Buying vs. Renting

by Dan Krell

Is buying a home right for you?

A home owner recently told me that he had no idea that he would be able to sell his home for more than double his purchase price. When he purchased his home eighteen years ago, he recalls having kept to a strict budget so he could afford his mortgage payments and other related housing costs. Now, he will have a sizeable profit from the sale to purchase his dream home. This home owner’s story is like many other home owners’ stories of wealth building through home ownership.

Unfortunately, due to recent market fluctuations, some home buyers have questioned the value of home ownership. Decreased consumer confidence along with almost daily stories of foreclosure might make you wonder if any homes are selling.

Additionally, some renters feel that home prices continue to be too expensive for them to make the jump into home ownership. Economic commentator, Barry Ritholtz (, believes that too; although the rent to buy cost ratio for the Washington area has dropped significantly from an all time high of 21.4 to around 16.6 (according to Moody’s, he feels that home prices are still too high nationwide as compared to the rent to buy cost ratios of the 1980’s and 1990’s (when the average ratio ranged from 10-14). However, even with a decreased consumer confidence, many understand the benefits to home ownership.

Many analysts and commentators agree that owning a home is typically better than renting. For example, Suze Orman has stated in a Yahoo Finance exclusive ( that “there’s no better investment.” Although Ms. Orman does strongly suggest having your financial matters in order as well as making certain that you can afford all the housing related costs before you make a move, she does state that “home ownership is a great achievement and a terrific investment.”

Although the benefits of home ownership are touted by many in the industry, owning a home is not for everyone. Renting does offer limited maintenance and the flexibility if you need to move, but home ownership offers tax incentives (tax breaks and deductions) as well as a chance to build equity.

Before you buy your first home, you might consider how long you intend to live in it before selling. For example, the National Association of Realtors reports that the typical home owner intends to stay in their home for ten years (although the actual time of ownership varies). Financial and affordability factors to consider before buying a home include interest rates and market conditions. However, some considerations are not financial but emotional; for example, some renters are concerned about their security deposit as well as dealing with an obnoxious landlord or management company.

Freddie Mac ( offers the following benefits to homeownership: Owning a home can facilitate your participation within a community, the home can be passed through many generations as a source of security, the tax benefits typically offset the amount you might otherwise pay for rent, your monthly payment won’t increase if you have a fixed rate mortgage, and building equity through home ownership “is the single greatest source of financial security and independence for the majority of people who’ve taken this step.”

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 16, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.