Rent vs. own: A rhetoric reality check

By Qiong (June) Zhang106 Comments

Deciding whether to rent or buy is challenging for many Americans now, especially those who came of age during a boom and waited for prices, interest rates and foreclosure inventory to improve, as they appear to have now. With new apartment construction going up, there are signs that rent prices could rise.

So, should you rent or buy? Ultimately, the decision hinges on:

• How long you plan to stay in one place (the longer the better if buying).

• How much you plan to put down (the more the better if buying).

• How your credit score looks (the better the better in both cases).

It also depends on your expectations for how much you ought to spend on housing and what your choice does to your overall financial picture.

Here’s what you might hear — and what to think about when you hear it.

“YOU SHOULD BUY!” arguments

Claim: Owning a home is a forced savings plan.

Claim: Owning a home is vital to the American dream!

Claim: Interest rates are shifting! You should pounce!

Claim: Owning your home is always a great investment!

Claim: Homeownership makes for better communities!

Claim: Homeowners get special tax deductions and perks!

Claim: Home prices are changing — get in while you can!

Claim: You’re making a good living and are a grown-up, so you should own.

“YOU SHOULD RENT!” arguments

Claim: You’re single.

Claim: You need your flexibility

Claim: Rent because homeownership is a conspiracy!

Claim: Renting is the only option if your credit stinks.

Claim: Renters are healthier and happier than owners

Claim: You can’t buy; you don’t have 12 months of income saved!

Claim: Renting is cheaper than owning, the best way to start out.

It’s not surprising: Owning can be stressful. However, keep in mind that most owners band together in a kind of virtual and backyard fence brotherhood, sharing tools, tips, names of handy hires, and giving each other advice — it’s a new kind of community centered on different concerns.


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