Friday, September 26, 2008

Is It Always Better to Buy Than to Rent

My husband and I rented our last home for fourteen years. Yes, you heard me right. Fourteen years. Well-meaning friends and family would often chastise us for renting, telling us that we were just throwing away our money.

Is it always better to own than rent? Are you really just throwing away your money when you rent? I would say no. Sometimes it's better to own and sometimes it's better to rent. You need to look at your own personal situation as well as the current economic situation in your geographical area.

In my case, the rent was cheap. Half of our current mortgage. In fourteen years, our landlord only raised our rent once. Yep, only once. We were good tenants and he wanted to keep us. Now, that's not to say that he was the best landlord. He wasn't. It would often take several phone calls to get him motivated to make repairs. But for the most part he wasn't too horrible.

One downside to renting was the inability to decorate my house as I wished or make changes that would have made our lives more comfortable. Plain white walls was all my landlord would allow. If I had owned the house, I would have made some improvements such as a room addition or knocking out a wall or two. Or just put in decent carpet. But really that's a small price to pay for cheap rent. Home owners can paint their walls any color they like, knock out walls, put in gorgeous carpet . . . and they get to pay for it.

When I rented, my landlord paid for repairs. Sure, it took him forever, but it came out of his pocket, not mine. Today, I pay for my own repairs. A recent discovery of a major problem with the structure of our home set us back $4500. I don't even want to think about the cost of the new roof, or the trees that need to be removed, the grading of the driveway, and the boiler repair. But, hey, I can pick my own paint colors!

Today my husband and I own our home. Or do we really? Most Americans have 30-year mortgages. Do they own their own homes? No they don't. The bank owns their homes. A few missed payments and out in the street they go. Down payment and house payments out the window.

We haven't even talked taxes yet. For the privilege of owning my own home I get to give the government a huge chuck of change twice a year in the name of property taxes.

Then there's home owners insurance -- considerably more costly than renters insurance.

Am I saying that I'm sorry I purchased my current home? No, I'm not. This house is our life's dream come true. We're out of the city, surrounded by wildlife, and I can decorate any way I wish. But I still believe that my husband and I were NOT throwing away our money for those fourteen years. By renting and living frugally we were able to save enough to make a very healthy down payment and buy just the right house for our family.

So, the next time someone tells you that you need to buy instead of rent, just nod your head politely and then do what's best for your family. It may be buying and then again it may be renting. I wonder if this country would be in our current financial mess if more people weren't in such a hurry to own their own home.

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