Rent vs. Buy

Weighing the options of buying a house or renting a house

There was a time in the U.S. when two beliefs were common: owning a house was part of the American dream, and renting a house was like "throwing money away."

Are these bits of conventional wisdom still true? Simply put, the answer depends on your unique situation. While home ownership is right for some, others may find renting a house makes sense for their lifestyles and their pocketbooks. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Pros of renting a house

Mobility

Is it your dream to live in a foreign country or in another city for a limited length of time? Would advancing in your career mean a move to a new city? If you said yes to either of these, renting may be a better choice. You can sell a home, but that process may take months, whereas waiting for the end of a lease, subleasing or negotiating an early lease termination are all quicker options.

Maintenance freedom

No matter how old or new your home, repairs and maintenance are part of the every homeowner's life. If an appliance breaks down or the faucet springs a leak, you're on the hook for repairs if you own your house. If this happens when renting, you have the freedom of calling the landlord or building superintendent, leaving you mostly headache-free. You may find this freedom particularly valuable if unexpected repair expenses would pose a hardship, or if you don't have the time or expertise to make repairs yourself.

Flexibility to change your monthly payment

If the thought of being locked into a monthly mortgage payment for 10, 15, 20 or 30 years puts a knot in your stomach, renting a house may be for you. Or, if you think you may face a change in your income, renting a house may be a better fit for your lifestyle. Renters find they can more easily move to a property that fits their income level. Whether the unexpected, like a job layoff, happens or the expected, like becoming a stay-at-home parent, occurs, you can move more freely when renting. If you value the flexibility that comes with being commitment-free, renting may be right for you.

In some cases, it may cost less

According to data comparing rental costs and median home sale prices, renting is more affordable in 20 large U.S. metropolitan areas. Crunch the numbers before making a final decision, and include more than just a monthly mortgage payment. Just as getting a complete picture of a rental must include the utility, cable and other costs, getting a complete picture home ownership costs include adding a mortgage payment, utilities, property taxes and maintenance. To estimate maintenance, experts say one percent of a home's value is a good approximation for annual spending. If the complete costs of home ownership are larger than your budget, renting a house may be the right decision for you.

Pros of buying a house

Stable and predictable payment

As long as you take out a fixed-rate mortgage loan, your mortgage payments will be set for the length of the term. (It is important to note that your homeowners insurance and property taxes may change over the life of the loan.) This means your mortgage rate won't increase along with hikes in mortgage rates or inflation. If knowing your monthly housing costs for a set period of time is important to you, you may want to consider buying a house.

Build a nest egg

Over the long term, home values rise, on average, four to six percent each year. When this occurs, you can sell a house for more money than you bought. Even if home values don't rise to that extent or at all, you'll still gain equity as you pay the mortgage down. Many homeowners also have the benefit of deducting mortgage interest and/or property taxes from their income tax bills. When building a nest egg becomes important to you, it's a good time to consider buying a house.

Satisfaction

The home you buy will be yours and yours alone. You can do what you want with it—paint the walls your favorite color, replace outdated appliances or plant a garden. In addition, owning a home may help you connect with your neighbors and your community. Many homeowners feel safer knowing their neighbors. And, owning a home in a community may inspire you to volunteer or get involved in other community activities, because you know you are staying awhile. If the satisfaction of owning a home appeals to you, you may want to consider buying a house.

Whether you rent or buy, insurance matters

Whether you are renting your first apartment, extending an existing lease, buying your first home, or getting back in the housing market, it's important to update your home insurance or renters insurance when you make a housing change. No matter which option you choose, our Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance team is here to help you get the renters insurance or homeowners insurance you need to put the finishing touch on your new home.