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How to decide whether you should keep renting a home or buy your first home

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

The current housing market presents an interesting dilemma for those contemplating whether to rent or buy a home. While the majority of Americans are homeowners, the surge in housing prices and increased competition have made it difficult for many to afford buying a home. On the other hand, rental costs have also been rising across the country. To make an informed decision, it is important to consider the pros and cons of both options.

Deciding whether to rent or buy a home is a complex question without a simple answer. There are advantages to both options. Owning a home allows you to build equity with each mortgage payment, unlike renting where your money goes towards your landlord's pocket. However, renting offers more flexibility and avoids the costs associated with homeownership.

The decision ultimately depends on your personal circumstances and preferences. If you prioritize flexibility, don't want the responsibilities of maintaining a property, or need more time to save money before purchasing, renting is worth considering.

To help you make a decision, here are seven important questions to ponder:

  1. Do you qualify for a mortgage? If you don't have enough cash to buy a house outright, you'll need a mortgage. Consult with a lender to determine if you qualify for a loan based on factors like job stability, credit history, and savings.

  2. Can you afford the closing costs? Buying a home involves upfront costs beyond the down payment, such as appraisals, inspections, and more. Closing costs can amount to 3% or more of the final purchase price, which can be a significant sum.

  3. Can you afford the neighborhood? The overall cost of homeownership includes expenses like insurance and property taxes, which can vary based on the community and location. Research the property taxes in your desired area to understand what you can expect to pay.

  4. How long do you plan to stay? To avoid losing money, it's recommended to stay in a home for at least two to three years. Buying and selling a home come with costs, such as closing costs and real estate sale commissions. Staying in a home for a longer duration allows for potential wealth creation through appreciation.

  5. How important is the freedom to renovate? If you value ownership and the ability to make renovations and changes to your living space, buying a home is a better option. Renting may limit your freedom to modify the property unless you have a landlord who allows it.

  6. Are you prepared for the maintenance responsibilities? Renters typically have their landlords handle maintenance and chores, but as a homeowner, you'll be responsible for upkeep and repairs. Maintenance tasks can be costly and time-consuming, ranging from minor tasks to major issues.

  7. Are you comfortable with market volatility? The housing market fluctuates, and house prices can go down. If you're not comfortable with the potential ups and downs of the market, renting may provide more peace of mind.

Remember that this decision is personal and should be based on your specific circumstances, financial situation, and long-term goals. It may be helpful to speak with a real estate agent to come to the best conclusion for you.

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