The Rental Decision
Long-time renters often cite all the negatives of home ownership, and there are some to be sure. But many of these oft-cited reasons have a valid counterargument OR these old paradigms are no longer accurate: In our last blog we talked about the conception that owning a home is more expensive than renting. Let’s look at some other conceptions.
Current Conception #2: Homeowners Have to Pay to Maintain a Home Instead of the Landlord. Put aside the premium you might pay if you got in a bidding war over a home or made some upgrades to your home that weren’t necessary. Simply baseline the same property and look at renting versus owning it. Everything you pay for as a homeowner, the landlord has to pay for as well. Who do you think pays for that? Do you think the landlord pays for snow removal, replacing carpets, fixing leaks and a new roof every 15 years out of the goodness of their heart? No — you pay for it! It’s all priced in over long-term rent trends. Landlords are in this business to make money and if they weren’t making money they wouldn’t be landlords. You are paying to put their kids through college and for their Caribbean vacations.
Basic economics dictate that over a long period of time, you are losing money by renting, not just because you’re not building any equity, getting a mortgage tax deduction, etc., but because you are paying for the upkeep, depreciation expense and maintenance of the home in your rent — PLUS a tidy profit to the landlord.
Many renters are convinced they’re “beating the system” because they don’t have to pay for these things, but they are — it’s just not itemized out in tidy fashion for them. It’s all in the rent. This is logic — and reality.
Current Conception #3: Renting Provides for Much More Flexibility to Move. This is a major (and legitimate) reason NOT to own. After all, closing costs, transfer taxes, realtor fees and such are nothing to sneeze at. However, what a lot of renters end up doing is deciding to rent instead of own, but then they never move! They end up renting for years on end when they could have owned.
And that flexibility? Well, the landlord also has the flexibility to keep increasing prices year over year at whatever rate they so choose — which then requires a calculus on your end as to how much of an increase makes it worth moving out, in order to just rent somewhere else. Additionally, you’re often locked into an annual lease (which isn’t very flexible), they can sell the home or put new tenants in each lease cycle (which isn’t very flexible), and you can’t do many things to the place you live in without their permission, or perhaps not at all (not very flexible). So, you’re trading the slight mobility flexibility for a lack of flexibility in virtually everything else that the landlord controls.
To reiterate, if you’re a current renter, you may feel this Note is critical of your situation. It’s not. It’s an economic reality that many Americans never have had, or never will have the economic means to be a homeowner. This is a mathematical certainty. The point here is to get my clients and friends thinking who DO have the means to save for a down payment, and who may be better off financially as owners than renters… but who continue to muddle along in complacency because they’ve convinced themselves that homeowners get hosed and renters have all the perks.
If you’re especially interested in math, here’s a helpful exercise for you to consider.
Lastly, I’m here to HELP you, only and always. Let us help you through the important financial decisions in your life, while taking a holistic view of ALL of the costs.