"Should I rent a home or should I buy?" It's a great question and one whose answers are different for everyone.
As REALTORS, we generally think that it's always a good time to buy, but we understand that "always" has a little gray area. When it comes to renting vs. buying, which is better depends on a whole host of factors.
In Atlanta, it's generally cheaper, in the long run, to buy, but that's not true across the board. Things vary from town to town and even from neighborhood to neighborhood. Before you decide what's best for you, it's best to get the facts.
Let's look at the black and white of it.
There are several things to consider with respect to how to decide what's best for you, but the easiest thing to look at is flat costs. Buying a home costs more than just its list price–there are mortgage closing costs, insurance, home repairs–all kinds of things–that go into the costs of owning a home, whereas renting is pretty straightforward. You know how much you're going to pay each month and someone else takes care of the maintenance costs for you–these are important things to consider.
Are you going to stick around?
The longer you plan to stay in your home, the more sense it makes to buy. This is because the longer you're there, the longer you have to make up for what you'll spend on closing costs when you buy a house. This holds true for your interest rate, how much your down payment will be, and how long your mortgage's term is (30 years is typical). These factors will affect how much you'll pay in the long term.
What are the home values where you're interested in buying?
The real estate market over the past few years has been kind of like a seesaw (it really has). Atlanta isn't free from its ups and downs, either. Home prices skyrocketed in the early-to-mid 2000s, then the market fell to pieces. And now prices have risen and rent prices have risen considerably in the last couple of years. There was a time of uncertainty, now the market has really come back to life. On the surface, this might all seem like a lot of hot air, but when you're thinking about buying a house, these swings can affect a lot more than you might think.
When home prices are over-inflated, buying a home can be dicey. Conversely, from about 2010-12, lots of folks were gun shy about buying (understandably so), but it actually was a great time to buy a house. Now, those prices have started to gone back up again yet interest rates are at all-time lows . To know what you're able to bear financially, talk to a recommended mortgage lender; you want to know exactly where you stand, so you can make an educated decision.
But isn't buying better? Why would I rent?
Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it's no. There are lots of reasons that people choose to rent instead of buying. For one thing, renting means flexibility. It also gives you an easy out if you think you might change jobs or if you think you might go through some sort of lifestyle change. It's a solid option if your credit isn't very good; renting can give you a chance to establish a pattern of on-time payments, so you can GET good credit. Other things to consider are that, when you rent, maintenance expenses are handled by your landlord (that's a big plus) and, quite often, utility costs are included.
OK, so if renting is so great, why should I buy?
For more reasons than we can count! Owning a home is an investment that can pay back in big ways over time. When you own a home, it earns equity, and that's like money in the bank. When you rent, you're helping your landlord's equity (that doesn't really seem fair, does it?)
Another thing—a BIG thing—to consider is your taxes. Did you know that when you own a home, you can deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage? That's a pretty big deal and, we can assure you, goes a long way toward soothing your soul come every April 15.
Other things to think about are the fact that when you buy a house, it's YOURS. You can do with it what you please. You can choose the paint colors and make it your own without having to ask someone else's permission.
When to rent and when to buy are questions that are hard to answer. But there are answers, and we can help you find them. We've been in real estate for a long time and we know that all of this is very personal. And personal is the only way we do business.