Renting vs Buying: Which is better for you?

Posted in Buying by Meaghan McGlynn 

The debate about whether it makes more financial sense to rent or buy has been raging for decades. Advocates of buying argue that when you pay rent you’re paying for someone else’s mortgage. When you buy, you are making an investment, which can significantly increase in value every year you live in the home.

Supporters of renting say that the extra costs associated with owning a home, such as interest payments, taxes, maintenance, can add up. They add that there’s no guarantee that those expenses will be recouped when the house is sold. Instead of investing in a home, you may be better off investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities that hold less risk.

Matthew Gardner, our Chief Economist, forecasts, that we will not break 5% for 30-year fixed Mortgage rates for 2019, and likely won’t break it next year.

This means that getting a mortgage is relatively cheap, raising the question, ‘Is it really worth it to keep renting?’

Even if interest rates stay low, whether to rent or buy has a lot to do with each person’s specific situation. Here are a few considerations to make as you decide.

 

What’s the real estate situation in your city?

Industry groups put out reports every quarter stating the average national sales price for a home, and the average monthly payment for a U.S. rental. These reports are typically based on an average of all the cities in the U.S. But what really matters is what the numbers show when you dig into them on a local level.

Investigate the local sales and rental markets, and you’ll see there are some cities that fall well below that average, and some that rise far above it. When comparing housing costs, be sure to base your evaluation on what’s happening in your city and neighborhood, not the nationwide averages.

 

How long do you expect to live there?

If you don’t plan to be living in the same place for at least five years, renting is probably your best bet financially. But if you think you’re ready to settle down for as long as 7 to 10 years, chances are very good that any home you purchase will appreciate during that time even if the economy runs into some bumps along the way.

 

What’s the mortgage rate?

One of the other key factors to consider is the cost of your loan (the interest you’ll pay the lender). Fortunately, our Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, does not expect interest rates to hit or break 5 percent, meaning money is relatively cheap.

Your mortgage rate will depend on how much money you have saved, your credit score, and other factors, so make sure to talk to a loan officer before you start looking for a home. Being pre-approved for a mortgage narrows down your price range and helps strengthen your offer when it comes time to compete for your new home.

 

Can you pay a bit more?

It can be advantageous to work a lower monthly payment to the bank so that you can pay a little more than the payment.

For example, if you can afford to pay a little extra towards your mortgage bill each month, say $300 more per month, on a 30-year, $300,000 loan, can knock eight years off the life of the loan and reduce your final bill by more than $63,000. That’s savings you would never see if you rented.

 

Will you need to make repairs or improvements?

Buying a fixer-upper may seem like a great way to get a deal on a house, but if the money you spend on the repairs is too great, your profit could be diminished when it comes time to sell. The same is true for remodeling and improvement projects.

Additionally, you can work with your Mortgage lender for a repair loan. This can help you get that lot you want, and help you pay for the repairs.

But ultimately, if you can only afford a home that demands major improvements, and you don’t have the skills to do much of the work yourself, it’s probably better to rent.

 

Do you have other ways to invest?

Many see a home purchase as an easy way to invest—a place where they can generate savings through home equity. But others say you can make more money renting an apartment and investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities.

This is where a financial advisor might come in. They’ll be able to break down what you need to do in order to get the best return on your investments. They’ll also be able to see the big picture when it comes to your money.

 

Can you rent part of the house?

Speaking of a diverse portfolio, let your investment work for you. If you buy a house that includes a rental (extra bedroom, mother-in-law unit, etc.), you could be the landlord instead of paying the landlord. With that rental income, you could pay off the mortgage faster and contribute more to your savings. But, of course, you need to be willing to share your home with a tenant and take on the responsibilities of being a landlord or working with a professional property manager to help you with those duties.

 

Making your decision

To make your decision about whether to rent or buy easier, input the key financial facts regarding your situation into this Realtor.com Rent vs. Buy Calculator:  For help making sense of the results and analyzing other factors, contact an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent by clicking here.

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Considering becoming a landlord? How to evaluate whether to rent or sell your property

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in homeowners choosing to become landlords rather than placing their homes on the market.  In deciding whether or not becoming a Landlord is right for you, there are a number of factors to consider, but primarily they fall into the following three categories:  Financial Analysis, Risk and Goals.

CalculatorThe financial analysis is probably the easiest of the three to assess.  You will need to assess if you can afford to rent your house. If you consider the likely rental rate, vacancy rate, maintenance, advertising and management costs, you can arrive at a budget.  It is important both to be reasonably correct in your assumptions and to have enough reserves to cover cash-flow needs if you’re wrong.  The vacancy rate will be determined by the price at which you market the property.  Price too high and you’re either vacant or accepting applicants that, for some reason, couldn’t compete for more competitively priced homes.  Price too low and you don’t achieve the revenue you should.  If you want to try for the higher end of an expected range, understand that the cost may be a vacant month.  It is difficult to make up for a vacant month.

Consider the other costs renting out your property could accrue. If you have a landscaped or large yard, you will likely need to hire a yard crew to manage the grounds. Other costs could increase when you rent your home, such as homeowner’s insurance and taxes on your property. Also, depending on tenant turn-over, you may need to paint and deal with maintenance issues more regularly. Renting your home is a decision you need to make with all the financial information in front of you.  You can find more information about the hidden costs of renting here.

If your analysis points to some negative cash-flow, that doesn’t necessarily mean that renting is the wrong option.  That answer needs to be weighed against the pros and cons of alternatives (i.e., selling at the price that would actually sell), and some economic guesswork about what the future holds in terms of appreciation, inflation, etc. to arrive at an expectation of how long the cash drain would exist.

Risk is a bit harder to assess.  Broadly though, it’s crucial to understand that if you decide to lease out a home, you are going into business, and every business venture has risks.  The more you know, the better you can mitigate those risks.  One of the most obvious ways of mitigating the risk is to hire a management company.  By hiring professionals, you decrease your risk and time spent managing the property (and tenants) yourself.  However, this increases the cost.  So, as you reduce your risk of litigation, you increase your risk of negative cash-flow, and vice versa… it’s a balancing act, and the risk cannot be eliminated; just managed and minimized.

In considering Goals, what do you hope to achieve by renting your property? Are you planning on moving back into your home after a period of time? Will your property investment be a part of your long-term financial planning? Are you relocating or just hoping to wait to sell? These are all great reasons to consider renting your home.

Keep in mind that renting your family home can be emotional.  Many homeowners LOVE the unique feel of their homes.  It is where their children were raised, and they care more about preserving that feel than maximizing revenue.  That’s OK, but it needs to be acknowledged and considered when establishing a correct price and preparing a cash flow analysis.  Some owners are so attached to their homes that it may be better for them to “tear off the band-aid quickly” and sell.  The alternative of slowly watching over the years as the property becomes an investment instead of a home to them may prove to be more painful than any financial benefit can offset.

In the process of considering your financial situation, the risks associated with becoming a landlord, and the goals you hope to achieve with the rental of your property, – ask yourself these questions.  Before reaching a conclusion, it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant-lawspecific to your state (and in some cases, separate relevant ordinances in the city and/or county that your property lies within) and to do some market research (i.e. tour other available similar rentals to see if your financial assumptions are in line with the reality of the competition across the street).  If you are overwhelmed by this process, or will be living out of the region, seek counsel with a property management professional.  Gaining experience the hard way can be costly.

J. Michael Wilson is the dedicated broker at Windermere Property Management Seattle, and has 17 years of experience managing properties in the Seattle region.

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