $500,000.

We are all blanketed with one idea that we should be homeowners, but aren’t given an equal opportunity to do it. Circumstances are incredibly varied (job, location, family situation, freedom, social pressure, etc…) – yet we’ve prescribed one solid path to success for decades now – OWN A HOME, BABY!

This social pressure leads us to incredibly bad mindset for making life-changing decisions like this.

And it leads a tremendous amount of people to a trapped lifestyle (physically and mentally).

So when does it make sense to buy? Here’s your new set of rules:

  • If you plan to live in an area 5-10 years minimum.
  • If you are debt-free (before the mortgage).
  • And if your TOTAL housing costs are less than 25% of your take-home income.
  • Big one coming: YOU actually want to buy!

ONLY THEN, consider buying a house among one of your MANY choices for providing shelter for yourself and your family.

If any of those conditions are not met – you shouldn’t be buying a house.

That’s the bare minimum.

These will be considered by many to be “conservative” rules of thumb – but you need to be conservative about locking yourself into a structure. Learn from our nation’s mess!

I’d also say consider the following:

Do you have the skill to do simple home repairs?

(Anything from replacing a piece of gutter to fixing a leaky faucet.) If you have to call a professional for this relatively routine stuff, your costs are going to add up quickly, but if you’re fairly handy, it might be more economical than renting a home with “repair service” built into its costs.

Do you have the TIME to do these repairs and regular maintenance?

(Lawnmowing, mulching, changing furnace filters, etc.) If so, and if you enjoy those tasks, great. If not, renting – or purchasing a home in which these things are handled by an association – might be a better fit.

Do you have unique needs?

For example, if you want to keep 12 pets… if you have 10 children… if you need to be able to create in-law quarters… renting MIGHT not offer you the options necessary. In this case, a property you own might allow you to better manipulate your space.

Again, slow down. It isn’t the end of the world to wait and rent!

*******

When does it makes sense to rent?

Well, like I said, I truly believe almost anyone can benefit from renting. When we talk about freedom – and what that looks like – it becomes really clear that a mortgage is a BIG tie-down.

But here are some situations when it’s especially good to rent.

  • If you plan to move in the next five years (or sooner!)
  • If you aren’t able to or prefer not to do external and internal home maintenance.
  • If you are still paying off your consumer debt.
  • If your career or family situation is LIKELY to change drastically in the next year. (Marriage, more kids, kids leaving home, salary change, starting a new business…)
  • If you are buying a house because it’s what you are “supposed to do.”

Again, that’s the bare minimum.

But also consider these issues:

Do you dread researching plumbers or electricians and getting quotes?

Forget skimming the yellow pages trying to find a reliable serviceman with the best rates. You have one phone number to call when things go wrong. And they take care of it all. Welcome to renting!

Do you want to experience a neighborhood before you buy?

It’s fun to imagine living in a new place, but it’s also intimidating. How much will I really like it? Will I really be able to work at the cafe during the week? Do I really want to be ten minutes out of town? Do we click with the neighbors? By renting in an area, you can test the water without too much commitment. It’s far better than being two years into a mortgage and regretting where you’ve planted yourself.

Do you want to have a better idea of how much you’ll pay each month in housing?

Rent doesn’t change (well, nearly as much as housing costs). The far majority of expense swings related to housing are the landlord’s responsibility in most situations and areas. Consistency and simplicity allow you to focus your time and stress reserves on more important things in life you want to accomplish.

*******

“I’m wasting that money, when I could be investing it.”

Sigh.

First, do the math (honestly, with all the numbers – for all the expenses). In a lot of situations, this is an ASSUMPTION – and simply not true.

Second, consider opportunity costs of the additional flexibility that comes with renting.

Third, much of your “investment” is going to interest (and in some cases taxes and insurance in the primary payment). If you move in the first few years, you aren’t “investing” in almost anything – especially when you factor in costs of selling and buying.

Once again, I firmly believe your quality of life will increase dramatically when you STOP viewing your primary residence as an investment.

Ready to think differently about your home – and your money? Get our Unautomate Your Finances guide, as well as several other awesome resources to “kickstart your money,”join the Man Vs. Debt community list by clicking here!

· Unautomate Your Finances ebook
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Over the last few years, the perception of whether renting or buying is “smart” or “dumb” or a “waste” has dramatically changed. A huge collapse and a recession can do that for you.

What it comes down to, though, is mindfulness.

Be aware of YOUR situation.

Don’t get sold an “American dream” that turns into a nightmare. It’s happened to millions of people (and many emailers). :)

Don’t trade your freedom for something that is only that – a THING.

Your home isn’t “you.” It isn’t your family.

It’s a roof over your head, a place to sleep, something totally and utterly replaceable.

Your HOME and your HOUSE aren’t necessarily the same thing.

You can make a HOME out of many situations. :)

We value the opportunity costs of living a flexible life far too highly to burden ourselves with a huge mortgage and the cost of upkeeping a home.

What about you?

Have you had a fantastic or awful experience with buying or renting?

Have your beliefs about owning a home changed in the last 5 years?

Have at it!

{ 128 comments… read them below or add one }

Sunday April 25, 2012 at 8:24 AM

i wish this article had been around before i bought my home. i made the right decision in buying this house when i did, but i’d give anything to go back and undo it. an even more right decision would have been to rent in a completely different location and really figure out what i wanted. i absolutely felt guilted into “growing up” and “taking on responsibility” and i’d be so much further on my path if i’d just sucked it up and stayed put for a little while longer. at the same time, i have learned innumerable valuable lessons, it’s helped me to solidify that this life is truly not the life i want, and i wouldn’t have the very best jerkface dog in the whole world if i hadn’t done it.

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Baker April 25, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Oh, Sunday – I’ve heard those same pressures to “grow up”, “settle down”, “be responsible”, “take the next step”, etc… I feel ya!

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Andrea Karim April 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM

While I get where people are coming from when they talk about growing up and settling down, it helps to assess what you really enjoy. I mean, I know we all have to do stuff we don’t enjoy sometimes, but it makes no sense to buy a house with a sizable yard if you HATE HATE HATE working outside. It doesn’t matter how much you “grow up” – if you don’t like gardening (and can’t afford to pay someone else to do it for you), then you will regret the purchase.

Part of maturity is knowing what your personal limits are, right?

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Freedom | Rethinking the Dream April 30, 2012 at 7:02 AM

I agree with these comments. It’s practically expected that you need to buy a house to “be grown up” or “prove that you are successful.” That is just not the reality. Pretty much every home-owner in our old neighborhood was living paycheck to paycheck, just to be able to pay for their house and all the expenses that go along with it. That doesn’t sound very “grown up” or “successful” to me.

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Gillian @OneGiantStep April 25, 2012 at 8:48 AM

I don’t think we’ll ever own again. I didn’t like the responsibility, I certainly didn’t like the large debt hole it created, and I didn’t like being tied down to one, single place. We sold our condo to travel but now are firm renters. We are able to afford to rent a place just like we would purchase only we don’t have to do any of the work. One has to be a responsible renter though – not only in respecting the place you live, but also in investing the savings difference between renting and the total costs of owning. We believe that if you properly invest the difference then, in the long term, the ‘investment of owning a home’ evens out.

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Been there, done that April 25, 2012 at 9:39 AM

That’s a good point, saving the difference. We keep down-sizing in apartments, each time less room and less money. More money goes to retirement or savings. Every raise I get goes into savings or retirement too.

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Baker April 25, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Good points about being a responsible renter – we’ve found the more respectful and professional we are – the more we get out of the process. Landlords/managers really are willing to bend over backward for professional renters!

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Brian April 25, 2012 at 9:13 AM

We have been trying to sell our home for a few months now here in NC so we can move back to Blowing Rock (Not too far from you). No bites, so we’re renting it out. The renters talk like they might buy it from us in a year. I don’t think I’ll ever buy again….too much hassle….and when I look at the fact that my $135,000 house will really cost me almost $300k in the end, it makes me sick. It traps you in one location and I don’t like that. Great article! Keep them coming!

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Baker April 25, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Thanks, Brian – I feel ya! We’ll keep churning them out!

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Philip Campbell (Freedom From Student Loans blog) April 25, 2012 at 9:20 AM

Great article. It’s amazing how many people consider renting for a period of time to be “throwing money away”. Few people understand all the costs involved in owning and few understand your point that it’s not smart to buy a home when you are already in debt.

I teach people with student loans not to buy a home until they have paid the students loans, and any other debt, off completely. Not everyone likes to hear that. But it’s the smart way to go.

Thanks for taking on the subject. Very well done.

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Baker April 25, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Haha, “not everyone likes to hear that” – I can relate to that. Sometimes WE don’t even like to hear that, but we need to be reminded occasionally. House fever can be intense. :)

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Faith | Minimalist at Home April 25, 2012 at 9:24 AM

I NEVER want to own a house ever again! I think you’ve provided a great list for reasons to buy or not buy. The problem is, we actually fit the list for reasons to buy but that didn’t help us in the end. Obviously, you can never anticipate the future. Renting seems like such a better option for rolling with the unexpected “punches” life often has in store for you. Over two years of trying to sell our house, our once positive financial standing is now in the toilet.

I would like to echo the comment about being a responsible renter. There are hardly any family homes in our area to rent. After renting our house out for 6 months, I can see why many owners aren’t in a hurry to rent out their properties. We had a very nice family move in and proceed to trash our home. After flooding our wood floors and ripping up our carpets, they still threatened to sue us for not giving them their security deposit back. So just remember, in order for people to have the nice option of whether to rent or buy…there is someone out there trying to decide whether it’s worth the trouble to rent their property out in the first place.

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Baker April 25, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Exactly, Faith. Rolling with the punches is worth so much more to us that the benefits of owning. So much more! :)

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Bradley April 25, 2012 at 9:27 AM

I have bought two houses. Both were mistakes. The first I bought because I thought I had to. We had planned to live there for 5-10 years minimum. Then my now ex-wife left after 3. Luckily, we did make a couple of thousand on that sale. (Just before the bubble burst).

Second house I bought on my own. Was planning to live there for 5-10 years. Met a wonderful lady and got married. We now live in her house, and I took a $12,000 loss to sell the second house. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was about a 15% loss.

Now, my wife and I are trying to sell her house so we can get our place. But we are most likely going to be renting for a while. Maybe a few years or more. I am definitely in no rush to buy another house.

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Baker April 25, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Ouch, triple whammy Bradley. I feel for ya – but sounds like you’re set up to rebound nicely once you unload the houses.

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Elizabeth April 25, 2012 at 9:28 AM

I’ve had a string of bad luck with rentals. The last three places I was evicted only by circumstance. “When the one year lease is up…” followed by: “I need my house back” We’ve decided not to travel anymore” and “I want to sell the house and I’ll need it empty to show”. Even now, I’m packing up and moving because an elderly relative will be moving in here as soon as the lease is up. I’m kind of sick of moving. However, the whims of owners are my only real complaint about renting. It would be nice to feel safe putting things on the walls, planting a garden etc..

I’ve felt so much guilt over not giving my son the permanent home I never had as a Navy Brat, not having that door frame that measures his growth, or that tree in the yard. Still, he’s been in the same school, same kids, same parks and playgrounds for 6 years.

This impending move, we’re going from 1150 to 732 ft, and knocking $350 off our rent. We are ridding ourselves of a great deal of “STUFF”, and this is not a bad thing. We are also repairing our credit (7 items removed so far) and tending to medical bills. Thankfully we haven’t any consumer debt – just medical, student loans, and less than 2K on one car, the other bought with cash. it is where we want to live, with a fenced yard, near the water, the farmers market, and a beautiful hike overlooking the sound. It suits us.

We were pressured to try different programs, get a loan, and in all reality, we could have bought something. We got the usual lines about “Now’s the time!” and the ominous “you wont have the chance again…again….again….” – And all of that was supposed to happen in 60 days. NO WAY. One, that’s waaaaay to rushed. Two, it was not a decision in line with what is important to US.

I get this. It’s like dating and marriage. It’s time, attention, knowing where you’ll compromise, and where you wont. It’s about YOU.

Thanks for the article. It was well timed for what I needed. :)

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Don April 25, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Well done, Adam. What you researched and wrote is a lot more true now than pre-1996, when Clinton forced Fannie and Freddie to underwrite those at-risk loans that quickly went underwater when the economy went bad.
From WWII until the R/E bubble burst in 2007, most home ownership was a wise and profitable investment, but not so true today. I lost my executive job in 2005, so we sold our mortgaged home and rented for a few years. Just recently bought again because we wanted the “ownership” of a home. We are DIY’ers from way back and really enjoy landscaping projects. Oh, it helped that we were debt free, and we still are.

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Been there, done that April 25, 2012 at 9:36 AM

I have been a homeowner for 30 years of my life and when I sold my last home I have never felt so good. I do not want the lawn or the upkeep. Taxes, insurance, huge electric bills. I rent now and I can move anywhere I want at the end of my lease. I look occasionally at houses and condos but when the dust settles I don’t want upkeep, HOA fees, etc. I think I did well in homeownership because I never considered my home an investment but was able to make money from each one when I sold them. But that was then and this is now and the possibility that I could be ‘stuck’ with a house or condo and unable to sell it doesn’t sound good to me. I encourage others to rent. And with the low interest rates these days there isn’t much of a ‘tax write-off’ like back in the day when everyone said “It’s a tax write-off”… not much anymore. I know people over 50 who have built big houses with big yards they are having to care for and they aren’t very happy about it. Everyone should be planning for retirement or travel, not stuck with home repairs and upkeep!

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Been there, done that April 25, 2012 at 9:41 AM

PS, GREAT ARTICLE!!!

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Corbie Latham April 25, 2012 at 9:41 AM

Adam,
Thank you! My husband and I are renters and we are constantly getting the “you should buy” speech from our family members. We have focused on paying off our debts and living within our means during these first years of our marriage. I think our generation is alot more open to renting than our parents generation.

On a totally different note, congratulations on the birth of your daughter! We just had our first baby, a boy, in December and are having the best time with him. Our lives literally changed overnight but we couldn’t be happier!

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John Calabria April 25, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Hello Adam.

Insightful post on the pros and cons of Renting Vs. Buying. Personally I’ve owned a property for 20 years now. It’s one of the best moves financially I’ve ever made, and now allows me to choose my work. But yes, it’s not for everybody.

One thing to add… all the costs you list as home ownership, are folded into the rent you will pay, and the rent will rise to meet rising costs.

Often, I think about how freeing it would be to rent, but overall, happy to own.

-john

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Jessica April 25, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Thank you for writing about this! Too many people think that buying a house is something that everyone should do. Every time we visit my husband’s grandparents, they have to mention how LOW house prices are right now and how much we could save if we bought a house. They even talk about all the houses selling for $5000. I really want to scream at them and tell them that 1-those houses are in really BAD neighborhoods, 2-those houses need thousands of dollars of repairs and 3-we don’t WANT a house right now.

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Jessica April 25, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Why did this end up as a reply to someone else. Oops….

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Blackwidow April 25, 2012 at 9:48 AM

First, I want to congratulate you on the newest member of your family! Second, you are so right on about buying vs. renting. After the house across the streed from us sold for $62,000 (we still owed $181,000), I knew it was time to bail. Luckily, we’re in a non-recourse state. My husband’s credit took a hit, of course, but its already on its way up; the smart thing we did before bailing was to pay off about 80% of our debt so that his credit would only suffer a minor ding. Now we are renting a beautiful 4 bedroom home for less than our mortgage, with the difference going towards a car payment, to pay it off sooner. On Christmas Eve, the main water pipe busted – called the landlord, who promptly had a plumber take care of the problem………….I like that!!
Love your website and loved your talk on TED…………keep up the GREAT work, Dude!

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Laura April 25, 2012 at 10:06 AM

I love owning a home. Buying was one of the best decisions I ever made.Yes, there are a lot of responsibilities and headaches with homeownership but for me they are worth it. A few months ago I rented it out for a year (or forever) and am now able to live in SE Asia on the income. No, I don’t make enough to live in Italy or anywhere in Europe but Asia is wonderful. I may go to S. America next year. When I’m tired of traveling it’s nice to know that I will have a home that I love to go back to.

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Katie Schulz April 25, 2012 at 10:21 AM

I’m another one who rather wishes she had not purchased a home. I feel like I am stuck with it right now. Houses in the neighborhood just don’t seem to be moving. Plus mine has the original 70s bathrooms and kitchen. I feel like I would have to do some cosmetic remodeling before I could even think of putting it on the market.
On the upside, I do have 4 pets and I imagine I would have a hard time finding someone to rent to me with all of them.

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Gina April 25, 2012 at 10:23 AM

I couldn’t agree more!…and I sell real estate for a living! I see WAY too many people buying who shouldn’t be. “Renting” has become a dirty word and it shouldn’t be. In fact, I should have never bought my current home under the circumstances I was in and the next time we have a major life change and have to move, we’re definitely going to be renting until we fall into the parameters you described.

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Careful Cents April 25, 2012 at 10:26 AM

I definitely wish I read something like 4 years ago when I purchased my first home. It was massive and so was the payment/taxes/insurance. Right now my American Dream is renting, and I can honestly say I love it. I don’t feel like I’m throwing money down the drain. For my situation right now, renting is the best move. We all need to slow down and take our time. Homeownership is not for everyone!

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Carmel April 25, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Thank you thank you thank you for spreading common sense! I have argued this one for years when so many of my friends were buying because loans were easy to get and it seemed like the thing we were supposed to do. And while most of them ended up being just fine, thanks to a college education and having a job, I can easily see where I would have floundered. I am glad I stuck to my plan of renting because my husband and I simply could not have afforded to live where we want to live or could have made some of the life decisions we’ve made (career changes, paying off consumer debt, saving for long-term travel). Back in the early 2000s when I graduated from college, it was just what you did and I was one of the few who questioned WHY. Now I’m glad I did. Also, there was a great article in, I believe, the NY Times about how BAD of an investment a house, especially primary residence, can be. It’s a rare thing for someone to buy in an area that grows more than a traditional investment, like mutual funds. Now I have a sizeable investment in my retirement fund and no consumer or housing debt. I’m pretty happy with my decisions.

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Dana May 16, 2013 at 2:23 PM

A house you live in is not an investment. Any time I hear someone pontificating about how bad an investment one’s own home is, I know not to listen to them about any other financial matter because they couldn’t even get that basic thing right. I’m referring to the NYT writer here, not you, by the way.

It is sad and pathetic when people find themselves thinking this way, when even the clothes on your back and the roof over your head are supposed to bring you Wall Street riches. No, that’s not the way life is supposed to work. Step back a bit, look in the mirror, observe that you are a human being and not an ATM machine. Take a deep breath.

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J.G or IHeartTravel April 25, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Totally agree with this Adam. For years I had this notion of the “American Dream” it involved you guessed it owning a home. I has this infatuation with owning this part of the American Dream but I never really assessed why.

They why came from everyone else’s notion of what the American dream is, have a family, get married, have children, buy a nice home. Well something happened in life, and I was finally look at this objective from a perspective that was all my own.

I am now 100% for renting a home or apartment. It gives me the flexibility to save money, and travel (which is a must in my life!). I do not care to be tied down, and a mortgage would have me in that “cage” you speak of.

This should be a must read post for many people in this country!

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Rich April 25, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Good writeup. The best argument for renting over buying is you have more time. When I owned I spent every weekend doing repairs, mowing lawns, working in the garden, cleaning etc… When renting you have to clean, but you’re usually in a smaller space so it’s easy and done, and then you’re off for the weekend.

I used to pay what I call the ‘Home Depot Tax’. It seemed as though every weekend I was in Home Depot or Lowes buying something! That’s one of the hidden costs of ownership as you say above. There are so many other potentially huge expenses too – furnishing a larger space, redoing a kitchen or bathroom, replacing a roof, repainting the house. It’s far more expensive than just PMI.

Also, as apartments are generally smaller your utilities are smaller too. Depending on where you live the amount can be dramatic.

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nosirrahg April 25, 2012 at 10:42 AM

I saw a current infographic online the other day (if I could find it I’d post a link, but not having any luck), which quoted stats from some government organization, which said you should be able to afford a house worth 3x your annual salary. If that were the case, my family would be living in a house almost 3x what our current house is worth, which would be INSANE to us! There’s no way I’d feel comfortable buying a house that expensive, yet people do it every day, which has put us as a country in the situation we’re in. I think the 25% of take-home pay mentioned here, which includes ALL related housing costs, is much more realistic; the problem is it’s harder to figure since you don’t know how much utilities, taxes, etc. are in many cases going in.

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Wojo April 25, 2012 at 10:59 AM

I have not made a decision either way (rent vs. buy) yet, but here is some food for thought:

- As John already mentioned, all of the expenses you outline for owning a home are paid by the landlord when you rent. Unless the landlord wants to lose money, you can be sure that your rent price is already paying for these expenses. So in a way, renting is a form of “insurance” in that the cost and risk of repairs and expenses is spread among all of the tenants (unless you rent a home, in which case it will eventually be passed down to you). I think much of the difference in expenses can be attributed to most people “renting” apartments and “buying” homes. Single family homes have tremendous maintenance requirements.

- After 30 years (or shorter, if you accelerate your repayment), your P+I payment ceases to exist. This is a huge incentive for me for my “old age” when I don’t want to be burdened with excessive living expenses.

- Finally, while the cost of rent will go up with inflation over the next 30 years, my loan payment will remain identical.

Like I said, I’m undecided either way, but there are some big benefits to buying that I’m not willing to write off.

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TLK April 26, 2012 at 2:54 PM

When you get to your old age, you will find that the living expenses at your home will change. You no longer will be able to mow your own lawn, do extensive yard work, replace the fence, paint the exterior, etc. The cost of your mortgage goes down, but the cost of repairs and upkeep increase. If you are lucky you will end up dying in your home. Lucky because the cost of assisted living is ridiculous, and nursing home costs can add up so fast that your head will spin. Your home may be viewed as an asset, but from experience I can tell you that your homes equity can be spent in a short time if you are in need of medical help.

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Lori April 25, 2012 at 11:03 AM

I live in So Cal and have been trying to find an apartment in the town I presently live in.
The cheapest 2 bed, 1 bath I can find is $1150 per month, which is more than half of my take home pay. I can actually afford a small condo where the payment and the HOA is less than that.

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Bobbi Shaftoe April 25, 2012 at 11:25 AM

When we sold our house last year we got a check for $86000. Wow! We made money! Right, until I added up all the money we put into the house over the nine years of homeownership. Not just PITI but the Home Depot tax, pool repairs, major appliance replacement, upgrades, lawn care, alarm system, etc. I also deducted the tax benefit we got for paying mortgage interest.

When all was tallied, I calculated that it cost us >$2000/month to live in that house. If we’d rented, we could have lived in a similar house without all the hassle of maintenance. That convinced me to try renting for awhile in the much more expensive market to which we moved.

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Arit- HowToBookATrip April 25, 2012 at 11:27 AM

This is such a refreshing article to read. I actually saw your Facebook post about it being ok to rent and I loved it too. I’ve been married for about a year and a half and I feel like everyone expects us to buy a house and “settle down.” We’ve moved a lot just within Chicago and we love that we can do that and experience different areas of the city. Plus, I have crazy student loan debt. I’ve never heard anyone say that you should be debt free before buying, it’s all about borrow borrow borrow and that’s SUCH a bad idea. I don’t know if we’ll ever buy a home, the crushing responsibility of a commitment like that is just too much.

Also, THANK YOU for addressing the “you’re throwing away money” thing! Honestly, after seeing what a few friends and my mother have gone through with upkeep and taxes and all that other stuff, only to sell their homes at a loss, it just proves more and more to me that renting isn’t necessarily about throwing money away, and can be (and often is) a really sound decision.

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Amanda April 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Hey Baker! Eric and I just signed a 6-month lease for a furnished 2-bedroom condo here in Denver (we needed flexibility and found a great deal). The amount of rental properties in this city seems extremely saturated (both privately owned or professionally owned/managed). I’d love to hear your thoughts sometime about what type of market and house/condo seem ideal to “buy with great potential to rent out” :) Thanks for a great read!

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Eric April 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

I couldn’t agree more. A few years ago, during the height of the bubble, I was looking for places to buy. The terms of the mortgages I was looking at just didn’t seem right (no money down? really? 40 years?), and I didn’t like that the houses I was looking at were so much further away from work than my rental. I decided to pass and I stopped looking at houses. It turned out it was one of the best decisions I ever made because a year later I quit my job and started my own business. There’s no way I would have been able to do that if all my funds had been tied up in a house. Now, all the houses in that area are underwater. So this many years later, I would be miserable because I’d still be working at a job I hate to pay for a house that no longer has any value.

The same could be said for business owners. I currently rent a studio from a producer that used to have his company based here, but moved the company to a larger city. He’s now renting the space out to people like me, but I’m pretty sure he’s losing money on it every month. The space is only about half occupied.

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Anne Cloward April 25, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Like you said, buying a home isn’t for everyone.
I have owned several houses in the past, but rented for a long time, selling my last home in 2006, just before the bubble burst. I was living in Minnesota and knew I would leave one day, wanting to spend my time around my family who lived or were moving to one location in Portland OR. We felt that this is the place we would put down roots and live for a long time. I am a widow and wanted to be near my children and grandchildren.
We took time to get to know the area, and in 2010, my one son and I were renting an apartment, and my other son was renting also. I suddenly became disabled at the age of 65, and had to live on SS and disability benefits. So it made sense for us to combine our resources and see what we could do. After months and months of searching, we found a wonderful six bedroom home, a foreclosure, in excellent shape, at half the market price. We moved in as soon as the financing came through. It’s large enough that we each have our “own” space. We split the payment and other expenses. I keep the common living areas up. We love to entertain and enjoy the neighborhood, and throw parties for them at least four times a year. We live on a third acre with hundred old trees, which feels like our own private forest. Yes, it is more expensive than renting, but it meets our needs better than the apartments did. I have two grandchildren who are here part time, and they have their “own” rooms also.
I know ownership can be a burden for many people, but finding this lovely place where I am safe and taken care of, where we share our hospitality with friends and family, and are already reaping the beginnings of the upswing in the market, works for us. Both of my sons have steady employment and our combined income allows us to be more flexible with our resources. Our plans include buying some rental property in the future and use that as another source of income. Again, this is a long term strategy that may not happen for another five years. For right now, we love our base here, our home.

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Robin April 25, 2012 at 11:48 AM

We chose an option you did not mention. I lease\optioned my home. Shortly before my wife and I married, we located a rental in a good area and offered the owner a lease option deal. We got to “rent” with a portion of each month’s payment going toward our down payment and our purchase price agreed to at the start of the lease. During the lease, every improvement we made raised the value of the home and when we completed the purchase we were already ahead. Even when the market collapsed, the value of our home never came near our mortgage. We knew we planned to stay here for at least 20 years (getting children through school) and we have no credit card debt, with only a few thousand between a student loan and a HELOC. There are benefits to home ownership if you are responsible with your finances.

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Deane April 25, 2012 at 12:03 PM

I’m ecstatic that you are spreading the word about this. I was a homeowner for almost 30 years. I’ve also been a real estate investor for longer than that. So trust me, I know a few things about houses, markets, and why people buy and sell houses.
I don’t regret having owned my own home when I did. However, we’re empty-nesters and my husband and I want FREEDOM more than anything.

We’re renting in Tucson where the housing market really tanked, which works out great for us. We’re living exactly where we want to be for a song. My husband particularly loves calling the landlord when we have an issue instead of being the landlord! LOL

I’ve seen Tucson called one of the worst housing markets in the country. I’m stunned at how many very intelligent people I meet here who bought their house at the height of the frenzy and paid twice of what their house is worth now. Some of these retired folks will never recover the value of their house in their lifetime. Plus they are stuck here.

It is said that 16% of houses in Tucson are vacant, looking for buyers or renters. If anyone wants to live where there is 350 days of sunshine per year – come on down! I LOVE it here! :)

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Victoria P. April 25, 2012 at 12:13 PM

I think you might have been traveling through my brain when you wrote this one. :) We are looking at a possible transfer to another state for my husband’s job, which means selling the house we currently own. One of our big stresses is what to do if the transfer comes through this summer. In order to avoid tax consequences from the First Time Homebuyer Credit, we have to hold the house as our primary residence for three years, which we don’t hit until October. This leaves us with the potential choice between taking a tax hit and living apart until at least October. Even without the tax concern, it is unlikely that we will “make” anything from the sale of the house once I factor in maintenance and upgrade costs.
As we look for our next housing situation, I think you’ve just persuaded me to rent, at least until we get our student loans paid off and are sure we’ll be staying put for the long(er)-term.
Thanks for the great article, and I love seeing increased content on the site!

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JC April 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Just my $0.02 having been there done that. I will never get a mortgage ever again. I may decide to be a property owner, but it will be cash on the barrel.

Having owned two houses since 2000 and rented two houses since 2008, RENTING is the only way to fly, until you have the ability to finance your purchase without outside help.

Our first purchase (bought in 2000 sold in 2003) in Florida on paper showed a “30%” growth in our “investment”…until three years later we factored in how much we paid in maintenance and upgrades. True Net: -5% loss

Without fully analyzing that fictitious “increase” in our capital at the time, we immediately chose to double-down into a larger house and 50% larger mortgage…That “investment” lost 1/2 the capital AND all upgrade and maintenance expenses when we sold in 2008 for a job relocation. The monthly true “expense” math says, if we had rented in the same area instead of buying, we could have doubled the size of our house and land and been break-even at worst.

Sadly in 2008, we at least came out 1/2 whole. We had friends selling at the same time who had to take out a bridge loan when they sold for less than they owed. Making payments on a house they didn’t own anymore.

The ever-present “follow up your dreams, be a homeowner” propaganda since Fannie & Freddie Mae were created has locked Americans into servicing debt, while maintaining and upgrading someone else’s property.

Keeping folks mentally and financially chained to a geographic area limits their opportunity and forces them to accept the slow erosion of liberty and their working capital. Sorta of makes me feel like a rental car to the entire system…ridden hard and put up wet.

Take Care from Sublette County Wyoming,
J.C.

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Kayla April 25, 2012 at 12:43 PM

A little story on expectations, house-purchase, and how everything changes quick!! Hope you don’t mind:

When Steven bought our house in 1994, it was long before anyone came into his life. He was a confirmed bachelor, made great money, wanted a house just a few miles from his parents and his grandmother’s homes, and had no debt. He paid for his college by working various jobs, graduated with no loans to pay for, and went on to have a lucrative job. He was very careful with his money, budgeted everything, and kept his costs minimal. I fully believe the house would have been paid off.

It’s 2012 and he’s basically had to start over with paying this house off.

His first wife caught him by surprise in 1996 – 8 (can’t remember for sure). They married, he adopted her little girl, and went on to have three more children together. She began with the credit cards, maxing it out. They initially had joint account, which Steven immediately changed to separate accounts. She insisted on large, expensive trips to visit her family (thousands of miles away). She would buy a car, get bored with it, and either sell/trade for another, while still having to pay them off. She began a small daycare that they both invested large chunks of money into, which Steven worked 24/7 to do in his real job. She never got in touch with inspector folks until the last minute, and the house she bought for the daycare was no go, so the daycare crumbled. They incurred so much debt that Steven took a home equity loan against the house. She churned up student loans for special education career (that she is no longer employed in), while Steven’s parents also pitched in to help pay for her college.

In between 2003 – 2007, they declared bankruptcy. 2008, they separated. 2009, they divorced. Now, I’m Steven’s fiance. With very limited income and several months of his being laid off for a while (he just recently got back on the horse, so to speak!), we’re slowly working through all this debt. Muddling through, actually. This house has been home to his kids and it’s home for us, so we are fighting the best we can. My goal is to pay off this house and it’s a responsibility I decided to take on. But I can’t help thinking… wow, this could have been handled lots better!!

Steven *did* live by those new set of rules back in the day! It’s crazy, though, how things can still get messed up so badly. So, add another rule! Be on the same page with your spouse if you plan to marry and have your house. ;)

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Julie April 25, 2012 at 1:18 PM

In general, I think this article makes some great points. I agree that most people that buy a home should not consider it an investment..unless they treat it like an investment in the beginning. I own my home, but here’s the difference…when I decided I wanted to purchase a home I had to take some things into consideration. First, I get paid on commission and didn’t really want to have a huge mortgage payment. Second, I get bored and like to move A LOT. What I ended up purchasing was a 4 unit multifamily building. I rent out 3 of the units (which pay for my mortgage and utilities) and I live in the 4th. Also, I know that when I get cabin fever and want to move on I can rent out my unit and make some passive income.

So, I think buying and living in multifamily properties is the way to go! I get the freedom of being able to paint my walls and put in new flooring, renovate my kitchen (all which I have done) and still have the freedom to move if I want (and add to my bottom line at the same time!)

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager April 25, 2012 at 1:41 PM

I got a little nervous when I saw this post. I just bought my first home and am currently in the process of making it habitable (two rotten bathrooms).

That being said, I absolutely love my house. It’s perfect for me. While I’m not sure I’ll always live in PDX, I am sure I want it to be my homebase. I can grow into this house and rent it to the local Reedies if need be. Definitely lots of options and flexibility. I’m just happy to be in the process of making it my own.

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Rachel April 25, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Hello – Love your blog, really love your podcast (wish there were more episodes to enjoy). I have a question. Im a somewhat recent graduate and I have some consumer debt and student loans. It is my goal to pay off my consumer debt (almost there :) and to get a house while I still have those student loas (they will take years to pay off unfortunately). We want to buy a house with apartments in it and live in one while renting the other(s). Is this a bad idea? I’m not really understanding why its such a bad idea to get a house loan with student loands – besides the obvious of adding to your debt and the possibility of getting in over your head. So my question is why is it bad to get a house with student loans? (assume it wont kill the budget and that I have no consumer debt). Please + Thank you!

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Julie April 25, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Hi Rachel,

I have student loans and own a property with 3 other apartments attached. I rent out those units and it covers my mortgage and utilities. I think this is a great option for someone trying to pay off their other debt. Your expenses are so much lower without a rent or mortgage payment and you can put that extra money toward your current debt. Also, having a good record of current student loan payments can actually help your credit score! Email Mike Kirsch: mkirsch@ffsmortgages.com he helped me with my property and all of my finances.

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Rachel April 25, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Great post! My husband and I bought a home because we plan on staying put for awhile. Some things I’ll add to the discussion for folks who are leaning towards the “buy a home” camp.

-Don’t break the bank! Just because you get approved for $300K mortgage doesn’t mean you need to spend that much on a house. Do your math – factor in the quality of life expenses when deciding how much you WANT to spend each month. Not just how much the bank or credit union tells you you can afford. We were approved for almost $100K more than we spent on our home. And our mortgage (plus tax and insurance) is a little less than what we were paying to rent when we bought our house six years ago.

-Leverage your house for travel! When we bought, we chose a neighborhood near a college because there’s always a demand by visiting professors for short term rentals and house swaps. My husband is a teacher and we knew this would enable us to spend summers, sabbaticals and school breaks in other cities without spending much money on housing. I know other home owners who rent out rooms or do shorter term house swaps.

-Make your real estate agent your ally. We formed a good relationship with ours – she’s always happy to give us recs for contractors when we need home improvement. And name-dropping her seems to get us great rates. But – always get at least 3 estimates before choosing a contractor! She also has been great about helping us think through our ROI on home upgrades. When we thought about an expensive front porch add-on, she was there to show us why it would be a very poor investment.

-So, you’re not the second coming of Schnieder! Decide how much you’re willing to take on yourself. We are not fixer-upper folks at our house so we bought a house that was move in ready. To date, repairs have been minor and any projects we’ve done on our own have been (relatively) fun. Get creative with barters, free work shops, etc. I have done social media marketing and strategy for a musician who’s also a contractor in exchange for his time.

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Brigitte April 25, 2012 at 3:39 PM

Totally agree! In fact, I’m a bit more conservative. I don’t think you should buy unless you plan to stay for 10 years or longer. Five years isn’t sufficient to weather a bad economy (as I’m learning first-hand).

My husband works for a major bank. His attitude?

When you have a mortgage, you’re still renting. From the bank.

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Rebecca April 25, 2012 at 3:55 PM

I have been so far a life long renter since before I was out of college once I was on my own. Now that I have a family the not exactly need but, perhaps wanting of a home has gotten more prominent especially with a husband who wants a home. I am not sure I want one truth be told, just because I had a friend who was in the process of selling her home so she could move back to NOLA pre Katrina when the basement flooded and since she was in between it being sold. She had to pay for the damage and the mess and getting it all fixed up again. So it was a lot more expensive than she wanted. Since then my same friend has never wanted to own a home again. Cant say as I blame her. Now I am not opposed to having a home that is less than or about 900 sq. ft. where I can hopefully garden and maybe have some things grow. I cant where I am currently living due to the fact that once it rains our yard is more suited to growing rice no joke.

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Jason Poe April 25, 2012 at 3:56 PM

My wife and I decided that we need to move closer to our jobs. However, we have been living in apartments our entire 10 year marriage. We are struggling with deciding whether to rent or buy a home. It feels like it is more of an emotional decision than a financial decision. Economically, it doesn’t make sense for anyone to buy. And we live in Florida, where the housing market is one of the worst in the nation. Just not sure what should be the deciding factor in what to do.

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Brent Pittman April 25, 2012 at 3:56 PM

I agree, The “American Dream” needs to change. What if the “American Dream” was to have a “happy, healthy, non-socially awkward family” or “live your passions”? I bet we’d have a different country than a current dream which is to to attain a certain amount of wealth and comfortability. Thanks for stirring the pot a bit.

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Honolulu Aunty April 25, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Aloha and mahalo for another great article with pros and cons.

One of the other advantages of renting is the ability to just pick up and leave if you don’t like the house or the area (i.e. noisy neighbors, parking problems, etc.) and (hopefully) be able to find a better place that will accept you as a tenant.

However – as someone who used to rent, currently own, and now in acquisition of rental income properties – I love owning our own place, because I am able to do what I want, when I want and in control of costs the way I want with a place that I can sell or rent if I decide to move.

I admire Rachel and Julie. These are 2 young ladies with college debts, yet, instead of burrowing in and doing the Suze Orman route of eliminating all debt and remaining debt free, they are thinking out of the box – and have or are thinking of owning property with multi-units that can be rented out while living in one of the units. Their tenants help pay the costs of ownership. In that case, who is the wiser – Rachel and Julie, or their tenants?

However, these 2 ladies are not the norm. Most people who plan to own their own home want to start off with a single family home or condo and thus bear all the expenses, when they might be better off renting at a price less then the home costs, especially at first. I believe starting off the Rachel and Julie way is one of the best ways of home ownership, which can later be “upgraded” to their own home with less financial burden.

Just Aunty’s two cents. Most people do rent in Hawaii because of our high cost of real estate, but everyone wants to own their own piece of paradise here.

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Rachel April 25, 2012 at 4:42 PM

We’ve both rented and owned in our six years of marriage and there are positives (and negatives) to both.

Renting is great since you’re not responsible for maintenance, everything from leaking faucets to cutting the grass {those are the ‘hidden’ costs you don’t really think about when purchasing a home!} Owning is nice because it’s yours and you can customize your space and build some equity.

I think it just depends on your financial/life situation at to what is the best thing to do. Having at least a 20% downpayment and purchasing an affordable home can be wise if you know you’re going to be in that area for awhile. If you don’t have a nice downpayment or if you like the flexibility of moving to another area, it’s definitely best to rent.

With all that said, we currently own a home that we put 20% down on and hope to pay off within 7 to 10 years and plan to be in this area for 10 years plus. But when it comes to having to pay for the gas to mow our grass, I’m often wishing we just rented! :)

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Jennifer Lesher April 25, 2012 at 5:04 PM

You make great points regarding finances. The problem is, it’s almost impossible to find a place that lets us have ANY pets. I always want to have 1-2 cats. I”m not asking for the moon. I would never keep a cat that peed in the house. Before we bought our present home I checked out a rental that said we could have pets, and the place stunk like wet dogs inside. I once had a renter share my home after I divorced and her stupid cat did pee in my house!!! So I understand why renters don’t want pets, but they are a big part of my quality of life. I have rented, I have owned, and I am way happier when I own. But of course, I have not had trouble paying my mortgage. I always buy LESS than I can afford.

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Jaime April 25, 2012 at 6:58 PM

I love renting! There’s a freedom about it that I wouldn’t trade for anything. If I get the urge to move, I just pack up my things and go.

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Marsha S. April 25, 2012 at 7:44 PM

I’m a homeowner at 48 years old. After a divorce in 2002 with one child, I rented until I could afford a home. My advice is pay off debts, have only 1 or 2 credit cards with small limits and very low balances and build your credit score. The less debt makes mortgage payments affordable. The higher credit score gives a lower interest rate. Try to make an extra payment a year towards principle which reduces the mortgage term by 9/10 years. That was surprising ! I made sure to buy a reasonably priced home in an exclusive neighborhood. Quiet, beautiful, upscale neighborhoods always increase in value. I was blessed to find an end unit townhome with very low HOA fees. I feel as if I got a steal of a deal because I purchased the home for $60-$80,000 less than original purchase price. I recommend buying over renting but when you can afford it. Don’t buy just because. Seek the best deal and the best payments for you. Renting was okay during the years when I needed to rent but it does seem like money wasted. The other negative was worrying about who would be moving into the neighborhood and price hikes each year. Being tied into yearly contracts was worrisome as well and thoughts of moving after being settled. My vote is BUY a home/townhome that you LOVE and can AFFORD when the TIME is right for YOU.

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chuck April 25, 2012 at 9:26 PM

Long story short, I have been paying over 1,500 for 25+ years in mortgage. Now I am underwater and struggle to live. I wish I could do it all over again!!!

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Michell April 25, 2012 at 9:45 PM

One of the things that always strikes me about the “throwing money away” argument is the disregard for and overlooking of the fact that when you rent, you are paying to meet a basic human need…shelter. Renting is no more “throwing money away” than buying food is wasting your money. It meets a basic need, and when you either do not have the capability, or the preference to grow your own food, you buy it from someone else. The same is true of renting.

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RE April 25, 2012 at 9:45 PM

I’ve been renting for the last 6 years. I graduated college ~4 years ago. I loved renting up until a few months ago. That was until I was evicted! We had paid rent on time for 3 1/2 years every month, hardly bothered the landlord (since he rarely did anything). Then one day a notice to get out, did even talk to us, just a notice on the door. Apparently the wife of our landlord wanted to move the mother into our place (never mind she was only being moved 10 minutes closer to where they live). So we got the boot, and the kicker is when we finally left, the old lady refused to move. I could have felt some sweet justice if the place had staid vacant, but never mind a new renter was in there a month later.

Anyhow, what I realized is I don’t have a home. I have a place I rent, and until I own (which I still can not afford to do) I will never have a home. What’s the point in making that garden, or doing all those little thinks to make it ‘homey’ if you can get the boot next month. Haven’t completely unpacked, not sure if I will.

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Lani July 25, 2013 at 5:00 PM

So sad! That’s the downside of renting. As a renter, I found it helpful to familiarize myself with my state’s renter’s laws. Also, I check out ratemylandlord.com. It’s far from comprehensive, but it’s a start.

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Ouida Vincent April 25, 2012 at 10:56 PM

To the extent that we all have to live some place and that costs money, renting is not the same as throwing money away. Buying things that you don’t need and will never use is throwing money away. I bought my first home a little over 20 years ago, I became an accidental landlord when I couldn’t sell the property. I ultimately sold that property at a loss. I was not cut out to be an accidental long distance landlord. Initially the mortgage payment was half of my take home pay and making that payment was tough. Always consider your take home pay when considering what a mortgage payment will do to your monthly finances. You will actually qualify for your loan based on gross income, so aim to buy a home for less than the maximum amount you qualify for. The best piece of advice I ever got about owning a home came from a mortgage broker who reminded me that I should think of a home as a roof over my head rather than as an investment. I do own my current home. My PITI are less than 10% of my take home pay. My home is modest and I love it! I use the cost difference between what I own and what I can afford to own and invest in rental real estate. Home ownership is not for everyone. Part of the mess we are in stems from the fact that as a society we began to treat home ownership as a right of passage into adulthood and the easy money available between 2004 and the bust made it easy to treat homeownership as an entitlement.

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Sarina April 26, 2012 at 12:30 AM

Oh my goodness Baker, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! I too am not anti-home ownership, it all depends on what you are up to. This American Dream is not an idea meant to produce cookie cut out results and there is no one way of feeling like you are living it. It is far more malleable than we give it credit for and homeownership is not MANDATORY. As someone who views my very scaled down rented home as a launch pad or home base for me to see the rest of the world and even my own city, a mortgage and all the responsibilities of homeownership would be a massive FREEDOM CRUSHER and would steal all the resources (money, time, mobility…) I’d used to travel, take some very fun class, etc. I’m convinced I have no wrinkles as a result of less stress from not owning a home before it’s time ;-) I’m also convinced that what had become the normalcy of purchasing a home ridiculously and laughably beyond your needs and means was latched onto the ORIGINAL American Dream by whomever would profit. Much like the renting a home is “throwing money away” argument. Thanks again!

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freakqnc April 26, 2012 at 1:03 AM

Thanks for the interesting article Adam I’d have topic related things to post though it’d be far too long of a discussion and for having nobody read it isn’t worth taking the time to write a huge comment here.

That said I was wondering (off-topic) if you would entertain the possibility to record articles rather rather than or in addition to writing. I assume you have a laptop and you would not need additional hardware to record what you write and post it as a podcast or a simple streaming mp3… that would help whose of us who could multitask and continue to work while listening to the articles you post on your blog… thanks!

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Lucille April 26, 2012 at 5:14 AM

Adam….thank you for presenting a balanced picture. My issue is that I like to rent but my family of teens don’t. They feel that I’m opting for instability. I’ve had a mortgage since the age of 22 and I’m now 48. Don’t feel I ‘ve had much of a life except for being responsible, paying bills, doing repairs etc. I’m in the UK and renting is seen as throwing money down the drain (or in the direction of your landlord!!). Houses acquire equity so buying is seen as the right thing to do. I have equity that I’ll never see ‘cos I live in my house and can’t make it pay. Hoping to get out of this trap once my teens are at uni….until then I’ll pay and pay and pay….!!

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Freedom | Rethinking the Dream April 26, 2012 at 7:15 AM

It’s not to late to go back to renting! We owned a house for 10 years, and finally got fed up with the expense of it. Electricity was $400 a month, water was $150 to $200 a month, gas for my commute was $350 a month, taxes, insurance, maintenance… the costs went on and on. The final straw for us was paying $800 for new sod after the bugs ate up our yard. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather spend 800 dollars on than buying grass.

One day I realized that it didn’t have to be that way. We had chosen to buy a house and we could unchoose it. We sold our 4 bedroom 3 bath house for less than we bought it for, in favor of a rented 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment. We’ve had our share of challenges and emotional ups and downs, but we are in a better place now. For the first time in our lives we are financially stable. We have a rapidly growing bank account, and we have the freedom to spend on experiences and activities that enrich our lives.

We’re documenting the entire process on our blog as we go. We started with a big purge to get rid of all the junk we accumulated, then we went through the home selling process, and now we are getting adjusted to apartment living.

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irisrobin April 26, 2012 at 10:36 AM

To me it seems like owning a home is a forced savings account. If you think about it…. I would rather hold on to my money, be in control of it rather than a mortgage company. The only time when you can get your money out or back is by pulling a second on it or selling the home and hopefully it would have appreciated.

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Jenny April 26, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Own a home? I can’t even commit to what country I’ll be living in two years from now.
And homeownership is not exactly legal for foreigners in Thailand. There are gray options.
Not something I’m willing to risk here even if that is what I wanted.

The housing bubble is not merely a US phenomenon, it’s just that many others haven’t popped yet, and so go under reported. It’s not just an ‘American dream’ to own a home or otherwise ‘invest’ in real estate. But it is misguided in many circumstances.

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Toni April 26, 2012 at 1:20 PM

I couldn’t have read this at a better time! After a life-changing trip to Africa, I realised that travelling the world and writing about it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life but have been struggling with the concept of not owning a home, that I will have nothing to ‘pass on’ etc etc. I am struggling to tell myself that owning a house is what society tells me is the right thing to do and that I don’t actually have to do it…I’m sure it’s a mantra I’m going to have to repeat to myself many times over. Thank you for helping me realise that there are a lot of good reasons to rent forever and that there is nothing with it! =)

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Sean April 26, 2012 at 4:04 PM

Mr. Baker – the further I read, the more I agreed. These are all points my wife and I have discussed. I’m going to send this post to quite a few people. Thanks for making it very clear.

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idreamofdownsizing April 26, 2012 at 6:45 PM

We ran all the numbers for our situation not too long ago and are working on a plan to get our house sold and become renters for at least a year. If we do buy again we’ll be well within your basic guidelines.

We’re actually in a good place financially now. We put 20% down when we bought and our payment is less than 25% of our monthly income, but there are so many other expenses and it takes so much of our time.

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T.C. Strait April 26, 2012 at 7:06 PM

Anyone considering buying a house should have to read this article. As a loan officer, I try and educate first time home buyers on all that comes with home ownership, namely the unexpected costs. It never fails, at least once a year I have a client call me a few months or even years after they purchased their home and they are regretting it. I am going to bookmark this article, to send to first time home buyers that contact me.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything, it would certainly serve as an eye opener.

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Julie W April 26, 2012 at 9:34 PM

My husband and I have rented for almost 23 years now. We have been blessed to have a wonderful Landlord who doesn’t bat at eye at repairs or general upkeep. We have been able to build a deck in our backyard, plant trees, etc etc etc! A new farm management co has taken over in the last 4 months and nothing has changed. They know we love living here, we take care of the house and grounds and they don’t have to go through the headache of finding someone who won’t trash the place while they are living here or when they decide to leave. Sometimes we look back and think, “Yeah, we should own our own home” but then the realities of taxes, upkeep and everything else you mentioned kicks in and we are quite content to keep on keepin’ on! A lot of people we have spoken with over the years agree with us, when you have a good gig, don’t fire the band! Thanks for a great article!

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Mads Phikamphon April 27, 2012 at 3:43 AM

Awesome post. Wish I had read it a few years ago, before we brought our home.

A few weeks ago I found out that we would save close to $30/day if we had stayed in our small, rented apartment instead of buying a home.

That’s a lot of money when you add it up ($900/month…). More money than I think it’s worth to have a bigger apartment in a slightly better location.

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Rose April 27, 2012 at 7:46 AM

I would have never been able to fully grasp the point you’re making back when we were out shopping for our home. We were so young, and adamantly believed it was “an investment” and that we could make it work. I should’ve listened to my parents! Now, 7 years later, we’re getting ready to sell because our debt has become too much to bear. And guess what…our “investment” doesn’t seem to have come through for us. I’m trying to stay positive, with hope that we’ll come out ahead, but my agent says we’ll be lucky to break even. And we bought a very modest, affordable, small home! You’re right. Take it slow. Think it through. And then think it through again. After owning a home (that I absolutely love!), I now long for flexibility and freedom from this huge debt.

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Jonathan Welford April 27, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Owning my own home was a huge priority for me, so at 21 years old I bought my own place, the key factor for me was I wanted a roof over my head and security. I worked liked crazy to clear off the debt. Yes I had a mortgage but I wanted that clear as soon as possible. Working in a banking background I could have borrowed much much more but I kept myself steady, I was a single guy, what was the point of getting a large house for one, I got a home I could grow into, and when the property market exploded I upscaled, but with each jump actually reduced my mortgage! I renovated sold at a premium then bought a wreck and did the process all over again. In total I did it 13 times, the last time I bought a lifestyle pad in the city, where I lived for 7 happy years and now a married man with a dog we have a lovely home in a very lovely area and no mortgage. At 39 years old I have been mortgage free for 3 years (I feel like I am at the debtors equivalent of AA!)

I commend Baker and his enthusiasm for renting, yes in the short term it’s sensible, and yes regarding your main residence as an ‘investment’ is not advisable. However, and this is a big However, rents are a constant expense and if you are working then you can afford that chunk of money going out each month, however, this is where the big however comes in. What happens when you retire? will your pension allow you to live where you are, or will you have to move into a far cheaper and not as pleasant location? That was my key worry and motivating factor on buying.

We travelled the world last year, living overseas, and renting was the choice we enjoyed, we knew it was a needed cost and factored that into our budget, and for that means it worked, and for people who are working on a career plan that could take you all over the country or on temporary contracts then the burden of a mortgage is not a nice thing to have and the cost of selling up and re-buying a home is huge cost.

But for me owning works for me, I now have the choice of being flexible in what I do for a living as I know my outgoings are just restricted to running a car and paying utilities. In the UK a mortgage/rent is on average 40-54% of your monthly salary then you have utility bills on top, I feel so sorry for the generations of people behind me, there is so much stress and financial burden, and I personally don’t know how things will pan out in the future.

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Annie April 27, 2012 at 1:46 PM

This article has a lot of relevant posts for the person who buys into the 30-year mortgage nonsense. Most times it IS cheaper and better to rent than it is to tie yourself down for THAT amount of time – there is NO WAY I would spend so much ($100,000 or whatever) on a home – it just isn’t worth it to be a slave to the mortgage company for that long.

One can buy a cute little place in the country for less than $20,000 if you know how to look – I have one friend who paid $5,000 for his home and his nephew just paid $10,000 for his place just a couple of years ago. Around here there are lots of places for sale under $20,000 – if you know how to look. I traded my furniture and a small cash outlay for the last mobile home I lived in and only had to pay lot rent though I currently rent a house until I find the perfect little home to purchase.

If you buy cheap and do a little work you can have a nice home on a shoestring with NO 30 year mortgage – that is the route I prefer. The work isn’t that hard – I’m a girl and I can do a lot of it by myself very easily, so that isn’t an excuse. You just have to grab a book and figure out how to do what it is you need to do.

Anyway I just wanted to point out that option – and the fact that a lot of “extra” expenses on your list would still be there if you rent because you still have to furnish the place (and provide appliances in some units), pay your utilites, take care of the yard, etc. whether you rent or own in many cases.
Peace, Annie at Annienygma.com

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Kim April 27, 2012 at 2:17 PM

My husband and I bought our first house five years ago and we just sold it last summer. We live in Portland, Oregon where people are flocking. We figured buying a piece of Portland would be a good investment. We lost $10,000.

I loved owning the home at first, and it was a good experience, but will we ever do it again? No. Owning a home ties you down to one place and makes you fearfully dependent on your job. I used to have nightmares about getting laid off and losing the house.

We sold the house because we decided to follow our dream of traveling the world. We moved into an apartment and began adding more and more money to our savings account each month. Our lease is up at the end of May and we are setting out to travel indefinitely. We will be completely free and tied to nothing. We couldn’t have done this with a mortgage.

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alba October 27, 2012 at 3:46 PM

Portland Has been one of the hardest hit housing markets. I rented a condo there, they bought it in 2007 for $260,000 (a 2 bedroom condo), I rented it for a year in 2010, the value had sunk to $98,000. They couldn’t give those condos away. AND they were building brand new ones down the street and marketing them for $200,000 ! SAME condos! I almost bought a house there, brand new, when the appraisal came in it came in $60,000 under the price. Builder had a fit, but I got out of it. Six months later, he sold it for $60,000 under the price I was contracted at. Housing is cheap there now. You were lucky you could sell.

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Aaron April 27, 2012 at 3:51 PM

This post is awesome. I have to admit, there are many times when I wish I had a house, but renting right now is the only smart investment to make for us. We are saving a lot of money by renting a small house instead of going out and buying something we can’t afford.

The idea of buying being the “smartest” investment is quite flawed, one that most people tell themselves in order to get over the hump of realizing just how much money they will be spending on a mortgage.

Also, with renting, comes freedom. People think buying a home gives them the most freedom to do things, but it ends up tying them down and spending more money to fill a place out with furniture and things that aren’t needed.

If and when we buy, it will be after all our debt is paid off and we have cold hard cash to put on a generous down payment. That will be quite a while from now!

Thanks again for the great reminder of how freeing it is to save money and not be worried about a mortgage and repairs every month!

Aaron

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Jonathan Welford April 28, 2012 at 9:40 AM

I’d love to be able to say you could get a property for $10,000 or even $20,000 in the UK the average house price is the equivalent of $270,0000. Unfortunately we’re a small over populated Island and space comes at a premium.

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Thumb & Hammer April 28, 2012 at 10:42 AM

The mistake a lot of homebuyers make is buying too much house instead of working up the property ladder. It is tempting to try to stretch the budget to buy a McMansion when a small bungalow is a more prudent purchase. You are much further ahead when you start small. Apply McMansion-size payments to that bungalow and you build equity a lot faster. And if your financial situation changes, you won’t have your back against the wall. The idea is to pay down the mortgage as quickly as possible– ten or fifteen years instead of twenty-five or thirty– so more of your payments go to principle than interest.

While I don’t think I could ever go back to being a renter, I acknowledge that there are risks involved with homeownership. We have uncovered a lot of mistakes by the previous owner of our house that are causing us financial distress. When I look at some of those costs, the thought of renting someone else’s money pit certainly appears more attractive.

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Karis April 28, 2012 at 12:03 PM

This post is a great message to make any current renters re-think their plan to buy a house. I strongly agree that people do not take enough time to truly consider whether it’s a good decision for their circumstances. We bought a house because we are in our 30s and everyone told us it was time to stop renting. I really wish we would have thought about whether or not it made sense for our situation. 3 years later we’ve just listed our first house for sale, and we’re going back to renting because we need the flexibility to be able to move for work.

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Philip Campbell April 28, 2012 at 1:06 PM

If homeownership is something a young graduate considers to be part of the “American Dream”, then be cautious on racking up student loans. Trying to purchase a home with student loan debt will reduce the likelihood of you qualifying for a home loan as well as the abilility to save the down payment. Freedom comes in many forms, some consider freedom to be renting while others consider it to be owning. The main key it to make sure that you have the freedom to make that choice!!!

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Andi-Roo April 28, 2012 at 7:43 PM

I never wanted to buy a house, & I should have put my foot down. My husband swore up & down that he would take care of all the maintenance, upkeep, repairs, etc. He doesn’t. My MIL, who encouraged this whole mess, swore the monthly payments would be lower than our rent. They aren’t. She swore she’d help us out with costs etc. if money became too much of an issue. She doesn’t. So here we are, five years later with a house that’s falling apart, & we’re several months behind on our payments. Our loan is through Bank of America, who is about to roll out a new program in which they release homeowners from their mortgages & switch to a rent-to-own kind of deal. We’re seriously considering looking at it. Anyone know much about it?

PS. We aren’t in credit debt, so it’s not obnoxious spending that’s our problem. We simply don’t have enough income to cover our monthly obligations (house payments, utilities, gas for the car, groceries, medical bills, etc.). I mention this so I don’t get bombarded with scorn at our sad financial plight.

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MarieinCanada May 1, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Thank you for this post. My husband and I have been getting pressure from all sides to buy now that we have a baby on the way, even though all we can afford in our overpriced city (Toronto) is a small 1-bedroom condo, and moving to the suburbs adds costs we don’t currently have, like expensive train fare and a car payment. (We don’t own a car now and don’t need one.)

The rental situation isn’t perfect: I hate feeling that any improvements we do are a waste of money. Also, we’ve just been evicted after a year, so our landlord’s daughter can move into our apartment, and have found the rental market to be much more limited than it was just a year ago. We’ll be paying significantly more per month to live in a smaller place (and we’ve lost our free/private laundry, which majorly sucks with a newborn on the way). But we’d still rather rent. It allows us to have liquid savings and put money into other types of investments when we have the surplus. We do want a house someday, but we’re waiting until we’re sure the mortgage is more than manageable. Renting also allows flexibility, which is key for us. I lost 80% of my freelance clients almost simultaneously in 2008, my husband was unemployed for 8 months in 2006 and we had to move to another city for his new job…we’re focused on being prepared for emergencies like this and not overextending.

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CM May 2, 2012 at 4:39 AM

Thank you for this article. Renting works for our family. It’s a quality of life issue. To buy a similar house at a price we could afford, I would have to live in an area that would make our commute to school and work more than an hour each way in traffic. Right now, it’s 15 to 20 minutes in traffic. I know too many people who leave home in the dark and get home in the dark. I don’t want that for my family.

I could buy in this area but would have to downsize to a much smaller home. Or pay nearly double my current rent for a similar home. Right now, my kids each have their own bedroom and our home is the right size for us. I am grateful every day to live where we do.

People say that after of years of renting, you have nothing to show for it. I disagree. My husband and I are providing a comfortable, safe place for our children to live. That’s not nothing. We have no debt, a healthy emergency fund, and are doing our best to save well for retirement and the kids’ college funds (in that order). We watch our budget carefully so that we have a comfortable life that includes a vacation each year. It’s not an extravagant life by any means, but comfortable enough not to live in financial fear as long as we steward our finances well. Maybe it’s not the American dream, but we like our life a lot. :-)

Someday, my kids will grow up and possibly move away. My husband and I may stay in this area, but then again, we may want to move closer to where one or more of our kids ends up. So our plan is that we’re saving money to pay (hopefully) cash for whatever is going to be our retirement home, and it likely won’t be a four-bedroom home like we live in now.

And I say “home” because that’s what we have, even though we rent. My mother, guilt-tripping me about renting, has said to me, “Shouldn’t your children have roots? Someplace to call their own? Don’t you want to give your children a HOME?”

I told her, “We have a home. Wherever my family is together, with love, that’s home.”

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Jeff May 2, 2012 at 1:57 PM

I am 46 and we have always rented. We are currently paying off all our debt with plans to buy a house once we are debt free. I will be doing all the research and know the numbers before we buy.

I have a question that I hope someone can answer.

If I am able to buy a home and pay it off before I retire won’t that be much cheaper than renting once I do retire? What expenses besides maintenance do you have once you fully own a house?

I like the thought of owning a home so I can do whatever I want with it, but also it will be a stable element after retirement.

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Mads Phikamphon May 2, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Taxes is an expense beside maintenance. So is heating, water, etc.

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Joe Morgan May 4, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Heating, water, etc is sometimes not included in the rent price.. i.e. you may be paying for that in addition to your rent, in which case it’s not saving any money compared to owning a house…

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alba October 27, 2012 at 3:37 PM

If you think that in retirement you WON’T want to move. If you will be happy in one place and know you will have no life changes that would make you move, then buying sounds right. The problem is, at 46 do you really know what you are going to want when you are 60/70? My parents have large home with a large yard, pool etc, they are 70 now….yes they say they like it because that’s what they’ve known since their 40s,….once a year when I visit I see them physically struggle with cleaning, yard care, pool care, etc. The house is like a child, they take care of it, giving it a face lift causes all kinds of anxiety, leaving it causes anxiety (someone might break in while they are gone). So the house seems to be controlling them. Not them controlling the house.

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Joe Morgan May 4, 2012 at 8:57 AM

This is a great article, but why does every think home ownership is the American dream? I always thought the American dream was to “make something of yourself”, that is – improve your lot in life and see that each subsequent generation of your family was better off than yours. Upward mobility, that’s the American dream.

I think home ownership was a means to that end for many generations, but people are now much more mobile than ever before, and houses are expensive for all the reasons mentioned in this post.

Somewhere along the line we got lost in the details. Parents got fixated on one part of the dream and now it’s become the end instead a means to the end.

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Jonathan Welford May 4, 2012 at 1:17 PM

The American Dream has been something the population of the UK have aspired to have for many many years, and so many people have had their fingers burned by going into property deals that have gone bad.

There is an increase of people renting, however the rents are increasing as well as the demand causes this, and now there is a massive gap between quality rented properties and what will be slums of the future. The property bubble has created a them and us situation, and it’s is quite scary.

In America you have lots of space to build, we in the UK only have a small Island with limited space. So popular areas which have all the amenities mean high rents and purchase prices and the not so desirable areas are the only other option for people, and with that a lot of social problems are shoved in a melting pot which has a knock on reaction for society as a whole.

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Jonathan Welford May 4, 2012 at 1:18 PM

There is an increase of people renting, however the rents are increasing as well as the demand causes this, and now there is a massive gap between quality rented properties and what will be slums of the future. The property bubble has created a them and us situation, and it’s is quite scary.

In America you have lots of space to build, we in the UK only have a small Island with limited space. So popular areas which have all the amenities mean high rents and purchase prices and the not so desirable areas are the only other option for people, and with that a lot of social problems are shoved in a melting pot which has a knock on reaction for society as a whole.

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mysecondchancechecking.com June 8, 2012 at 2:08 AM

Okay, now I am totally confused. Should I be looking to rent again or buy?

My landlord is losing his butt on his rental properties and has a hard time keeping them rented. I know he is trying to unload them. We have been here 2 years and my wife is now pregnant (#3) so we need to upgrade our size and have been looking at buying. We can get 100% usda financing and our payments on a nice 4 bedroom home may be about $150 more than our current rent (PITI), but now after reading this blog post I am not sure if this is worth it.

However, I am also looking at the fact that home costs are low and interest rates are low and by not buying we may be passing up an unbelievable opportunity to get a nice home in a nice neighborhood at a low cost.

Man, I am totally confused about buying now. I used to feel like I am throwing my money away and making someone else richer buy being a renter, but now I do not know what to think.

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alba October 27, 2012 at 3:09 PM

I sold my home a couple years ago. It was only 9 years old and almost paid for. But I was relocating for a job. I took all my furniture and “stuff” with me from the 4 bedroom 3000 sf house. It was part of me. And I couldn’t part with it. I hauled it at a tremendous cost to the new 1100 SF condo I rented. For the 1st 3 months I loved the condo, the location. Then I hated it. Hated the condo hated the location hated the job.

So, I found another job 9 hours away from my old house. This time, I had no more attachment to my “stuff” because it was never unboxed because the condo was too small. I hated my big furniture because I’d spent a year squeezing around it in the condo. So I sold it all. Felt liberating.

In my new location, didn’t love it at first. Rented an old 1900 house, hated it but couldn’t find anything else to rent that would ALLOW PETS, then loved it found it charming, then the charm wore off as things started not working. I love my new location, I don’t like the house, so I’m renting another house. When the lease on this house was up, I had a lot of angst because I thought I should buy a house. But it’s been 6 months and I’ve looked at probably 50 houses and I like NONE of them. Angst all 6 months ….. Then it dawned on me. I don’t want to buy a house. They are too expensive, even tho I “qualify” to buy them my anxiety was because subconsciously I knew they were all overpriced and I didn’t want to be tied into that kind of payment long term.

It dawned on me All I want is a new townhome with a small yard for the dogs and they are non-existant here close to work. So….I’m renting in a brand new duplex! When I retire, I will buy that brand new townhome away from the city. Perfect!

All that angst for nothing. A silly myth that i bought into…buy a home it’s the way to go even if the cost is exorbitant. I am totally happy renting as long as I find something that allows my dogs!.

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J. P., Illinois December 1, 2012 at 10:37 AM

I owned a home for 21 years, and gave it and the mortgage to my ex-wife at divorce. I was happy to, believe me. When I sat down with my attorney, and I itemized all of the things that I had to repair or replace, I was shocked. I spent $400,000.00 net dollars (that’s take home dollars) on a home over that time that my ex-wife is trying to desperately sell for $150,000.00 — and is getting no takers. If she does eventually sell it, the remainder of the mortgage and the real estate agent won’t leave her moving expenses. Since my divorce, I have moved into the nearly the same square footage (200 sq ft less) of a really pleasant neighborhood. My TOTAL bills each month in my rented condo are $300 less than just what my house payment alone was. So happy not to have the headaches of new roofs, furnaces, air-conditioners, water heaters, appliances, yard maintenance equipment. My life style has dramatically changed for the better. I am freer to travel, and I am saving money.

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Eva December 28, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Im soo glad I read this post. Im the big earner out of my husband and I and we always planned to buy after our daughter was born and I had a year off. Im back at work now and my daughter is 15 months and we are house hunting. But….what happens when I want another baby and want another year or so off? do we default on the mortgage? Not a good space to be in when you are wanting to enjoy our baby. I think I have decide to continue renting for a while longer and look to buy when our second (and final) baby is born and we will always have two incomes – alot safe! and great idea about getting to know a neighbourhood! we really want to move by the beach so renting for a couple of years to get to know the neighbourhood is a great idea!

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Nalgi March 5, 2013 at 2:08 AM

When the CA housing market crashed we went from a $100,000 of equity to $150,000 underwater. After 3 years of trying to work with my lender I gave up and handed them the keys, had a garage sale and moved to an area closer to the kids and cheaper to live. We are now in a Senior Living condo. We dont have to mow, clean the pool, pull weeds, spray wasps, repair fences, fix sprinklers, etc etc. Hey last weekend we loaded up the car, went to our daughters house, slept in “Our” bedroom, had the kids and grandkids wait on us and went snow mobiling!!!! Pinch me, I must be dreaming! When we were tired of the noise we loaded up the car and drove home! Perfect weekend!!!!

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springfield mo realtors April 11, 2013 at 2:17 AM

What an eye opener! Many can’t really afford a decent home and love the term “Trapped Lifestyle”!

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John G May 23, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Hey Adam – I like your site and your advice. I belong to a house that I want to sell. I have owned it for about 4 years, and have paid on a 15 year note; I don’t anticipate having too many issues selling the place, and have accepted the possibility of a small loss. I like the idea of renting for the long term, but the only thing I worry about is the retirement situation. Isn’t one of the benefits of owning an home not having a payment after 15 or so years, and also having a fixed payment vs. rent which is subject to market pressures? I am afraid that when I retire in 35 years I will not have the money to pay rent on a monthly basis (assuming the worst case scenario – my retirement fund goes away).

I guess my issue is that I don’t like my house, don’t like the location, want the freedom and flexibility of renting, but am afraid that long-term renting will mean I don’t have a permanent residence situation when I am old and can no longer work. Any advice?

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Eric May 30, 2013 at 1:33 AM

This article is great, but these comments and personal experiences are even better!

My wife and I are currently struggling with the idea of buying before the prices and interests rates go up. However there is a lot more to consider. We have student loans, unsure of where we want to live b/c of work location, and hope to have a child soon.

Reading this article and comments is a real eye opener! With our current situation, we do not have 20% down and not out of debt yet. Worst part is, we live in Orange County California and average SFH is at least 450K and on its way up. If we are ever financially ready, a better idea would be buying a smaller 2b/2b condo.

Before reading this article & comments, we were going to bite off way more than we can chew. After reading this, we’re most likely going with something smaller. In a few days or so, we might even stick to renting, so far it’s been so good!

This has been such an eye opener, thank you all for your stories and advice.

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Julia May 31, 2013 at 4:54 PM

I agree that that the comments and personal experiences are just as good as the post.

My husband and I were just about to take the leap into buying a single family home in Tucson, AZ, lured by low interest rates, low prices, and with the projection that the market here is going to do quite well in the coming years. The reservations we had were that we don’t want to stay in Tucson for more than 3 years even though we have good jobs, and we are scared of the committment and responsibility. It felt like a very agonizing toss-up until I read this, and now even though closing costs were covered by the bank (distressed property), the owners were going to put on a new roof, our PITI would be less than 25% of our takehome pay, and we have no consumer debt, we were like NOOOOO WAAAAYYYY. Thank you so much for such a helpful post on the buy vs. rent debate! I feel so relieved.

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S July 4, 2013 at 3:11 AM

I will never rent again, especially a duplex.

My spouse and I have lived in our duplex for four years. Within those four years, the property has had three different owners. We had to go through so many inspections due to the sales, especially with the recent sale, which prevented me to look for work (we would receive a 24 hour notice and someone would need to be on the property
to let people in). We had little privacy. We stayed, though, with our fingers crossed, because the rent was cheap, and we were proud of our garden which we built and maintained. When we initially moved in, there was no yard – the backyard was all dirt and weeds. Now it’s lush and green and we have vegetables, herbs, flowers and a landscaped front yard which we did ourselves. A week ago, the property sold again, and we thought it was all over. Unfortunately, the new owner has asked us to move, presumably because she wants the garden. MY garden. The garden that I GREW FROM SEEDS and spent money and time on. So, no, renting is not a dream, and if you ask me, it’s a nightmare.

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Lani July 25, 2013 at 3:46 PM

That stinks! I’m sorry your rental situation has been so terrible. I don’t think it’s typical, though.

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Jon July 5, 2013 at 4:13 PM

I am not a big believer in buying is better than renting. I’ve bought and sold two homes…one I sold for a mega profit and one I sold for a mega loss.
But both homes cost me more than had I just continued renting. Why? Because I bought nice homes in nice areas.
If you want to SAVE money by buying…here is something you NEED to understand: you will more than likely need to buy a home that is in a less desirable area and is NOT your dream house. You will need to understand that to save money by buying means you will own a ver less than spectacular, less than modern, less than expected, style of home. If you accept that, you are ready to save money by buying instead of renting.

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Lani July 25, 2013 at 4:00 PM

I am a proud renter!

I’ve always been told that renting was throwing away money until I got to college and one of my profs actually talked about buying vs renting. He stated, “Don’t buy a house in this county. It’s not worth it.” He had moved to the area a few years ago so he knew from personal experience. He wrote the numbers out… including all the (high) taxes and financial odds and ends that having a house costs and how much he could sell the house for later. He was losing money. Truly, it wasn’t worth it in this area. At least, not right now.

I’m a single woman in my 20′s. I have a busy life and have happily moved three times in as many years. I have rich experiences and fond memories of each home and each roommate I’ve known. I pay cheap rent and I love the quirkiness it brings with each new home.

I own no lawn care equipment and know nothing about home maintenance, but I don’t need to either. My landlord is my handyman. Overall, dealing with landlords/landladies has been pleasant. I’m a decent and respectable tenant, so it’s a treat for them too and they are sad to see me go.

Really enjoyed this article and thankful that someone else believes that buying a home may not be ideal for everyone.

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alba July 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM

It’s that myth that successful people own homes. People think you Should own a home. I sold my house, moved twice, and at the time, loved each place. But then I didn’t. Renting I can move whenever I feel like it. I definitely know now where I don’t want to live, so as I move across the country, I can stay for a year or two and then move if I don’t like it.

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Lex September 6, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Successful people like the Rockefellers. Their mansions are now run by government funds and if they want them back, they just take them back. All their upkeep courtesy of the taxpayers. Suckers.

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BlueRondo August 13, 2013 at 6:38 PM

I am a little late to this party – but maybe someone will read and respond. My Hubby and I are almost 50, with one son in college and another who’s a junior in HS while simultaneously trying to earn his AA degree at the Jr. college by the time he graduates. We truly cannot afford our house – we own – and are barely getting by. Each month is a struggle and there’s always more month than money. We love our home and neighborhood, but we are beginning to truly hate homeownership. Our son who lives at home is super busy with both schools plus he plays in jazz band, I work two jobs, my husband usually works overtime, so consequently, nobody is taking care of the huge yard we have, or keeping up on other stuff with the house. There is a giant list of tasks and maintenance we need to do that never gets done…. we want to sell but are underwater and as described above, it’s not in good shape and looks pretty shabby. We don’t have any extra income to fix it up, so we stay… and pay pay pay. I feel overwhelmed and trapped. I wish we had thought things through before we bought. I would give anything to just get rid of the house and move into a nice rental, but I’m not sure how we can even do that. On top of which (why do you think I read this blog??) we have around $30k of credit card/loan debt. I try and count my blessings and stay positive, but it is really wearing on me! Whew… thanks for letting me vent. Any insight, or positive stories of others who have helped themselves out of a similar situation would be appreciated. :-)

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nosirrahg August 14, 2013 at 9:30 AM

We’re in a similar situation with not enough time to really maintain the house we have. One thing I’ve considered looking into when the time comes is having an auction company sell our house versus trying to get it fixed up to list. Some of the key areas that would attract an end-buyer (kitchen, baths) really need updating, but we know investing in those means losing money (since those improvements never provide a 100%+ return), and we run the risk of doing things to our tastes that don’t necessarily appeal to the current market, which could actually lower our value. I’m thinking we could auction the house, which might bring in less, but also mean spending less…and let someone else buy it, remodel it, and flip it. But let them spend the time, money, and take the risk of the house sitting on the market. I haven’t seriously looked into it because my wife and I aren’t ready to move, but I’m also not investing any money into the house beyond basic repairs and maintenance for this very reason.

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BlueRondo August 14, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Nosirrahg, that is a very interesting idea. I have not looked into that, but I think I will check it out. At this point, we don’t even care if we make money. Breaking even would be fine and dandy, or even taking a little bit of a loss might be worth it to get out from under this house! We are not really “ready” to move either – I don’t want to uproot my son. We have the same problems with our kitchen and baths. Our house was updated in the 90s, but the bathrooms and kitchen really need facelifts. My plan was to pay off all our other credit card debt, then use our Home Depot card to get some things done. But, we are not really paying off the debt as fast as we thought we would and in fact, have taken on a little more debt because we have run out of money before paychecks come in and have used the cards to buy food and gas. Sigh. It’s just so frustrating. I got a second job to help out, but it still not going fast enough to really make any difference we can feel or see in our lives. Oh well. I know it could be much worse, so I am thankful for what we have.

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Lex September 6, 2013 at 7:16 PM

If I had to do it all over again, I’d buy an RV or trailer. There is NO American dream, it’s an American lease. The government (the fed) owns your house even if you paid it off and own it free and clear. Fall on bad times or illness and can’t pay your taxes, they’ll take it. Until there’s a revolt or revolution, enjoy your slavery.

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The truth September 10, 2013 at 2:58 AM

The truth is simple. You can’t rent and pay $1200-1600 dollars a month with no maintence, no landscaping ect. Or you can pay $1200-1600 towards a mortgage and do the maintence and landscaping ect. Yourself…now rent goes up that’s a fact and taxes go up as well. So what it comes down to is having an affordable mortgage nothing to crazy…$1400 a month is better towards owning than renting and here’s why…once you do your yearly taxes be smart take that $8000-$10,000 thousand and pay off your mortgage so if your paying $1400 dollars a month that’s $16,800 yearly subtract $10,000 from your yearly mortgage which leave you with $6,800 divide that by 12 and your actually paying $566.66 dollars a month out of your own pocket. It’s about being smart and not over spending. Sure your going to have to fix this and that, but guess what depending on your neighbor are you going to be dealing with high crime? High car insurance? Horrible neighbors? It’s about quality of life and having the right home at the right price in the right location. I’ve rented for 15 years and every time I got a raise they raised my rent, dealt with a high crime area, no pets, no basement, one parking lot, so renting is not all what it’s cracked up to be.

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Chris Boyles October 19, 2013 at 4:13 AM

I started renting a 3 bedroom one bath house in 1993 after I retired from the military. I have a small yard with a beautiful old maple tree with plenty of shade, a green-way beside my drive way, and woods behind my back yard. The landlord said he wanted a long term renter and he would not increase the rent.. My rent is $400.00 dollars a month and only increased by twelve dollars when a real estate company started managing the property for him. He is a great landlord and fixes anything I need quickly. You can’t rent a room in a boarding house for that kind of money. I live in a quiet neighborhood with great neighbors. I am in a great location minutes from all the conveniences in the city. I can have a pet. I could have owned the home by now but I would have had to put a new roof on it, repair other things, replace the water heater 4 times, remove trees and cut back the branches and other things that people have mentioned here. I have no debt, own two vehicles paid, and a good savings account. Since I was disabled in 2009 from a military related medical problem, I receive VA disability, Social Security disability and my military retirement check. I receive free medical for life from the VA and free term life insurance.. As long as the government is viable I will not have to worry about retirement income. I have complete freedom and love the volunteer work that I do when I am able. I know my case is not the norm but renting has been the American dream for me. My family members think otherwise but in my opinion, they are a bit envious and are all struggling with all the things mentioned that goes with home ownership, and live an anxious and stressed life. I do help them financially from time to time but have strict boundaries on that. Renting is the way to go for me. If you want to buy, that is okay with me because everyone’s situation in life is different. Just wanted to share how finding a good landlord, good location, and great price for being long term has benefited me instead of home ownership.

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Derek Wood November 30, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Great article. We have owned homes and a business, the stress of having to make payments and not being able to travel led us a different way of living. We work as Campground park managers in Canada for 6 months and travel for 6 months. No lifestyle choice comes without stresses, we have had our share but there is a lot less financial stress with the way we live now then in the past as homeowners.

Sláinte, Derek, Teresa and Cassia.

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Neil December 18, 2013 at 11:47 AM

This is true, but can someone confirm, isnt the point of buying, so that you dont have to pay a mortgage (or rent) later in life? When I am 70 wouldnt it be better to not have to pay anything for a mortgage vs a rent which will likely be fairly high by then?

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Jim Sutherland January 1, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Thanks for the great Article! We have been renting for the last 3 years, after having owned and lived in 4 homes the last 50 years. No over ever owns a house or property in the U.S.,even after all mortgages have been paid off. If unexpected changes in life happen, and taxes are unable to be paid, those properties are auctioned by the Govt. and the American Dream of property ownership can quickly turn into the American Nightmares. Examples of many who thought they had achieved their own American Dreams. Check out
photos of abandoned Detroit neighborhoods.

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Linda January 27, 2014 at 11:41 PM

Thank you for this! I so needed this realistic perspective. I am glad to have stumbled on your site. Blessings!!

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Laura February 18, 2014 at 10:48 PM

We feel the exact same way! I wish I had read this before we turned and tossed about our decision. We just short sold our home. We moved into a tiny one bedroom rental and are soooo happy. I feel so free.
Our adult kids were mooching off us and we were able to help make them more independent and help them move on in their lives. The previously moved home every time life got hard and they were harder and harder to live with, not helping, adding to stress and taking a toll on us emotionally, physically and mentally.
We saved tons of money, tons.
We are semi retiring now, ate age 49, to travel much, much more, see the world and stop acquiring stuff! I feel free from the need to acquire stuff.
We are working on eating healthy, exercising more, doing hobbies, dancing, and enjoying each other more. We plan to cut down our work hours this year to part time each and decrease stress big time.
We are quitting “worrying”.
We are revamping the American Dream. Rewriting our own paths.
I struggle to remember why I just HAD to own my own home? I think I was caught up onthe word “own” and I wanted to make it my own.
Instead, we have made our rental our own, with permission from our landlord. We put new counter tops, sink, and paint. It feels great. Yes, we invested bout $2500 but we don’t care. its like ours now and it feels great and we are comfortable to be here for a long, long time. Our rent and utilities is 1/4 of our monthly mortgage.
Thanks!!!!

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Ron B March 9, 2014 at 12:26 PM

I’ve almost paid off my mortgage but not enjoying my house that much. I am not that handy of a guy and find it challenge to be in an older home that needs lots of work.
I’ve looked at what’s available to buy in my area (and I can afford) and I’m seeing a lot of houses that look just like mine. The future may see me renting an apartment once more.
It’s great to have this thread and see everyone’s takes.
Obviously we are all in different places in our lives as well as locations so there could be many answers here.
I was always happy to rent in the past but felt pressured into buying, now I’m just not sure I’m a house type of guy. I’ll miss my yard but rarely get to enjoy it anyway.

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Amy March 17, 2014 at 1:11 PM

This is funny that I just happened to find this article right after my husband and I talked about renting or buying! We’re in our mid to late 40′s, and we have both owned homes before we met each other. My husband has rheumatoid arthritis and just told me he “hates” yard work! I love gardening and with renting I wonder how possible this would be. Does anybody rent that is able to garden and put out all the cute summer statues, flower pots, etc.? At our age I highly doubt we would be able to pay off the mortgage- we’d be, like 80 years old!! So does it really make sense to buy?? My husband is very handy around the house, which I read that is a plus for buying. I’m not sure how many more pluses there would be though. I’m scared to think about fixing major problems like plumbing issues, a leaky roof, a new driveway, and the list goes on & on. Thank You So Much for the GREAT information!!! I’m going to rethink my obsession about buying a home. I’ve been waiting for “6″ years to buy, but the qualifications with credit is ridiculous!! I’m thinking about ordering one of the books, to learn more and to reference back to the important information. Thanks again & have a Good day! :)

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Robyn March 20, 2014 at 9:20 PM

I found this blog post at the right time. I was house hunting, and wondering if it was even worth it to buy. I love my apartment, and see no reason to leave right now. I feel relieved!!

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Christian April 11, 2014 at 12:26 PM

This is a good article to be sure. However, I’d have to say that it is a bit biased towards the renter’s side of things. For example, in your list of expenses that homeowners incur, we can see several that renters are usually responsible for as well (Furniture / Home Decor, Electricity. We also see several things that ARE included in PITI which is figured into any renters’ rent payments (property taxes, home insurance). We also see regular maintenance costs which (at least around here) are additional costs to renters (not just homeowners). Finally, some of the costs you listed are either included in the property taxes (trash), not required equipment (water softener), and often not paid by homeowners (PMI, Association Fees).

That being said you are definitely correct in that people do not figure into their budget planning the costs associated with landscaping, tools, and upkeep. However, I find with renting a house that having to research the next landlord every 1 – 3 years to make sure they don’t pop in unexpectedly whenever they please is pretty weak. Yeah yeah yeah Finding a landlord that isn’t ridiculous about a couple of declawed cats is a pain around here, too. When it comes to complexes, have to deal with constantly changing neighbors that share your walls is really undesirable for us. I like working outside and look forward to mowing the lawn (I did it for my entire youth). So homeownership is for us. But it definitely shouldn’t be treated as the 1 and only “American Dream”.

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Carolina April 13, 2014 at 10:12 PM

Great Blog! We just started to look for buying a house and figured out after reading this that it may not be such a good idea. It would be better at the end of the day to rent something – but it’s of course we are young, when we will get old, and will not move so often from one city to another we will buy one.

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