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Growing up, I was constantly told that buying a home was the American Dream. When I was in the military, I was sometimes looked down upon because I was a renter, but it just made more sense for me at the time.
Here are four reasons you might consider renting rather than buying a home:
1. You are a traveler. I think back to my time in the military, when I had to pick up and move every three to four years. If you’re in a profession that requires you to move often, like I was, renting could easily be a better choice. Buying and selling a home are expensive endeavors, and getting involved with either one could wind up being a losing proposition, depending on how long you will own the house, the housing market in your area, and current interest rates, among other things.
2. You moved to an overheated market. Depending where you are geographically, your local real estate market may be red hot, requiring you to overpay to get the house you want. Think Houston, Texas, in the 1980s, just before it fell victim to the oil bust; Silicon Valley up until the dot-com bust in 2000; and, most recently, the pre-Great Recession housing market.
Comparing local rents to local home sale prices might help you determine if it makes better sense to rent rather than buy a home. If home values are high, consider renting until prices drop and you can score a deal on your dream home.
3. You hate commitment. Maybe you don’t want to be tied down for 20 or 30 years; maybe you don’t want to have to worry about maintenance costs, taxes, and fluctuating interest rates; or maybe you just want to have a change of scenery every once in a while.
And heaven forbid your neighborhood should deteriorate or a shopping center should pop up on the vacant land behind your house. It is a lot easier to get away from a not-so-good neighbor or neighborhood if you are renting.
4. You are starting over or just starting out. Financially speaking, if you are in one of these situations, you might not be able to come up with a nice down payment, or your cash flow could be a little unpredictable. There is nothing wrong with saving for a few years or waiting until you are sure you can afford a mortgage payment along with the taxes, insurance, HOA dues, and utilities that come with homeownership.
Some people like going to the beach, while other people like going to the mountains—renting versus buying is the same thing. The choice may simply come down to personal preferences. You can still live the American Dream if you don’t own a house, especially if homeownership doesn’t make sense for you.
Steve Repak, CFP®, is the author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money.
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